Politics ain’t worrying this country one-tenth as much as where to find a parking space.
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 Fraser, Mikhail Chester, Juan Matute, and Ram Pendyala found that, as of 2010, Los Angeles County had 18.6 million parking spaces, including 15 million off-street parking spaces and 3.6 million on-street spaces. This amounts to more than 200 square miles of parking, equivalent to 14 percent of the county’s incorporated land area. Even though Los Angeles has one of the densest road networks of any metropolitan area in the US, the area dedicated to parking is 43 percent larger than the area dedicated to roads.
Zhan Guo examines what happened when London switched from minimum parking requirements to maximum parking limits. With the previous minimum but no maximum, most developments did not provide more than the minimum required, whereas with the maximum but no minimum, most developments provided less than the maximum allowed. The supply of parking in new developments is only 52 percent of the previous minimum required and only 68 percent of the currently allowed maximum.
Michael Manville and Daniel Chatman examine the results of SFpark, San Francisco’s pilot program that adjusts on-street parking prices to ensure parking availability. They find that the average parking occupancy rate is not the best way to measure parking availability. Instead, they argue that cities should aim for a high share of each time period with one or two vacant spaces on every block because drivers search for vacancies, not average occupancies.
Adam Millard-Ball, Rachel Weinberger, and Robert Hampshire also examine the results of SFpark. They find that extending meter hours into high-demand times in the evenings and on Sundays, or pricing parking on unmetered residential streets, can provide higher benefits than simply adjusting rates where meters already exist.
Richard Willson explains why getting the prices right for parking are necessary but not sufficient for parking management. He shows how cities can both shrink the demand for parking and better manage all the parking they have.
And in the final article, I argue that charging market prices for on-street parking and spending the revenue for local public services can be a cheap, fast, and simple way to improve cities and create a more just society, one parking space at a time.
Editor of ACCESS