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The Specious Threat of Spillover Parking

8:18 AM PDT on July 5, 2011

It's stupefying to imagine how much of our built environment is dictated by a concept that is rarely verbalized: spillover parking.

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Yes, the notion that a customer of Anytown Dry Cleaning might co-opt a parking spot from the Dairy Barn next door is perceived as so pernicious that volumes of zoning code have been devoted to preventing it. The scourge of spillover parking is at the heart of many parking minimums; every business must provide for its maximum parking capacity at all times -- walkability, clean air, and groundwater quality be damned.

Paul Barter at Reinventing Parking takes on these destructive parking policies in a recent post:

Is spillover really a problem in and of itself? Maybe parking reformers should stop saying "it is a problem but we can handle it" and instead say clearly that spillover is NOT the real problem at all. And maybe we should even proclaim that spillover can be a good thing!

The neighbours of a development with a full parking lot are not helpless victims. We CAN prevent parking that we don't want. Or we could welcome it and price it (and maybe even profit from it). The same argument applies to spillover parking in the streets. It can be prevented with enforcement or it can be welcomed, managed and priced.

In a park-once, shared-parking district, parking outside your destination is not a problem. And park-once, shared parking districts are, in many ways, a good thing that we should want more of. So this is where we stand up and unashamedly say that spillover can be a good thing. We like park-once neighbourhoods but we can't have them without spillover! Spillover that is not a nuisance! Parking outside some of your destinations is the whole idea of a park-once district where motorists walk to various destinations after parking anywhere in the area. Park where? We don't care so long as it is legal and not a nuisance.

Elsewhere on the Network today: WalkBikeNewJersey outlines how cycling and walking are essential to our constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Commute by Bike is relieved to find that cycling has its place in even the most conservative quarters of smalltown America. And This Big City asks whether cycling is the key to socially sustainable cities.

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