I like what Asimov said, but you’re gonna need to be buried in a coffin full of quarters if he’s right.
I don’t have a parking problem. Because I don’t have a car to have to park. My parking spot is always open. The lamppost at the foot of my stairs.
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Why we (o.k. not me, I mean all you people who have cars and still drive) have to pay for parking in so many places has always mystified me. Having to pay for parking, either in a lot or a garage or a metered parking slot, used to irritate the beejeezus outta me. Before going on, here’s one good reason why parking in congested urban areas should not be free. I encourage you to watch the whole video before reading on.
“No culture of walking or public transportation.”
“More than thirty percent of the area in many downtown commercial cores is taken up by parked cars.”
“To make matters worse, most American parking garages sit relatively empty.”
Let’s take a look at that “unwalkability” thing mentioned in the video (starts around the 4:35 mark).
Like the video states, it’s easier to show than define.
It was the mistaken belief of urban planners that the economic growth of downtown areas was dependent upon providing lots and lots and lots of parking; there was never enough and there could never be too much. This led to “parking minimums”; any proposed new project had to include a certain minimum amount of off-street parking to go along with construction. This was a death knell for any open or underused space, like old buildings with inherent historical value but not income-producing. The value of these spaces existed only in their dirt footprint and what better way to exploit that value than by turning it into a parking lot or even better, a massive parking garage?
Was there really a need to provide four times as many parking spaces as there were vehicles for a given area? It’s nearly incomprehensible, as Eric Scharnhorst of the Research Institute for Housing America reveals in the video, that in Des Moines (for example) there are eighteen times as many parking spaces per acre than there are households.
The upshot, it seems to me, is that the more downtown parking space required the less a downtown will actually prosper. One solution is providing visitors with a public transport hub located away from the downtown area. This results in fewer cars being driven directly into a city center yet provides a means to get the people, and their money, to those downtown businesses, all the while creating a much more enjoyable and walkable visiting and shopping experience.
The time has come, and in many cases methods are being implemented, to disincentivize people from using their cars for every single point-to-point excursion they need to make. We all know walking is good for us. We all know that public transportation is pro-environment. Give people the opportunity and a safe passageway for more bicycle use and the more bicycles will be used.
This is what can be done: