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Between the Lines

By Samuel Greengard

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 58 No. 6, Pages 15-17

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It is no secret that one of life's thorniest and most frustrating challenges revolves around finding a parking spot. Every day, in a scenario that plays out in urban areas around the world, motorists cruise, circle, and dart through streets in search of an elusive place to stow their vehicle for a few minutes or a few hours. Too often, parking lots are full and street spaces are next to impossible to find. The process is incredibly inefficient and time-consuming—and it frays nerves and burns gasoline.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) distinguished urban planning professor Donald Shoup has estimated motorists searching for street-side parking spots in Los Angeles accrue 950,000 excess vehicle miles per 15-block area over the course of a year. This extra driving—which accounts for about 30% of traffic in business districts—consumes approximately 47,000 gallons of gas and generates about 730 tons of carbon dioxide annually. However, those factors are only parts of the problem. Many people overpay for metered parking in order to avoid costly fines. "The simplest, cheapest, and fairest way to reduce traffic congestion is to set the right prices for on-street parking," Shoup says.

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