In this issue:
This issue of ACCESS considers the most controversial topic in transportation: parking. When it comes to parking, rational people quickly become emotional, and staunch conservatives turn into ardent communists. Critical and analytic faculties seem to shift to a lower level when people think about parking. Some people strongly support market prices—except for parking. Some vehemently oppose subsidies—except for parking. Some abhor planning regulations—except for parking. Some insist on rigorous data collection and statistical tests—except for parking. This parking exceptionalism has impoverished discussions about parking policies. The authors in this issue have taken a more rational and rigorous approach.
Andrew M. Fraser, Mikhail Chester, Juan Matute, and Ram Pendvala
Minimum parking requirements create more parking than is needed. This in turn encourages more driving at a time when cities seek to reduce congestion and increase transit use, biking, and walking. After nearly a century of development under these requirements, parking now dominates our cities.
Andrew Millard-Ball, Rachel Weinberger, and Robert C. Hampshire
Parking management has been a vexing problem for cities since the invention of the automobile. Among the concerns are traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions caused by drivers searching for available parking—an activity colloquially known as cruising. Cruising for parking in a 15-block business district in Los Angeles has been estimated to produce 3,600 miles of excess travel each day—equivalent to two round trips to the Moon each year.
Michael Manville and Daniel G. Chatman
One of the first lessons of economics is that price controls lead to shortages, and shortages lead to queues. Street parking vividly illustrates this principle. Many cities keep valuable street spaces free or underpriced, and as a result they fill up quickly, creating shortages at busy times. These shortages then create moving queues as drivers circle the block, or “cruise,” searching for spaces. Cruising, in turn, creates congestion and pollution.
Parking is the sacred cow of land uses. It claims privileged status in zoning codes and there is simply too much of it in cities. Previous ACCESS articles reveal problems with minimum parking requirements; show how excess parking harms livability, sustainability, and equity; and explain how pricing can manage its use. This article demonstrates that progress requires more than code reforms and better pricing; it requires coordinated, comprehensive parking management. We need to shift from building parking to managing it.
Minimum parking requirements create too much parking, reduce the supply of housing, and increase traffic congestion. Without parking requirements, the market would provide fewer parking spaces, resulting in fewer cars and more housing units. Evidence to support this argument is inconclusive, however, in part because few local governments have removed their parking requirements. Even when they do adjust parking requirements, the changes are usually quite minor, often targeting small areas (e.g., near a rail station) and including only a few development types.
Most drivers seem to think that charging for parking on a residential street is like charging children to play in a public park. But if on-street parking is crowded, drivers will congest traffic, pollute the air, and waste energy while they hunt for free parking like hawks circling for prey.