Friday, March 16, 2012


Friday's Times had a front-page piece about parking in San Francisco, featuring our friend Donald Shoup, the parking professor at U.C.L.A. He starts one chapter of his book, "The High Cost of Free Parking," by quoting George Costanza, who, like many of us, felt it was his birthright to park for free. Professor Shoup says that, in the great scheme of things, there is no such thing as a free parking spot. His idea is that the more a metered space costs, the sooner a driver will leave it, making it available for the next guy. The most expensive metered parking spots on the streets of San Francisco cost $4.50 an hour. (On my block in New York it's $3 an hour.) The city has embedded sensors in the streets to track the popularity and availability of parking spots. Professor Shoup envisions a parking utopia, with all the revenue from the meters going toward maintenance of the streets the meters are on and improvements in public transportation.

I looked for Professor Shoup on Facebook, seeking to "like" him, but what came up was a YouTube video of the Professor, looking all tweedy, with a bow tie and a beard, cycling the campus like Mr. Chips. What an odd academic subspecialty: parking theory. And yet how admirable: here is a guy who not only does not pay for parking but makes parking pay him. I suppose I should break down and buy his book to keep in the car in case of emergency—that is, in case I am sitting in the car on an alternate-side morning with nothing to read. But somehow by buying the book (a textbook, which costs anywhere from $29 to $60) I would be spending money on parking and thereby demonstrating the truth of the Professor's theories. This guy is a genius.

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