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So Much Parking It Hurts

8:08 AM PDT on August 10, 2009

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

2559723208_231dc14e64.jpgPhoto by 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 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 pedestrian-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 Sen. Christopher Dodd, chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The Overhead Wire asks why the US 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.

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