There is a fascinating new L.A. County parking study making the rounds. Metro’s The Source summarizes it stating, “Look around and there’s an awful lot of space devoted to parking and a lot of it is under-used a lot of the time.” Curbed incorporates GIFs showing the inexorable growth of L.A. parking, and leads with the statistic that parking constitutes 14 percent of incorporated L.A. land.
The pay-walled article is Parking Infrastructure: A Constraint on or Opportunity for Urban Redevelopment? A Study of Los Angeles County Parking Supply and Growth. It is by Mikhail Chester, Andrew Fraser, Juan Matute, Carolyn Flower, and Ram Pendyala, published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
Broadly the article surveys the growth of L.A. parking during the past hundred years, outlining how and why it has grown and what effects this has had. Then the article concludes with a set of recommendations.
The Extent of L.A. County Parking
For L.A. County as of 2010, the authors estimate that there are 18.6 million parking spaces. These break down into 3.6 million on-street, and 15 million off-street, with about a third of the off-street spaces being residential. L.A. parking covers an estimated 200 square miles, about 14% of the incorporated L.A. County land. This area is 1.4 times larger than the 140 square miles devoted to streets and freeways.
There are more than three times the number of parking spaces than there are vehicles. 18.6 million breaks down to 3.3 spaces for each of the 5.6 million vehicles in L.A. County.
From the article:
In the ﬁrst half of the 20th century, L.A. County minimum parking requirements resulted in more parking being deployed than there were vehicles, but the growth in vehicles since 1960 has outpaced that of parking; by 1975, the number of vehicles in the county was about equal to the number of residential off-street spaces. This ratio has hovered around unity since, signifying that minimum off-street requirements have been a success at keeping vehicles off the road, but have likely contributed to more vehicles and ultimately more VMT [Vehicle Miles Traveled].
There is abundant parking where high-quality transit exists, which is likely to work against transit, walking, and biking. Since 1950, most growth in parking infrastructure has occurred outside of the urban core, largely associated with lower-density residential and commercial development. In 2010, the coverage factor (the ratio of parking area to land area) was 0.16, more than double that of 1950.
Our ﬁndings suggest that minimum off-street parking requirements have been a success at encouraging greater automobility and probably a failure at lowering trafﬁc congestion, one of the original objectives of such requirements.
Recommendations for the Future
Since the 1930s, cities have mandated expensive and excessive suburban off-street parking. These requirements are a primary cause of parking proliferation, so the authors recommend municipalities “develop new approaches to parking mandates including adopting maximum parking restrictions, and seek to accommodate new growth through redevelopment at the core rather than new construction at the periphery.”
The authors sound a cautionary note, though, citing limitations on how far reforming (eliminating or reducing) parking requirements will go – “current parking infrastructure may substantially reduce the positive impacts of even major municipal parking reforms.” With 14 percent of L.A. County already relegated to parking, “existing parking infrastructure is likely to work against policy initiatives to curb the use of the car, reduce auto congestion, increase transit usage, and address equity issues, even if minimum parking requirements on development are reduced or reformed.” Read more…