To Reduce Driving, Put a Real Price on Parking

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Roger Valdez of Worldchanging examines whether making parking more difficult can actually reduce driving levels — and recalls the frustration he used to feel before he was able to jettison his car:

9972_largearticlephoto.jpgPhoto by functoruser via Flickr.

[F]rankly, one of the things I enjoy the most about not having a car is being free from the hassle of finding a place to park it.

If there is one thing that motivated me to change my driving habits it was the increasing challenge of parking. I used to think that there was a conspiracy to eliminate, one by one, every last available on-street parking spot.  There actually is a plan.
A major part of Seattle’s strategy to deal with parking is to reduce demand by encouraging people to choose convenient options for getting around besides cars. And beyond my intuition that it works there is some evidence to back up the idea.

According to a review of regional modeling studies done a few years ago by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, parking has a significant impact on reducing VMT.  Their review showed that land use and transit policies have very little effect on VMT by themselves unless they include complementary policies that put a price on parking. Free or cheap parking tends to support more driving.

We’ve also got a post from Veracity‘s "Year with Jane Jacobs" project, which is examining Jacobs’s ideas from every angle. Today, the subject is how Jacobs viewed the Interstate Highway System as part of a shortsighted post-Depression drive to prioritize full employment above all other considerations. Interesting stuff, especially in these times of stimulus. Also, Trains for America looks at the latest attacks on Amtrak, and Copenhagenize urges Londoners to bike the Tube strike.

  • No doubt about it. In the suburbs, though, there’s a “race to the bottom” as lifestyle center developments demand free parking to compete with malls and other destinations. The quest of suburban communities like the one I live in to reinvent themselves as walkable communities is built on loads of subsidized parking (“Park once,” not never).

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Alan Durning is the executive director and founder of Sightline Institute, a think tank on sustainability issues in the Pacific Northwest. This article, originally posted on Sightline’s blog, is #9 in their series, “Parking? Lots!” Have you ever watched the excavation that precedes a tall building? It seems to take forever. Then, when the digging […]