Parking Is Hell (Ep. 118 Rebroadcast)

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(Photo: @gueamu)

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of our episode  “Parking Is Hell.” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The episode begins with Stephen Dubner talking to parking guru Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and author of the landmark book The High Cost of Free Parking. In a famous Times op-ed, Shoup argued that as much as one-third of urban congestion is caused by people cruising for curb parking. Michael Manville, a city planning professor at Cornell, and co-author Jonathan Williams found that in Los Angeles, “at any given time almost 40 percent of vehicles parked at meters are both not paying and not breaking any laws.”

You’ll also hear from MIT professor Eran Ben-Joseph, whose book ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking offers solutions to improve the parking lot. He gives us a sense of how many surface parking spaces there are in the U.S. (close to 800 million) and points out that in some cities, parking lots cover a full third of the land area downtown.


I believe public transportation and alternative parking approaches (along with a lot of other things that will make the world better) will become more viable and gain more support when Americans don't have to work so much. I will pay almost anything to protect the precious little time that belongs to me. I happen to live in a place where, even with congestion and parking hassles, it is always faster to drive than take public transportation. The later is cheaper but I just don't care. I don't have the luxury of enjoying a relaxing ride on the bus when my kids need me to be there for them at a certain time and place and my employer wants as much of my time as he can get.

The burden of the sacrifices and compromises necessary to make the world better disproportionately fall on individuals who have reached the limit of what they have left to give.


There was a TV commercial years ago that showed a luxury sedan careening down a winding country road with the tagline: Either live closer to work or own the road in between. I choose door #1 and that has made all the difference. I haven’t driven a car in eight years (even before that I drove little) and if I never drive again that would suit me fine. If you have to drive to effect every aspect of daily living (shopping, work, school, entertainment, etc.) your life has some major flaws.

Winston Tsia

Solar Freakin' Roadways!

Might or might not be a good idea. Who knows?


I didn't see any mention of this as a factor in choice of parking spaces, but safety is a big consideration for me, and probably for a lot of other people. Now as an single woman and senior, it is important to me to park as close to my destination as possible, because I am often alone and not as mobile as I used to be. I never park in a parking garage if I can avoid it, due to safety concerns.

In the past, when I had young children, parking close to a destination was also important, so as to minimize the time carrying them or making sure they didn't do anything unsafe around traffic. I am sure many people have similar personal reasons for their parking choices, depending on their circumstances.

So the pennies I might spend on gas going around the block looking for a free or cheap curbside parking space are a negligible expense, and don't weigh very heavily compared to safety.