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When the City of San Jose proposed relaxing parking requirements for restaurants in my neighborhood, I argued so strongly against it I was given a T-shirt stamped "The Protestor." Parking is one of those everyday issues that can get under your skin. But over time my perspective has radically changed.

I live half a block from a busy intersection in San Jose, near three or four restaurants along The Alameda. People cruise my side street for parking, make U-turns, and even park right in front of my driveway. Sometimes, I return from shopping with bags of groceries to find my driveway blocked. I have to park a block away.

My neighbors and I lost that first battle, but I began to read about city planning, including "The High Cost of Free Parking" by Donald Shoup. He's a UCLA professor and parking guru; his followers call themselves "Shoupistas."

Reading Shoup's book opened my eyes; I haven't been the same since.

Shoup points out the hidden costs of parking. Land is tied up that could be better used for homes and shops, and the lost value is passed on in higher prices. When parking is free, people choose driving instead of walking or taking the bus. When spaces are full, people cruise the streets, creating congestion and pollution.


So we all suffer inconvenience and pay a price for "free" parking. But businesses and residents don't like parking meters either. What's the solution? Here's one: create a parking benefit district so that revenue from the meters goes directly back to improve the local community. It's a smart, transformative idea. It worked in Pasadena, revitalizing a neglected downtown.

I want that in my neighborhood. Instead of protesting, I've become a Shoupista. If the price of parking is set correctly, convenient spaces will be available for the local businesses. The revenue from a parking benefit district can help pay to improve and maintain our local streets and sidewalks.

I won't complain about parking when money from the meters comes back to beautify my neighborhood.

With a Perspective, this is Marc Morris.