How did you first meet Donald Shoup? How did you hear about his ideas? Leave your stories in the comments at the bottom of this page.

Patrick Siegman, Principal, Nelson Nygaard

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Although Patrick Siegman never took a class with Donald Shoup, he is known as “the first Shoupista” for being an early advocate for Shoup’s ideas. A transportation consultant with Nelson\Nygaard, he shares his memories of when he first learned of Shoup’s work.

“Back in the spring of 1992, I was a student at Stanford in Washington studying international development. I was beginning to realize that before I tried to go to someone else’s country and tell them how to improve their lives, I needed to learn a real practical skill, and see if I could accomplish something at home, in a culture I actually understood. That same spring, an article appeared in the Washington Post titled “Subsidies Support a Drive-to-Work Habit,” about the ways in which the federal tax code subsidizes parking while withholding tax benefits if people walk or bike or take transit. It piqued my interest.

I knew that a large and remarkably ugly parking structure had recently been built outside my dad’s office on the Stanford campus, and I knew that I could get a permit to park in it for about $6 per month. I wondered how much it cost, and who really paid for it.

When I got back to Stanford in the Fall, I went to see my future boss, Julia Fremon, the manager of Stanford’s Office of Transportation Programs. I asked her how much it cost to build and operate a parking space on campus, and who paid for them. She said, “I’ve been wanting to know that too.” Then she gave me a list of people to interview, and offered me a spot on the University’s Committee on Parking and Transportation. Encouraged by this, I went to Green Library, descended into the stacks, and discovered the writing of Professor Shoup.

All that year, I devoured articles and monographs authored or co-authored by Donald Shoup. I still have my original dog-eared copies of all those articles on my office bookshelf, and I still reference them today when I’m out in the world trying to persuade city planners and council members to think differently about transportation. There were all those great articles, some newly published: Employer-Paid Parking: The Problem and Proposed Solutions, by Shoup and Willson; Parking Subsidies and Travel Choices: Assessing the Evidence, by Willson and Shoup; and most importantly, Cashing out Employer-Paid Parking, the big Federal Transit Administration report by Donald Shoup.

Professor Shoup managed to make the seemingly dry topic of parking economics and regulation not only worth studying, but compelling, fascinating, and at times, hilarious. I vividly remember sitting down in the stacks, reading his research papers on parking and laughing aloud at the insanity of it all. There’s a passage in Cashing out Employer-Paid Parking that I always recall. Regarding minimum parking requirements – those government regulations that spell out the minimum number of parking spaces that must be provided, by law, at every destination – Donald Shoup had this to say:

Minimum parking requirements in the planning profession are closely analogous to bloodletting in the medical profession. For over two thousand years doctors prescribed bloodletting to cure most diseases, and medical textbooks contained elaborate parking-requirement-like tables telling exactly how much blood should be let from exactly which part of the body, and when, for every disease.…

One strong similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is the general public acquiescence to both practices without any scientific research on their effects.…

Another similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is the harm caused by both practices. In the case of bloodletting, the problem was magnified because physicians didn’t clean their instruments before proceeding to the next patient. In the case of parking requirements, the problem is magnified when planners require far more parking than is demanded even when all parking is free. Recall here that Willson (1992) found that the number of parking spaces required by zoning ordinances was double the peak accumulation of cars parked at suburban office sites in Southern California.

A final similarity between bloodletting and minimum parking requirements is that the practice of bloodletting gradually fell out of use, and minimum parking requirements in zoning ordinances are gradually being replaced by parking caps.

Don Shoup made it clear that the way we as a society handle parking is unfair, inequitable, economically damaging, environmentally destructive, and results in some truly ugly places. Moreover, he offered clear, practical and workable ways to reform things. So, I decided to become an economics major, study the economics of parking and transportation, and see if I could help implement Don Shoup’s ideas.

Through my student research, I learned that Stanford’s newest parking structure had a construction cost of over $18,000 per space gained, resulting in a total cost of $1,675 per year per parking space gained, every single month for the expected lifetime of the structure. I could get a student permit to park in it for just $56 per school year, meaning that the University had inadvertently created a subsidy of more than $1600 per year that encouraged students to get around in the most polluting way possible. And, it was a subsidy that was available only to those of us who could afford the cost of buying, operating and insuring a motor vehicle.

Eventually, inspired largely by Professor Shoup’s writing, I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on the economics of parking and transportation at Stanford. In it, I argued that it would be cheaper for the University to pay people to leave their cars at home than to bear the heavy cost of subsidizing more parking. Stanford offered me a job to see if it made sense to do that, and that got me started in my career as a transportation planner. I have now been a practicing transportation planner for more than 20 years, and my colleagues and I still use the lessons we learned from Professor Shoup just about every day, in cities all over the world. With lots of help from my colleagues, I’ve been able to help implement Donald Shoup’s ideas in many places since 1992, when I first discovered his work, and so, I suppose, that’s why Don calls me the first Shoupista.”

13 replies
  1. Joy Chen
    Joy Chen says:

    Don Shoup – his devilish sense of humor! His brilliant mind! His constant generosity! I received two degrees at UCLA, and studied under many greats, but the one professor I’ll always remember is Don. I still remember our first day of Urban Public Finance class: he entered the room and wrote on the board: “The best tax is a tax on foreigners living elsewhere.” Since then, I see that principle everywhere, even when I worked as a real-estate developer creating projects and profits with Other People’s Money. Don’s lessons in economics are the lessons that I have used throughout my professional life. Most especially, his lesson in caring for others is a lasting inspiration to us all. Thanks Don. We’ll all work to carry on your legacy.

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  2. Michael Manville
    Michael Manville says:

    Long before Don achieved “parking rock star” status, he understood that the students of today are the policymakers of tomorrow, and that no amount of high-minded writing could replace the opportunity to convince 80 new people every year of the importance of what he was saying. Academia has many market failures–everyone writes too much and reads too little; talks more than listens; analyzes data other people collect while not bothering to collect data themselves. And almost everyone, of course, focuses on research to the detriment of teaching. This last is not a problem one finds in Don Shoup: every audience he speaks to–his students, a city council, the hapless person next to him on an airplane-is the most important audience he has faced, and he takes the task of educating them, and learning from them, very seriously indeed.

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  3. Steffen Turoff
    Steffen Turoff says:

    My experience is that most students love Don’s classes and his teachings have inspired a following of “Shoupistas,” not only among his students in the classroom but among people who have read his work and heard his ideas. He is an engaging lecturer who provides relevant and accessible study materials to his students. But I find it difficult to discuss his “teaching” because teaching for Don spills over so easily and effectively beyond the classroom, into conversations and debates, email exchanges, and thought-provoking publications that are so clear and accessible that they have the same impact as a powerful lecture. I can easily recall what I have learned from Don, but not always the instance or medium through which I learned it.

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  4. Don H. Pickrell
    Don H. Pickrell says:

    Professor Shoup’s keen diagnosis and detailed prescriptions have increasingly been absorbed by rank-and-file transportation planners at every level of government, who now see the pricing of urban parking space as a key strategy for achieving objectives as diverse as managing traffic congestion, reducing environmental externalities from motor vehicle use, designing more habitable neighborhoods, speeding public transportation service, and improving pedestrian safety. He has become the closest thing to a celebrity there can be in academic circles, yet he uses his celebrity wisely and responsibly in an effort to make professional practice more purposeful and effective .

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  5. Eric Morris
    Eric Morris says:

    I know Professor Shoup well in his role as a journal editor, as while I was completing a post-doc at UCLA he brought me in as associate editor on ACCESS magazine, of which he is editor-in-chief. In this role Dr. Shoup was a tireless advocate for crafting a publication that has the highest standards in making sometimes technical research comprehensible to public officials, the media, and lay readers. The amount of time we spent editing these articles both for content and style (down to long discussions about where hyphens belong and don’t belong) reflect Professor Shoup’s unflagging dedication to crafting informative, insightful, readable and clever prose, a commitment which he also makes in his own work.

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  6. Douglas Kolozsvari
    Douglas Kolozsvari says:

    When I walked into the office of UCLA’s Urban Planning Department in my final year of undergrad to acquire a brochure about their master’s degree program, Professor Shoup happened to be behind the reception desk. Having no idea he was the department’s chair, I admitted that I wasn’t entirely sure what planners actually do and so wanted to learn more about the field. Rather than simply handing me an information packet or telling me to return later to speak with a staff member, Professor Shoup took the time to find out more about my background and what triggered my interest in the first place. He confirmed that my concerns about transportation and environmental issues aligned well with a planning education, and he explained what career options would be available to me once I completed my degree. In subsequent weeks, we had several follow-up meetings to discuss his research on parking, and I immediately felt like a collaborator rather than just a student. Needless to say, I quickly responded in the affirmative to the department’s acceptance letter – in large part because I had the opportunity to work with Professor Shoup.

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  7. David King
    David King says:

    Donald is an extremely talented writer who uses technical analysis and humor equally well to explain the phenomena he studies. Clear writing is not easy, however, and Donald involved his students in the process of writing, which in turn makes them better scholars and planners.

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  8. Daniel Baldwin Hess
    Daniel Baldwin Hess says:

    Perhaps the greatest impact Professor Shoup has had on me personally has been as a career coach. When I first arrived at UCLA, Professor Shoup explained to me that he believed that the relationship between a PhD student and his/her advisor is similar to the relationship between an apprentice and master during days of yore, when craftsman trained, for years, side-by-side with their mentor. During my tenure as a PhD student, I benefited handsomely from the personal attention that Professor Shoup devoted to my research and studies. But perhaps I benefited the most from my joint research with Professor Shoup, where I learned his approach to posing research questions and then methodically answering them using planning and policy analysis. This joint research led to three co-authored articles in scholarly publications and numerous conference presentations, all of which advanced my career (in the early stages and beyond) profoundly.

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  9. Robert Campbell
    Robert Campbell says:

    I first met Professor Shoup as a student in one of his undergraduate courses at UCLA. Looking back, I can truthfully say it was strikingly different from any of the 51 other courses I completed at UCLA, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to take it. Professor Shoup’s lectures are powerful and persuasive—he achieves a beautiful blend of theory and application unlike any other professor I had at UCLA—and his love for the topic and his eagerness to share it with others comes across in every word and every slide. He also manages to keep the material very approachable, such that students of any background can participate in and benefit from his class. He always takes the time to listen and genuinely consider each person’s comments, and shows a profound sense of awareness in that he is willing to revisit his own ideas and opinions when a student presents a compelling case to the contrary. In this way, he recognizes what many others of his caliber and renown often forget— that in spite of all his experience and extensive background relative to his students, they can still sometimes have valuable things to teach him as well.

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  10. Jeffrey Brown
    Jeffrey Brown says:

    I had the privilege of working with Professor Shoup during my graduate studies at UCLA from 1996-2003. I also took several courses with him as a student. As a teacher, he was truly excellent and engaged. He made a microeconomics for planners course for new graduate students a truly enjoyable and memorable class; he was similarly excellent in the public finance class I took from him as a second year student. His courses are thoroughly well-prepared, engagingly delivered, often with humorous insights, and made genuinely very relevant to the real world that students will enter upon graduation. They were amongst the most interesting, enjoyable, and relevant courses I took in my educational career, and his approach to teaching has informed my own approach to a significant degree.

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  11. Chirag Rabari, MURP '13
    Chirag Rabari, MURP '13 says:

    I had the pleasure of taking Professor Shoup’s microeconomics class as a first-year graduate student in 2011. I later served as a teaching assistant for the same course in 2012 and also helped Dr. Shoup as an associate editor for ACCESS magazine, which he edited. Living in the city it is impossible *not* to think about Dr. Shoup’s work nearly every day: every parking sign, parking space, parking garage, and parking meter serves as an explicit reminder of the good advice not heeded and better alternatives not pursued.

    Although Professor Shoup’s lasting influence will be always be associated with the economics of parking, I believe the implications of his signature contribution runs deeper. Above all, Professor Shoup provides a model for thinking deeply and rigorously about the real causes of the externalities & failures that degrade the urban environment, and by extension the public goods and resources we all rely on. Indeed, there remain many under-explored topics in land-use and the built environment that would benefit from a Shoup-like excavation!

    Professor Shoup also deserves enormous credit for the clarity and accessibility of his academic prose, and the emphasis he placed on good writing to generations of students. Writing memos for Dr. Shoup’s class remain the most practical training for policy-work that I received while in graduate school.

    Finally, although much remains to be done, recent moves towards performance parking in cities across the country should serve as a testament to all planners that even seemingly intractable policy problems *can* be ameliorated, though it may be a “slow boring of hard boards”. This progress would have been unimaginable had Dr. Shoup not stood by and advocated on behalf of his work with such focus and dedication over the years.

    Three cheers to a career well-spent.

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  12. Carol Hillestad
    Carol Hillestad says:

    Professor Shoup is a great professor. I had the privilege to be one of his students at UCLA 1979-1980. There are very few professors that I remember that instilled in me the need for better urban planning and bringing into balance the proper place for human use. I am strong follower of his parking policies. I cringe every time I view spansive paved parking lots. I often think of Professor Shoup when I “feed the meter.” Best of luck to you in your retirement.

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  13. Geary L. Robinson, Ph.D., CAPP
    Geary L. Robinson, Ph.D., CAPP says:

    In the parking and transportation industry he is an Icon without measure. I have read some but not all of Dr. Shoup’s work and follow it as much as will be allowed or tolerated in practice. I am firmly committed to the theory that if you build it they will come, President Eisenhower pushed Congress into building an interstate highway system for the military and national security use. What no one foresaw was we would ultimately create the largest transportation system in the world for the Single Occupied Vehicle (SOV). Which said SOV would also need a parking space, one preferred by most folks next to the front door of their desired destination. Dr. Shoup made it much easier for blokes like me to make a living playing with and planning for automobiles, buses, trains and trucks.

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