“We’re a bunch of freeloaders. It’s human nature. If something is free, you want it,” said Donald Shoup, UCLA professor of urban planning who studied the issue with his students. Shoup said cruising for cheap parking annually wastes about 47,000 gallons of gas and generates 730 tons of greenhouse gases in the Westwood district he studied. And he said it’s a pattern being played out in business districts across the city – from Ventura Boulevard and Hollywood to Third Street and downtown – fueled by low curb-parking costs compared with prices charged at off-street lots. Acknowledging the problem, Los Angeles city transportation officials have begun reviewing whether to add more parking meters and raise the rates. Already, the city is spending $15 million on plans to replace the city’s 40,000 aging parking meters over the next few years with fancy, high-tech ones that can take coins, credit and debit cards. Parking-meter fees are also coming under scrutiny by city officials, with hikes expected in some bustling areas that could vary by time of day. But there are no plans now to clamp down on any other free parking spots in the city, aside from adding 500 new meters to Silver Lake that are expected to bring in $115,000 a year. Irate that residents have been using commercial streets for long-term parking, Silver Lake business owners recently asked the city to install the new meters. In Studio City, a few more cars should come out of the relentless stream of vehicles in search of free parking thanks to a four-story parking structure. The facility opened about two years ago at 12225 Ventura Blvd., quietly tucked between banks, coffee shops and furniture stores. For 50 cents, drivers can park there for the first hour and then pay $1 for the next two hours. If parked there all day, the tab is $4.50. Nearby street meters, in comparison, allow only 15-minute parking and cost 25 cents. Farther down the street, meters allow up to two-hour parking at 75 cents an hour – less of a bargain than the parking garage. “They should put in more parking garages and offer shuttles to get around to shopping and theaters,” said Laura Coker of Studio City as she parked in the garage Tuesday for an errand. “Then you don’t have to worry about walking too far (down Ventura).” Coker changed her parking habits after nearby streets with free parking became permit-parking only. But old habits die more slowly with others, and many continue to scour the streets thinking they’ll save a buck or two. “That has been a challenge for people using the parking structure and understanding it’s in line with parking on the streets,” said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. “But people are not used to it. They’re used to meters.” Paul Gendreau of Studio City uses the parking structure frequently because it’s conveniently near his bank. But for a bite at Art’s Delicatessen, the 52-year-old is more inclined to cruise Ventura Boulevard in hopes of parking closer to the restaurant’s entrance. “We’re taught to believe we deserve the best. And the best is closest,” said Gendreau. “We’re not used to walking here.” firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3683160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Of all the hostile insults that irritated Angelenos spew at one another as they inch their way along the city’s congested streets, here’s a new one to consider – cheapskate. That’s because a large chunk of roadway traffic is caused by people circling around and around and around in search of free or super-cheap street parking. And the search for curb parking comes at a staggering cost to motorists’ sanity: In just one 15-block city business district, circlers added 950,000 extra miles of travel in a year. That’s enough to take 38 trips around the world, according to a recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles.