A key aim of this blog is to help inform the parking policy choices confronting decision-makers and communities. I have my own views of course and I will not be shy to share them. However, I mostly want to help you to clarify your own thinking on parking policy. I want to help you understand the implications of the various parking policy choices, so you can choose your own, with 'eyes wide open'. If you have very firm ideas on parking policy, this site may shake them up a little perhaps.
Parking policy plays a huge role in shaping metropolitan areas and their transport patterns, yet parking is usually planned with little thought for its power. It can create enormous cross-subsidies in society, yet most people hardly notice. Parking policy choices can be pivotal for cities, yet there is widespread confusion over the nature of those choices and what they imply. We need to do much better.
Just today I was in a meeting where I was asked for my opinion about the transit ridership we might get out of a new suburb. My response was that it's a little bit about the carrots -- the service we provide -- but sadly a lot of it is about the sticks: how bad the alternatives are. The fastest route to high transit ridership, if that's your goal, is to constrain road space and constrain parking, so that both become expensive in either time or money. That's why Sydney's CBD has Australia's highest percentage of commuters using transit. It's not that the transit is wonderful; it isn't. It's that parking all day in the Sydney CBD can cost $60 or more, and road tolls can easily add another $10.
Parking is also the main reason that so much of our urban fabric is so unfriendly to pedestrians. If you've ever relied on transit in any typical North American suburb, you've spent a big chunk of your life walking across parking lots. Parking demand pushes buildings further apart, defeating the pedestrian. It also raises the cost of high-density living. (When I lived in Vancouver in 2006, I could not find an apartment in a highrise building that didn't require me to rent a parking space that I wouldn't use.)
Remarkably, these decisions are often not based on the developer's assessment of parking demand, but rather on minimum parking requirements imposed by local governments. Increasingly, we're seeing a new focus on turning that around: Eliminating minimums, selling parking places separate from apartments, and even, in San Francisco, a serious effort to let the free market set parking rates.
So parking matters. That's why I'm watching the SF Park experiment in San Francisco. And it's why you should be reading Reinventing Parking.