There Will Never Be “Enough” Parking

Graphic: DMC
To accommodate everyone expected to come to downtown Rochester, Minnesota, by building more parking, you would have to pave over downtown Rochester. Graphic: DMC

Employees at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have to accumulate 13 years of service time before they get an on-site parking permit. To get a sense of how much employees become invested in this system, check out this YouTube video of one man’s elation the day he gets his parking privileges (and notice how towering parking garages dominate the landscape).

With the clinic planning a major expansion, the days of convenient downtown parking are never coming back, writes Adam Ferrari at But some people are still going through the five stages of grief — denying that transportation problems have to be solved without relying on more car storage, and lashing out in anger at people who suggest otherwise. It’s time to accept that parking isn’t the answer, Ferrari says:

Here me out: there will never be enough parking.

What isn’t unique to Rochester, is that there is actually far more parking than there are people. In America, the estimate is roughly 800 million parking spaces (for a population slightly over 300 million in our country, and far fewer drivers than that).  We don’t have a supply problem. This is a demand problem…

The sad part is that for the vast majority, there is no alternative. Decades of infrastructure built around supporting car travel has left little in the way of transit oriented development patterns. That is the sad part. We have a virtually non-existent transit system and this disproportionately affects the elderly and the poor. We have created more and more housing, further and further from the employment centers thus requiring our workforce to own (and maintain) a car.

More collective effort needs to be spent in establishing a robust transportation system, while at the same time we decrease the prioritization of the single occupancy parking trip to downtown. Accept reality on reality’s terms. We can never give up the automobile, but it may take a different position in our list of transit options. As the Med City Beat editor Sean Baker so succinctly explained, “Does this mean drivers will stop parking downtown altogether? No, of course not. But it means Rochester is going to have to develop new and more efficient ways of transporting patients, residents and workers.”

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: The Urbanist considers what should be done with Seattle’s “ramps to nowhere,” the vestiges of a highway project that was beaten back by protests in the late 1960s. And Steven Can Plan weighs the pros and cons of creating a transportation “lockbox” in Illinois.


How Silver Spring, Maryland, Outgrew Its Parking Lots

In healthy urban areas, people always complain that there’s not enough parking. And they still do that in Silver Spring, Maryland, says Dan Reed at Greater Greater Washington. But they’re wrong. The city’s downtown parking supply is only about 58 percent occupied on an average day. Even as the city has grown, more parking is sitting […]

Parking Break: What Cities Gain When They Lose Parking Quotas

This is the season climax, the culmination, the big reveal. Previously on Parking? Lots! Cities mandate off-street parking (guided only by junk science and groupthink). They do it in fear of territorial neighbors who want “their” curb spaces left alone. Our communities suffer horribly as a result. Information technology is shaking things up, though, and […]

What’s the Best Way to Tax Parking?

Taxing parking, the way Pittsburgh does, can make downtowns livelier and encourage a healthier mix of transportation options. Of course, implementing these policies can get tricky. A recent report from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute [PDF] delves into the issue and sorts out the best way to go about it. At his blog, Transport Providence, James Kennedy considers […]
Most of downtown Austin's off-street parking is much more expensive than  curbside parking -- a situation that needs to change, according to a new report. Image: Nelson\Nygaard for Downtown Austin Alliance

Downtown Austin’s Parking Crunch Can Be Solved Without Adding Tons of Parking

Cities and towns are constantly fretting about downtown parking. But what they often perceive as a "parking shortage" isn't caused by a lack of parking -- it's the result of poor management of the parking they already have. The upshot is that many cities, seeking cheap and plentiful car storage, pursue policies that make their parking and traffic problems worse, not better. Now a downtown Austin business coalition aims to chart a better course.

Shoup to O’Toole: The Market for Parking Is Anything But Free

We’re reprinting this reply [PDF] from UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, to Randal O’Toole, the libertarian Cato Institute senior fellow who refuses to acknowledge the role of massive government intervention in the market for parking, and the effect this has had on America’s car dependence. It’s an excellent […]