New Evidence Links Sprawl to Parking Minimums

New evidence connecting minimum parking requirements and sprawl is
bolstering the argument for an overhaul of government policies related
to much space we devote to the storage of cars.

A team of economists from the University of Munich recently released a study
examining the effects of mandatory parking minimums on development in
urban and suburban Los Angeles. The team found that parking minimums
"significantly increase" the amount of land devoted to parking, to the
detriment of water quality, pedestrian safety and non-automotive modes
of transportation.

Parking_Structure_Study_LA.jpgAn aerial photo of an L.A. parking structure. Image via Heli Photo

The
report offers a critical piece of empirical evidence regarding the
connection between parking minimums and oversupply. For writer Stephen
Smith at Network blog Market Urbanism, the new research is compelling evidence supporting the work of parking reform guru Donald C. Shoup, whose book "The
High Cost of Free Parking" examined the adverse effects of government
policies that subsidize parking:

Although we at Market Urbanism are big fans of Donald Shoup’s work on
parking minimums, we have to admit that rigorous econometric evidence
that parking minimums mandate more parking than the market would
otherwise supply has been a bit lacking. Randal O’Toole at The
Antiplanner quite rightly asks to see empirical proof that parking minimums are binding. Tyler Cowen appears to have found this proof, in the form of paper posted online very recently
which seeks to determine whether or not non-residential developers in
Los Angeles County build more parking than they would in the absence of
minimum parking mandates.

Randal O’Toole suggested that Shoup’s residency in Los Angeles might be
biasing his research, since the City of Los Angeles is quite dense
indeed. This study, however, uses a large dataset with data points from
all over the County of Los Angeles, home to almost 10 million people,
or over a quarter of all Californians. (Many more live in other dense
areas, like San Diego and the Bay Area.) And in fact certain parts of
the paper focus solely on suburban areas, and claim to be undercounting
some of the denser areas where the discrepancy between what the market
would choose and what the law currently dictates would be even greater.

The study ends up finding that at least half of all non-commercial
properties have more parking than they would otherwise choose, and that
the excess can oftentimes be quite large.

Market Urbanism
has asked O’Toole, the libertarian analyst notorious for glossing over
the role of government in promoting sprawl, for a response to the new
research and has promised to update readers if they receive one.

Elsewhere on the Network, SeattleTransitBlog peeks in on a British city that has removed it traffic lights, with surprising results; Urban Review STL
asks its readers whether they support replacing a highway that bisects
downtown St. Louis with a boulevard; and Human Transit questions whether converting buses to trams boosts ridership.