Yale parking policy criticized

New Haven has a parking problem. But it is not just because there are too few spaces, Donald Shoup ’62 GRD ’68 told a packed audience at Sudler Hall Tuesday evening.

In the core of Yale’s campus, the parking shortage has grown as the University builds new buildings on land that used to be surface parking lots, according to University Director of Sustainable Transportation Systems Holly Parker, who helped organize the discussion of “Traffic, Parking, and our Green Future.” At the event, Shoup and New York Times bestselling author Tom Vanderbilt addressed urban parking and its environmental costs.

“Traffic” author Tom Vanderbilt speaks to the Sudler Hall audience Tuesday evening about the environmental costs of urban parking.
Sean Fraga
“Traffic” author Tom Vanderbilt speaks to the Sudler Hall audience Tuesday evening about the environmental costs of urban parking.

“Parking is free to us only in our role as motorists,” Shoup said. “Just because we don’t pay for parking doesn’t mean that the costs cease to exist.”

Shoup, a world-renowned transportation and land-use expert, kicked off the discussion by saying cities need to reduce the number of drivers trolling the streets for parking because doing so causes congestion. He explained that cities should price street parking so that 15 percent of spaces are always available, a practice that would limit car cruising.

In addition to cruising, idling is another environmentally hazardous traffic problem, Vanderbilt said, citing the fact that, by idling, Americans consume the same amount of energy that Costa Rica does in a year.

Even though New Haven’s traffic and parking policies are in the city’s domain, Shoup said there are steps Yale can take to improve the efficiency and sustainability of its transit systems.

Shoup said Yale could collaborate with public transportation companies, like the public bus company CTTransit, to offer more varied and cheaper travel options to the Yale community.

“Many universities do this now — It’s called a Upass or Unlimited Access,” Shoup said. “Once the university starts it, everyone else seems to love it, and it draws some people out of their cars, so I think it would help Yale’s parking shortage.”

Yale’s shuttle system and parking costs more than $3 million a year, Shoup said, all of which Yale pays. A system such as Upass would be much cheaper for the University, he said, because the state and federal governments would subsidize the systems. Parking is a great cost to the University and not nearly covered by the amount individuals pay to use garages, Parker said. The new School of Management campus, for example, will have about 200 parking spaces, Parker said. But each of those spaces, if underground, will cost the University more than $100,000 just to build — much less to operate and maintain.

The end of the event left the roughly 100 attendees with many questions about how Yale and New Haven should cope with parking shortages.

“I guess I’d never thought about the market forces of parking, and how, just like with any other market force, you can use incentives, and disincentives to discourage people from driving into the downtown core,” New Haven resident Jonathan Richardson FES ’11 said. “The question I’m really leaving with is that issue of safety. … If you really increase the price and make parking less attractive so that more people decide to walk, does that make people more vulnerable?”

Richardson added that he and his wife usually walk everywhere — as long as it is before 8 p.m. — and that when they do drive downtown, they often struggle to find convenient parking.

Mark Aronson, chief conservator of paintings at the Yale Center for British Art, said he usually bikes the 1.5 miles to work from his East Rock home. But Aronson said this approach is the exception, not the norm.

“Absolutely I agree that we have too much parking, and I go to a lot of meetings at the museums at Yale where people discuss the need of proximate parking for people to come to our museums,” he said. “I always say that New Haven doesn’t have a parking problem — New Haven has a walking problem.

Curb parking in downtown New Haven costs $1.25 an hour.


  • anyname

    Over $100 per month for parking is hardly free.

  • pedestrian

    The CT Transit would have to provide more frequent service for use of buses to be a viable option.

  • yale ’11

    but what about the lady who’s arthritic? what about the mother of three who needs to drive her kids to school every morning. hell, what about the doctor who needs to rush to the hospital to operate on a patient?

    please don’t tell me its a good idea for everyone to be walking everywhere. as “anyname” said, parking is hardly free and its not fair to hike prices to discourage people from parking, as it would hit the more vulnerable members of society pretty hard.

  • anon

    When more people use it, CT Transit will offer more. It’s a chicken/egg issue and one that is vitally important for the growth of urban centers.

    When more people walk at night, it is safer – to the point in the article.

    Over $100/month is hardly the true cost of the space

  • grd88

    Try to leave New Haven on a Ct Transit bus, it’s not a viable option for anyone who commutes and you’ll have park somewhere. The Shore Line East has limited runs and you still pay for parking. Who do they think comes to the museums? People from out of town and the suburbs, I don’t think they’re going to be walking or taking the bus. Every Yale employee pays to park, students pay to park. It’s a nightmare downtown which at least means people are still coming and New Haven is getting the money. It’s funny how the minority of walker/biker continually try to push thier pedestrian nirvana on everyone else. Most live within a mile or two of where they work, lucky for you but not for everyone else. I already pay for all the fees related to driving, I’m not about to pay more for another “tree hugger” meaningful group hug.

  • student

    New Haven would be far more prosperous if it charged more for parking, and used the revenue to develop parking lots into thriving residential and work space.

    That’s the main point. You may like your suburban commute but New Haven would be better off with less of it.

    The successful cities and towns of the world are converting parking into space for the community, not space for polluting suburbanites.

    New Haven and Yale should immediately raise parking fees and use the revenue to subsidize housing for teachers and police officers to live within city limits (as opposed to in the suburbs), just to give one example.

    Bottom line: Our current land use and parking policies subsidize the suburbs at the expense of the central cities. That needs to change immediately.

  • gerd

    You mean teachers and police cannot afford to live in New Haven without a stipend? Maybe it’s the the simple fact they don’t wish to live in the city. Maybe Yale should raise tuition and apply the extra money to jobs for the local community. Less commuters and make New Haven a semi-habitable city. Add student fees to pay for the Yale Transit and security vehicles that give students a ride around the block-you’re close enough to walk to anywhere you wish to go. Maybe the suburban dwellers should demand the return of the lions share of federal, state and local taxes that are sucked up by New Haven. Maybe you can just ask the local business community, theatres, museums and clubs to turn away the selfish suburbanites- you don’t need thier dirty cash. Bottom line is this isn’t Seattle, it isn’t even Baltimore. It’s New Haven, not a mecca for employment, jobs or entertainment. New Haven would be better off with the clutter, lack of space and control of vast swaths of property that Yale brings with it.

  • Tanner

    Didn’t New Haven just build a bunch of Parking Garages? Oh there not outside their classrooms. Wait till the SOM is open and more yalies will park around the east rock area so they won’t have to pay for one of the 200 parking spaces.

  • grad

    One thing Yale does *right* is open parking to the community after 4pm and on weekends. Sadly, this is just for surface lots, and not garages, so SOM is about to gobble up some of the spaces closest to the Peabody and lower Whitney retailers.

    I don’t know that I’ll ever feel comfortable just walking around New Haven as long as mid-day muggings on major streets continue. Combine that with how unsafe the general area around the medical school is, and the number of people who work there…you can’t address traffic and parking until you make places safe enough to walk to without fearing for your life!

  • local

    Anybody who says that parking downtown is a “nightmare” loses all credibility in my book. There are multiple parking garages downtown with hundreds of unused spaces even at peak times. There’s plenty of parking, you just don’t want to pay for it. So take the bus or walk.

  • med11

    Hundreds of unused spaces in dark, dirty, unsafe garages with surly employees from the Parking Authority. Or you may get really lucky and get one of the wastrels from EZ Park or another one of the fine private contractors. Pay through the nose at either and then a charming walk through an urban wasteland. The reason parking is so hard is everyone tries to park as close as possible to work as they can to limit thier exposure to the dangers, real or perceived, that come with walking around Yale. New Haven and Yale have no credibility when it comes to safety, and locals like you even less.

  • JasonM

    Any discussion of this issue must include the article by YiLing Chen-Josephson (Yale Law School):

    “No Place To Park: The Uneasy
    Relationship Between a City and its Cars”


  • Cold and Wet in New Haven

    Also, who wants to walk in New Haven weather most of the year.