University of California Transportation Center
Cruising for Parking
- Author(s): Shoup, Donald C.
- et al.
Suppose curb parking is free but all the spaces are occupied, and off-street parking is expensive but immediately available. In this case, you can cruise to find a curb space being vacated by a departing motorist, or pay for off-street parking right away. This paper presents a model of how drivers choose whether to cruise or to pay, and it predicts several results: you are more likely to cruise if curb parking is cheap, off-street parking is expensive, fuel is cheap, you want to park for a long time, you are alone in the car, and you place a low value on saving time. The model also predicts that charging the market price for curb parking – at least equal to the price of adjacent off-street parking – will eliminate cruising. Because the government sets curb parking prices, planners, and elected officials strongly influence drivers’ decisions to cruise. The failure to charge market rates for curb parking congests traffic, pollutes the air, wastes fuel, and causes accidents. Between 1927 and 2001, studies of cruising in congested downtowns have found that it took between 3.5 and 14 min to find a curb space, and that between 8 and 74 percent of the traffic was cruising for parking.