Uncomfortable bedfellows?

I mentioned Gabriel Roth and his early ideas on parking policy in a recent post (the one on requiring potential parking space rather than parking itself).

Citing Roth approvingly might alarm some readers who dislike neoliberal ideology (also known as 'economic rationalism', 'economic liberalism' or 'economic libertarianism' among others).

Parking for the Market.Roth was actually a key intellectual forerunner of Donald Shoup's thinking on parking. But it may be hard for some of you to think about this with an open mind since Roth was and is quite right-wing in his ideas on transport. He is better known for his later advocacy of public transport privatization and deregulation and for his ideas on private roads.

I don't share many of his views on those issues but I do think Roth's parking policy ideas were promising. Sadly they were largely ignored (as far as I know) until the recent upsurge in interest in Donald Shoup's proposals.

For anyone on the left of the political spectrum it may be very hard to keep an open mind to ideas that came from someone like Roth and were published by an outfit like the Institute of Economic Affairs, which is a UK 'free market' think tank. It played an important role in the rise of neoliberal policy ideas in the 1970s.

By the way, my Transport Reviews paper on parking (journal paywall version;  earlier pre-print version PDFexpressed surprise that a neoliberal thinker like Roth actually stopped short of advocating complete parking supply deregulation, as Shoup does.

I do hope you will keep an open mind to market-oriented thinking on parking regardless of your politics. After all, you have to be very far left these days to believe that markets have NO place at all in society. And you don't have to be right-wing to be open to the idea of using market-based policy tools, such as cap-and-trade for pollution problems. 

By the way, I wonder what Roth himself thinks of Donald Shoup's ideas? Does anyone know?


  1. This is a very important subject: the influence of the political position in the support - or rejection - of paid parking and road pricing. In my thesis about the acceptability of congestion pricing in Rio, I tried to investigate this point and was somewhat deceived - as a leftist - by the opposition of left-wing local politicians to this kind of measure. But I should not be surprised, as the person who introduced me to congestion pricing was a professor, in France, who is clearly a neoliberal.
    As for paid parking, there is a very interesting paper by CERTU (in French; maybe there is an English version, in www.certu.fr), "Les premières mises en place du stationnement payant sur voirie",where they show that the strongest opposition to paid parking in France came from the Communist Party.
    Best regards and a happy 2011.

  2. Great post.
    I myself as a left-wing anti-car activist, have quite some problems trying to convince my fellows on the importance of market-based instruments, like congestion charging or parking prices.
    Interestingly enough, also many right-wing people fail to recognise that the standard neoliberal academic ideology is pretty much against the car. A good example of that is Greg Mankiw, a right-wing economist, who constantly supports higher taxation of car usage.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Great post, I agree! I was just looking through your old posts when I found this. I'm increasingly convinced that much of the failures of urban transport, at least in Manila (and many other developing cities) owes much to neo-liberal policies heavily promoted in the 80s and 90s, such as the structural reforms imposed by the IMF-WB to many governments that paved the way for the privatization of public transport... And now that bus transport is privatize, it has been difficult to re-organize or overhaul the system to really provide accessibility to the masses. Of course, for parking it's pretty much the same, since land-ownership and use is now left (almost) to the private sector and hence parking regulations (or lack-of) are influenced by maximizing profits of the land-owners, usually for commercial purposes. And when off-street parking in residential areas is concerned, local authorities seems to be powerless, probably because of popular democracy... If you have materials, books, etc, related to this, I'd appreciate it. Thanks and thank you for this excellent resource you provide on parking policies


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