2-Minute Video: Why Parking Minimums Are the Worst

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars,” Donald Shoup wrote in his celebrated investigation of parking economics, The High Cost of Free Parking. The above video, from the city of Ottawa, does a good job explaining exactly why that is and the problems it causes.

Ottawa commissioned the animation to explain why its 1960s-era parking regulations need rethinking if the city is going to be a walkable place. But the same principles apply to cities everywhere.

Hat tip: City Obseratory

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Great video! But what’s up with the dude with the bandaged head at the end? Is that some Canadian in-joke?

  • Tim Moerman

    It’s funny, a few people have asked me about that one. It’s the waiter who got clocked in the head by the bar graph earlier in the video!

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    We could build housing for twenty… Where do those twenty people park their cars?

    It does not have to be one way (car friendly) or the other (bike/transit/pedestrian friendly). It can be a blend.

    Let’s face it, the current trend with cars is in increasing automobile efficiency (reducing carbon emissions with electric and fuel cell cars) and improving safety (autonomous driving). The parking requirement can still exist, but mandate that it is underground. It also could be parking structures with a parks on the top level.

  • murphstahoe

    increasing the efficiency of driving but reducing the efficiency by having more congested roads by not giving meaningful alternatives to driving at all, nets us out at zero. Building more parking at destinations (jobs/retail) instead of simply putting the housing near the jobs is counter productive

  • 20 people, so we need, what, about 50-some parking places? Some of those people are going to have more than 1 (or even 2) cars, need some room for guests, nannies, etc.
    The video talks about the expense of under grounding parking…that makes the units more expensive, so you’re talking about providing higher-end units.

  • Wheat

    The developer can build as many parking spaces as they would like. The consumer will have to decide if it is a worthwhile cost

  • pablo_skils

    What about congestion? The streets and buildings of San Francisco have become more and more choked with cars. Autonomous cars are not the answer to these problems. You only have to look at Tokyo to see the future.

    Tokyo, with a population of 35 million and a population density of about 6200 per sq km, in general has far fewer local traffic issues than San Francisco, which has about 2500 per sq km. Why is this? Tokyo has great public transport and everybody rides a bike for short trips. Here’s an example of a bike parking area outside a supermarket in Tokyo.

    San Francisco’s population will continue to increase and become more dense. Individual car ownership is an antiquated notion. It just doesn’t work in increasingly crowded cities. Get used to it.

  • pablo_skils

    Yeah, like the consumer should decide if they want to smoke, be obese, etc. You don’t seem to realize that consumers’ minds are manipulated by corporate control which does not consider the long-term interest of society. Rather it focuses on quarterly earnings.

  • pablo_skils

    Right on Murphy, you get it. I say that the net of increasing road congestion is below zero.

  • pablo_skils

    Why should we be thinking about propping up an industry that has outlived its usefulness? What have car companies done to deserve our charity? I’m not saying cars should be abolished, not even close, but it’s clear we have to drastically reduce the number of individually-owned cars and alter national and global economic paradigms to account for this. Why do people continue to keep their heads in the sand about this reality?

  • Slexie

    Tokyo and SF are cities that are not as spread out as bigger cities. Both of those cities also have good alternatives to not drive like bike lanes and great public transit. Public transit in most American cities is not nearly as polished and efficient as the transit in SF, Tokyo and NYC. Yes, you can build an apartment with 20 apartments, are you expecting none of them will have cars? You can’t expect people to ditch their cars without a viable alternative way to get around. Also, great grasp of the obvious with that film. Gee, more cars create congestion? No way!

  • pablo_skils

    Let me suggest a great idea: Car share. This has been proven to work very well. But also bikes are great for short trips, and e-bikes for people in poor condition. Bicycles are so much more attractive as an option with fewer cars. So the fewer cars, the more ‘viable’ (as you put it) bicycles become. Oh, and of course there is walking. I almost forgot. That’s what the human body has become adapted to on a daily basis over tens of thousands of years. Finally, mass transit is key component of any healthy city’s transportation network.

    As for Tokyo, it’s the world’s biggest city. Duh.

    But you’re right: American cities need to be fundamentally re-designed. At present they’re pretty hopeless in terms of energy efficiency (which includes transportation).

    And since when was car ownership a right?

  • Slexie

    So, car ownership isn’t a right, who said that? If you can afford to buy and maintain a car, there’s nothing wrong with that. Public transit across LA is never going to take off unless it is a reasonable alternative to driving. Transit doubles one’s commute time, so it is not any kind of reasonable alternative. Uber is the greatest experiment in mobility because of what it proves. People will still take a private car, even if it’s more expensive, instead of public transit. Why? Because people place a high value on time. Do I want to spend 3 hours on the bus? Or do I want to pay maybe $5-$10 more and go door to door?

    And the new bike share they just started in Santa Monica is too expensive to get people out of their cars. There is no guarantee there will be a bike when you need one at any one location. Also, it’s $20 a month, and you get rides for 1/2 an hour a day. Go over that and you pay the daily rate of $6 an hour. Pricing doesn’t include sales tax in the fee, so it’s a bit more. You can get an annual pass for $119 and get the same 1/2 hour of riding a day. When people complained about the price, suddenly, bike share said the daily users will be mostly tourists. So, do they really want to help traffic and the average Angelino? Doesn’t sound like it.

  • pablo_skils

    You say people value their time. This is an argument in favour of bicycles over cars. Also bicycles are superior than cars for people who value their health and the health and happiness of their communities.

    Bike share is often – but not universally – more for visitors than residents, that’s well-known.

    But there’s no need for residents to rely on bike share. If a person can afford to buy a car, they can easily afford to buy a bike. So far all I’m getting from you is excuses for car ownership.

    My question for you is what do average Angelinos do to help themselves and their city? What do they do to support improvements in the city’s transport plan?

  • Slexie

    Ha! An excuse for car ownership? Why would I make excuses for owning a car? I LOVE my car! I’m not ashamed of owning a car, why would I be? I have a bike too! Some people have both! Did you know that? Yes, some people own a bike and a car.

    People value their time enough that they would rather take Uber than the bus. Period. They’re not biking to go out at night, they’re not biking to work in a suit, parents are not biking with their kids to run errands after school. Why? Because it takes too long and biking in LA is still not as safe as it should be. I can’t even get to Attwater Village from Los Feliz on my bike without risking my life. So don’t act like biking in LA is some free form of expression and oh if we would all just bike it would all be great. That “take the lane” crap is the dumbest thing in the world. All that has done is pit drivers and cyclists against each other, which in turn has made the roads even more unsafe. Way to go LA.

    I have no idea what other people do to support improvements. How am I supposed to know? What kind of question is that? If people don’t agree with the city’s plan, what do you want from them? Because if the bike share is for tourists, what do they want from me about it? (Yea, they were marketing it to tourists with annual passes? Really? Please! They’re just covering themselves because it’s more expensive than they anticipated. Now suddenly it’s for tourists? That was never mentioned when it was being put into place at all.) No idea what your point is.

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