Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 7, 2011 at 1:07am

Parking Guru Donald Shoup: Tacoma Should Eliminate Unnecessary Parking Time Limits Downtown!

The News Tribune wisely interviews Professor Donald Shoup on
Tacoma's Parking Issues


World renowned parking expert Professor Donald Shoup was interviewed by the News Tribune last week and told the Tribune what many Tacomans have been telling the City of Tacoma over and over again for months:

1) Parking time limits should be elimintated; and

2) Parking should be free where there are excessive vacancies (such as in most of the areas in downtown Tacoma on Saturdays)

Here is the exact quote:

Donald Shoup, an economist and urban planner whose work underpins many cities approach to paid parking, said finding the right price for street parking is the key, and the right price eliminates the need for time limits.

In other words, find the price that creates the desired turnover, then let people buy as much parking as they want.

It does take awhile to get it right, Shoup said last week. But getting it right will make a lot of people better off. And I dont think making it free is getting it right, unless theres a lot of vacancy even when its free.


Let's hope the City of Tacoma will read the interview and make the needed changes as soon as possible.

However, the parking system in downtown Tacoma should not discriminate between shoppers, visitors or downtown residents.  That would be disaster for Tacoma's parking system, is contrary to accepted practices as parking spaces are shared common space owned by all city residents. 

Hence, residential permits giving one group exclusivity over parking spaces downtown would be a bad idea.


comments [22]  |  posted under tacoma


by fredo on 3/7/2011 @ 10:27am
What does Shoup say about the exacerbation of parking problems by people using phony handicapped placards or misusing authorized placards?

The last time I was downtown I was astonished at all the vehicles with no parking stickers on their windows but a handicapped placard hanging prominently from their rear view mirror. These cars cannot all be associated with disabled people, IMO.

by NineInchNachos on 3/7/2011 @ 12:23pm
Disabled Handicap Parking... next in the SURVEYOR MARKS of the TEA Party

by fredo on 3/7/2011 @ 12:37pm
Pretty sure my posting referred to PHONY handicapped placards but I understand that one of the hallmarks of liberalism is to distort all discussions.

by NineInchNachos on 3/7/2011 @ 12:45pm
Anarchist Infiltrators strike again! BE AFRAID!

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/7/2011 @ 12:54pm
Time for Parking geezer Donald Shoup to retire. This man is making it up as he goes along. Anyone that pays this charlatan any money for advice is wasting their money.The city of Tacoma followed this crack pot's recommendations and you can see the kind of mess we got ourselves into. On the other hand JayRay did make an easy $50k. Woot!!

by Jesse on 3/7/2011 @ 1:18pm
"Pretty sure my posting referred to PHONY handicapped placards but I understand that one of the hallmarks of liberalism is to distort all discussions." Fredo

A Regressive Republican by the name of KKKarl Rove invented "spin", remember?

by Erik on 3/7/2011 @ 1:34pm
Update: Now the City will apparently consider residential parking permits. A bad idea for downtown and against the best practices for parking management.


Re handicapped spaces and permits.

They are often abused:

A peculiar thing was happening in Iowa. The handicapped parking spaces always seemed to be full.

So state Republican Rep. Dave Tjepkes, teaming up with another lawmaker, set about to figure out why. What they found stunned them.

Nearly a half-million parking permits were in circulation in Iowa, covering about 270,000 people. That's close to 10 percent of Iowa's population.

"The numbers kind of speak for themselves," Tjepkes said.

Claiming some Iowans are clearly abusing the system, Tjepkes and Democratic Rep. Jim Lykam have proposed a new bill to bring some order to the handicapped permit free-for-all. As it turns out, Iowa doesn't have much of a system for checking up on people who've been issued a permit.


by Erik on 3/7/2011 @ 1:36pm
A zillion articles on this.

Just Google "abuse handicapped permits"


by fredo on 3/7/2011 @ 1:45pm
Hey, I'll take 3 of those handicapped permits, thankyou. My postings clearly show some sort of deficiency, I'm sure it's a handicap.

But my question was this...what does Shoup say about it?

by fredo on 3/7/2011 @ 1:53pm
"Tjepkes acknowledged the state can't CLAW back the questionable permits that may be out there. But by raising awareness about the problem, he hopes to guilt-trip any cheaters." handicapped spokesperson from Iowa

Doubt if people who use handicapped permits fraudulently will succumb to any guilt trips, but I don't know. I like how she worked CLAW into the story.

by NineInchNachos on 3/7/2011 @ 2:27pm

by Jesse on 3/7/2011 @ 3:05pm
It's arrogant for the city manager or city council to throw out professional recommendations from people who specialize in whatever subject is at hand. Can they do better? No. That's why they aren't considered leaders on this subject as Prof. Shoup is.

They maybe should listen to the recognized and proven policies set forth by these leading thinkers instead of trying to re-invent the wheel so to speak.

Again, why reinvent the wheel? Copy what works and move on.

by fredo on 3/7/2011 @ 3:43pm
If they really wanted to solve the parking problem they could just follow Shoup's recommendations.

Therefore it should be obvious that solving the parking problem is not the goal of the parking arrangements. There must be another objective, perhaps unstated. Probably the objective is to drive up parking meter revenue, create promotional opportunities for JayRay and other companies, establising kiosk management relationships with third parties, or perhaps establish some little feifdom for people to exercise some control over other people. Who knows?

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/7/2011 @ 3:53pm
Shoup is just trying to make a buck, don't take anything he says seriously. He'll tell city leaders what they want to hear all the while making sure there is parking for him in front of his bank when he goes to cash the check. There is no way this works in Tacoma. We just don't have the high numbers of wealthy individuals that will pay big bucks to park where and when they want to park. Maybe this works in Seattle and all those fancy California cities but it isn't working here and it never will. As much as Tacoma wants to be one of those "our downtown is so great people are willing to pay $5 an hour to park" cities it will never happen. Free and easy parking is what the majority of the public wants. They'll circle the blocks looking for that special spot but they just don't want to pay for it.

by cisserosmiley on 3/7/2011 @ 3:56pm
i want people to be open to academic recomendations, especially our city manager. a point about people in tacoma though, from a social research perspective sometimes folks in tacoma deviate substantially from other populations. before this fact can be considered we would need to eliminate time limits and fluctuate prices base on demand. if we do not it introduces so many variables about use that we may never be able to measure use properly. it sounds more political than rational to use only part of this research...

by cisserosmiley on 3/7/2011 @ 3:58pm
i have research that shows crenshaw is correct

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/7/2011 @ 3:59pm
SeaTaco, check it out:


by Erik on 3/7/2011 @ 4:09pm
If they really wanted to solve the parking problem they could just follow Shoup's recommendations.

before this fact can be considered we would need to eliminate time limits and fluctuate prices base on demand

Yes and yes. To my knowledge, Shoup has never been hired by the city.

Tacoma is going to injure itself to the degree that it tries to improvise something and deviate from the peer reviewed research on the matter for parking management.

From the article, the big difference between interviewees is that they live in different areas with different levels of demand for parking and then reporting their observations.

One of the biggest problems right now is that the city is trying to charge the same price for parking on 7th Avenue by Puget Sound Pizza which is dead 90 percent of the time as on Pacific Avenue in front of UWT.

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 3/7/2011 @ 4:19pm
Who wouldn't want to pay .75 an hour to park right in front of Puget Sound Pizza? How much lower can you go? .50, .25, .10 an hour? What would be the point? There is little or no demand for paid parking on the streets. If people want to pay for parking they are welcome to do so at the many fine paid parking lots liberally spaced through out the downtown area. Maybe time limits on free parking with the type of enforcement they have in place for the paid parking. Mostly make sure the city employees don't bogart the spaces around the municipal building. 90 minute free parking on St. Helens and Broadway near 9th should just about satisfy anyone during the week days vis a vis business and keep the chain parking city employees away from the business core. The city can send my parking expert fee to my paypal via crenshaw.sepulvedaatgmail.com. I don't know what the fee should be but it rhymes with fifty thousand dollars!!!

by Jesse on 3/8/2011 @ 8:12am
If Shoup's plans work elsewhere, they'd work in Tacoma. Tacoma isn't so special and different that it necessitates a whole new plan that might take 10-15 years to truly work through the kinks... and of course people want free parking. I want free taxes, housing, utilities, and food but it isn't in the cards.

Question: How does the city determine changing rates if they go to a pay according to demand structure like Shoup suggests? What about people who pay .75 cents at 9am and the rate goes to $1.25 at 10am? How are all these semi-complicated logistics handled? If it requires staffing increases, is the Shoup plan even economically pencil out when there are currently so many open parking spaces, and therefore such a low rate charged per hour, downtown right now?

by Nick on 3/8/2011 @ 10:51am
Why not implement a similar strategy to that pilot program SF was using (where the parking meters would auto-adjust their pricing based on demand for that particular area)? Wonder how easy it is to modify the firmware on those things.

I mean seriously, how awesome would that be? A zero-maintenance pricing structure that would mean all we'd need to do is install kiosks. No need to do any pesky analysis to determine the price.

by cisserosmiley on 3/8/2011 @ 11:18am
jesse, it is not a point of contention but tacoma very often is a very non conforming social body when sociologists, political scientists, and marketing pro's do social research here. i am collecting data on parking use here and it has a curious skew. there may even be all the pieces to a "social revolution" not a war, just tacomanians collectively choosing no parking fees and displacing the evidence it had happened. before you write how dumb that is...it happened here already in the past, in statistical terms, it is the most probable outcome in the future. math says tacoma dumps the meters.