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Posts from the Parking Category

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Americans Can’t Afford the High Cost of Parking Requirements

Prices for garaged parking space construction. Graph: Access

Americans are paying off the cost of parking construction whether they can afford it or not. Chart: Access Magazine

Building a single parking spot can easily cost more than many Americans’ life savings. In the latest issue of Access Magazine, retired UCLA economist Donald Shoup brings this point home to illustrate the huge financial burden imposed by minimum parking requirements, especially for poor households.

The average construction cost of structured parking, across 12 American cities, is $24,000 for an above-ground space and $34,000 for an underground space. (Surface parking spaces are cheaper, but keep in mind those prices don’t include the cost of purchasing land.) Those costs get bundled into the price of everything, driving up the cost of living even for people who don’t own cars.

The burden of parking requirements, which mandate the construction of parking spaces that otherwise wouldn’t be built, is most acute for people of color.

In 2011, the average net worth of Hispanic households was $7,700 and of black households was $6,300, Shoup notes. Thanks to parking requirements, households without much savings — many of whom have more debt than assets — must contend not only with the cost of parking construction, but the cost of car ownership as well, writes Shoup:

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A Sunday Afternoon in the Land of Parking Craters

Created by David Lindsay, of Memphis

Pointillism simulation by David Lindsey

Ah, a relaxing day at the park — in modern America.

This spoof on Georges Seurat’s iconic painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” was produced by Memphis activist David Lindsey. The inspiration: Memphis now directs overflow parking from the Memphis Zoo to the city’s historic Overton Park, despite vigorous local opposition. A pair of lawsuits are currently pending.

Here’s a look at the parking-crater-in-a-park, courtesy of community activist Leigh McCormick.

parking lot

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Social Engineering! Cities That Build More Parking Get More Traffic

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Cities like Hartford that added a lot of parking over the last few decades saw driving rates increase more than in cities where parking volumes stayed flatter. Graph: McCahill/TRB

Build parking spaces and they will come — in cars. New research presented this week at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board finds a direct, causal relationship between the amount of parking in cities and car commuting rates.

University of Wisconsin researcher Chris McCahill and his team examined nine “medium-sized” cities — with relatively stable populations between 100,000 and 300,000. They compared historical parking data with car commuting rates beginning in 1960, finding “a clear, consistent association” between parking levels and car commuting that has “grown stronger” over time.

Using an epidemiological research method, McCahill’s team determined that the relationship was causal. For example, data indicated that increases in parking tended to precede growth in car commuting.

The study brings home the point that by inflating the parking supply via minimum parking mandates and other policies, cities are leading more people to drive and making conditions worse for transit, biking, and walking. It’s what you might call “social engineering.”

Researchers compared five cities with low car commuting rates (Arlington, Virginia; Berkeley, California; Silver Spring, Maryland; and Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts) to four cities with relatively high car commuting rates (Albany, New York; Lowell, Massachusetts; and New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut).

McCahill and his team found that for every 10 percentage point increase in parking spaces per capita, the share of workers commuting by car would be expected to increase by 7.7 percentage points. So if a city increased its per capita parking from 0.1 spaces to 0.5 spaces, car commute mode share would rise about 30 percentage points.

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New Philly Mayor: Politicos Can No Longer Park on the City Hall Sidewalk

Politicos in Philadelphia will no longer be allowed to use the entrance to City hall as their personal parking lot. Photo: City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr blog.

Big shots in Philadelphia city government will no longer be allowed to use the sidewalk by City Hall as their personal parking lot. Photo: City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr

The Jim Kenney administration is off to a promising start in Philadelphia. One of the mayor’s first acts in office was to end the thoroughly obnoxious practice of letting government honchos park on the sidewalk “apron” around City Hall — a public space.

There was a Tumblr dedicated to chronicling this highly visible abuse of government privilege. And ending the practice was on the wish list of urbanist political action group the Fifth Square. During his campaign, Kenney, a former council member, promised to get the cars off the sidewalk.

On Monday — his first day in office — Kenney said his administration would begin enforcing the long-ignored rule against parking on the apron.

“It’s public space, and should be used as public space,” a spokesperson for the Mayor told Philly Magazine.

Jon Geeting of Plan Philly told Streetsblog that while the value of this change is mostly symbolic, it’s still very encouraging.

“There’s a lot of politician entitlement around being able to park directly next to City Hall,” he said. “I think it’s sort of refreshing that Kenney’s setting the tone early that that’s not going to be the way he operates.”

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Congress Expected to Level Tax Benefit for Transit and Car Commuters

A federal policy that has encouraged Americans to drive to work instead of taking the bus or the train won’t tilt the playing field toward car commuters so much.

Those who take the bus or train to work will soon enjoy the same tax benefits as those who drive. Photo: Wikipedia

People who take the bus or train to work should soon be eligible for the same tax benefits as people who drive. Photo: Wikipedia

A bill that extends provisions of the tax code will permanently set the maximum transit commuter tax benefit at the same level car commuters get for parking expenses. Both classes of commuters can now pay for those costs with up to $255 in pre-tax income per month. The tax deal is expected to clear Congress this week, reports Forbes.

Currently, the monthly pre-tax expense for transit riders is capped at $130, while the cap for parking is set at $250. The mismatch primarily works against commuter rail and express bus services, which can easily cost more than $130 per month.

In recent years, lawmakers went back and forth between temporarily leveling the playing field and stiffing transit riders.

Jason Pavluchuk of the Association for Commuter Transportation applauded the measure, which would take effect in 2016. “This provision will eliminate the financial incentive to drive alone and will increase transit,” he said. “Further, this will help both transit riders as well as drivers who will benefit from less congested roads.”

While commuter tax benefit parity is an improvement, eliminating the benefit entirely would be better.

A report released last year by TransitCenter and the Frontier Group pointed out that commuter tax benefits amount to a gigantic transfer from low earners to high earners, who are best positioned to take advantage of them. Also, the maximum benefit may now be level for individual commuters, but in the aggregate the vast majority of these tax incentives will continue to go toward driving, an enormous subsidy that makes rush hour traffic congestion worse.

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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

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Get Your Camera Ready for Empty #BlackFridayParking Lots

If you’re out shopping on Black Friday, keep your cell phone camera close at hand. Strong Towns is continuing its annual tradition of #BlackFridayParking — capturing photos of half-empty parking lots on America’s high holy day for retail.

The exercise illustrates how ridiculous and wasteful our parking policies are. Many communities require retailers to construct and maintain parking lots large enough to house every shopper on the busiest shopping day of the year. And then even on a day like Black Friday (technically the second-busiest day of the year), many spaces remain unfilled.

Imagine if this space could be repurposed for something more productive.

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Arkansas Town Breaks Ground By Eliminating Commercial Parking Minimums

In an effort to boost development downtown, leaders in Fayetteville, Arkansas (population ~80,000), last week eliminated minimum parking requirements for commercial properties citywide.

Fayetteville, Arkansas, leaders saw eliminating parking minimums as a way to encourage development. Photo: Wikipedia

Fayetteville leaders saw eliminating parking minimums as a way to encourage development. Photo: Wikipedia

Leading the push were planning commissioners like Tracy Hoskins, whom the Fayetteville Flyer described as a “longtime businessman and developer.” Hoskins argued, persuasively, that businesses are capable of deciding for themselves how many parking spaces to build and don’t need laws that require “day-after-Thanksgiving-sized lots.”

“I’ve always thought it was crazy to have minimum parking standards,” he told the Flyer. “Let the people that own, operate, and invest in those businesses determine what they need.”

Big parts of the downtown area are suffering from disinvestment, and the reforms were framed as a way to improve economic prospects. Another commissioner, Matt Hoffman, promoted it as a way to eliminate an unnecessary level of regulation and create a pro-business climate in the city.

The city’s requirements, for example, mandated one space per employee at daycare centers and two spaces per chair at a barber shop. Although the city’s attorney raised some concerns, commissioners held firm. And the decision doesn’t seem to be stirring up a backlash. Commenters at the Fayetteville Flyer were generally supportive.

Many U.S. cities have reformed parking rules in limited areas (Chicago recently loosened residential parking requirementso) in order to improve walkability and reduce construction costs.

Still, Fayetteville appears to be blazing a trail here. Parking policy guru Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, said he believes Fayetteville is the first U.S. city to eliminate commercial minimum parking requirements citywide.

According to Shoup, Buffalo, New York, is considering a similar proposal, so this could be the start of something big.

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Park(ing) Day Scenes From Coast to Coast

Today is a very fun day in cities around the U.S., when advocates for better public spaces unleash their imaginations on the dreary places where we normally store cars. Park(ing) Day is “an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks,” according to its organizers.

Below we are showcasing some creative examples from across North America. Kudos to everyone involved!

Philadelphia

Come relax in our urban forest at 16th & JFK! #ParkingDay #parkingdayphl

A photo posted by Philadelphia Parks & Rec (@philaparkandrec) on

Houston

installation from #parkingday #htx A photo posted by mai (@_i_am_mai_) on

Baltimore

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Seattle Policy Honchos Look to Parking Reform to Make Housing Affordable

They look like houses, but they're not for people -- just cars. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/smart_growth/3881768618/in/set-72157624500360362/##Brett VA/flickr##

They look like houses, but people can’t live in them. Photo: Brett VA/Flickr

Buried under headlines about Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s plans to battle “economic apartheid” are little-noticed reforms that would reduce or do away with parking quotas that inflate the cost of housing.

Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) Committee released its recommendations yesterday. Noting that about “65 percent of Seattle’s land — not just its residential land but all its land — is zoned single family, severely constraining how much the City can increase housing supply,” the report calls for raising height limits in six percent of that area. The rest of the city currently zoned for single family would get “small tweaks” like allowances for mother-in-law units and duplexes to increase the housing supply within existing height limits.

Seeking to make more productive use of available land — even the land zoned for lower densities — HALA also recommends a number of reforms to parking mandates that “act as density limits” and “inflate the average size and price of housing units.”

Here are some of the major changes to off-street and on-street parking policy in the report:

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