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Although people of color make up about one third of the population, they make up 46.1 percent of pedestrian deaths.

Would you rather have free parking and dirty sidewalks or paid parking and clean sidewalks?

I read this article in the Chicago Tribune about free parking over the weekend, and thought it posed some interesting ideas. Donald Shoup, the Parking Prophet and author of 'The High Cost of Free Parking' suggests that charging for parking, especially street parking encourages more people to walk, bike or take transit and reduces congestion, sprawl and air pollution.

In the article, he points out that City governments contribute to all these ills, by requiring too many parking spaces for all development. The high cost of the required parking increases the prices we pay for everything else, including housing. We have expensive housing and free parking. We have our priorities the wrong way around.

At the end of the article, they compare two suburban-style downtowns in Los Angeles. One installed parking meters and used the money for pedestrian improvements. The other decreased parking meter rates because the surrounding businesses didn't see any direct benefits. Shoup makes it seem like charging for parking is an easy, transparent way to pay for bike and pedestrian improvements. Here is the excerpt from the article:

In Shoup's view, Old Pasadena and Westwood Village illustrate the effects of different parking policies. In 1993, Old Pasadena installed $1-an-hour meters and began using the revenue to spruce things up. 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. 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.

That same year, Shoup said, merchants in Westwood petitioned the city to cut meter rates from $1 an hour to 50 cents. Curb parking was underpriced and overcrowded, and the meter money flowed into the city's general fund rather than back to the area. Today, Westwood Village residents and merchants bemoan the cracked, trash-strewn sidewalks, neglected landscaping and numerous vacancies.

To Shoup, the matter comes down to a simple question: Would you rather have free parking and dirty sidewalks or paid parking and clean sidewalks?