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Old Pasadena a Win, Westwood a Fail and What Parking Rates Could Have to do With it

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Photo by red.dahlia via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr

Photo by red.dahlia via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
In today's LA Times, Martha Groves profiles UCLA Professor and "parking rockstar" Donald Shoup. If you don't know about him, you should, as he's someone local whose ideas about urban planning are affecting cities everywhere. One of his most frequently cited concepts is not subsidizing free parking, putting it at fair market value and using the revenues to improve that neighborhood directly.

So what did Los Angeles do when it increased parking rates in 2008? Took the money for its depleting general fund. But that's nothing new.

In 1993, Westwood merchants petitioned L.A. city officials to decrease meter rates from one dollar to fifty cents, which in turn brought overcrowded curbside parking. Still, the revenues raised were not kept in the neighborhood and these days you have a relatively sleepy commercial district (especially in the summer when UCLA is on break) where "residents and merchants bemoan the cracked, trash-strewn sidewalks, neglected landscaping and numerous vacancies," as Groves put it.

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In contrast, look at Old Pasadena. The same year Westwood decreased rates, the City of Roses upped them to $1-an-hour and took the revenues to improve the area. "Many area employees who had parked on the street and moved their vehicles every two hours began to pay for parking in city structures, so that curb spaces were freed for customers," explained Groves. "The shift helped transform the area from a blighted eyesore into a vibrant destination with shops and restaurants. Shoup doesn't take credit for Old Pasadena's change, but he often uses the area as Exhibit A in his talks."

Perhaps with the new card-and-coin meters, which are exceeding revenue estimations by far, the city could start sharing the revenue with the neighborhoods and business districts that earn it.

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