Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

So Much Parking It Hurts

10:25 AM EDT on August 10, 2009

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Austin Contrarian counts the ways that too much parking can damage a downtown:

2559723208_231dc14e64.jpg(Photo: Amber Rhea via Flickr)
  1. Parking raises the cost of new development, which means less of it. This may be no big deal  for a city with a built-out downtown, but it is a big deal for Austin, which devotes so many downtown blocks to surface parking or stand-alone garages.
  2. Parking not only raises the cost of new development, but it limits their size and density. An on-site garage can only be so big to be practical.  A developer who wants to provide enough on-site parking to cover peak demand must first figure out how much parking he can build; only then will he know how much he can build of whatever it is he wants to build.
  3. Parking garages and surface lots blight the streetscape, triggering a negative feedback loop:   the surface lots and garages make streets less attractive to pedestrians, which drives the pedestrians away, which reduces demand for pedesestrian-oriented retail, which makes the streetscape even less attractive for pedestrians, etc.
  4. Subsidized parking -- i.e., parking provided below cost -- distorts the market, encouraging an inefficient mix of driving and transit use.
  5. Plopping ever more parking downtown increases congestion. The amount of land devoted to streets is fixed. The amount of parking is not. Increasing the number of parking spots but not the amount of street space means more cars per square meter of street, which in turn means more congestion. (This very interesting paper (pdf) by Michael Manville and Donald Shoup explores this argument in depth.)
  6. Parking garages and surface lots are butt-ugly.

Elsewhere around the network: St. Louis Urban Workshop notes an apparent disconnect in the thinking of  Christopher Dodd (D-CT), chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

The Overhead Wire asks why the U.S. can't match India's commitment to funding new Metro systems.

And Human Transit wonders whether we should ride mediocre transit systems just because they need the "vote" we cast when we hop aboard.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Monday’s Headlines Likes Stadiums Without Parking

The lack of parking at Kansas City's new soccer stadium is a feature, not a bug. Plus other news.

February 26, 2024

Should Communities That Suppress Housing Lose Their Road Funding?

A Colorado bill would require sprawling cities to take action to increase their affordable housing supply before they collect money to build more roads — and some want to take it national.

February 26, 2024

Why ‘Safe Systems’ Are Not Enough to End Road Violence

Two years into the National Roadway Safety Strategy, why hasn't America made more progress towards Vision Zero?

February 26, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Are So Fresh and So Clean

The only thing Americans love more than a car is a clean car.

February 23, 2024

CalBike: Tell the Legislature Hands Off Active Transportation Funding

Calbike has an action alert that allows its members to write directly to legislators with their feelings on whether or not the ATP funding should be restored before the legislature votes on the budget in June.

February 22, 2024
See all posts