… I wanted to show that minimum parking requirements damage cities, the economy and the environment. The first 272 pages of the book are essentially an attack on minimum parking requirements, and no one has risen to defend them. Nevertheless, most city planners continue to set minimum parking requirements as though nothing had happened.
… Although the planning profession’s lack of interest in reforming off-street parking requirements has been disappointing, I was surprised and delighted by the interest in charging market prices for curb parking.
So, despite widespread attacks on parking minimums there are very few takers for eliminating them (or even reducing them!).
There seems to be next to no interest in such reform in auto-oriented suburbs where the parking minimums are at their most extreme. Even worse, various rapidly motorising countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America are keener than ever on minimum parking requirements, despite all the warnings about them from people likeITDP and GIZ’s SUTP programme.
What are we doing wrong? Why is it so hard to shift this bad policy?
Without getting too much into the public policy theories on why some policy proposals take off and some don’t, here (below the fold) are a few possibilities.
The idea of minimum parking requirements is very simple: just require every site to have enough parking. People get it. They don’t care (or know) that in actual practice there is enormous complexity. They are not aware of the foolishness of parking minimums that are determined with great precision but little accuracy. It is tough to shake people’s faith in the simple mantra that development sites must be made responsible for their own parking demand.
The problems caused by parking minimums are ‘chronic’ (long-term and relatively intangible) not ‘acute’ (painful here and now… ‘ouch’). They are not very salient to most people and they are hard to explain. The resulting inefficiencies don’t stand up and wave big signs saying ‘parking minimums caused me!’ It takes some analysis and explaining to see them. How many people know that parking minimums make the rejuvenation and re-use of inner city buildings very difficult? How many people know that parking minimums make housing less affordable?
So if your idea of a parking problem is when you can’t easily find a free space, you may be happy with parking in car-oriented suburbs. And no-one blames parking minimums for their parking search frustrations in inner cities.
Wait a minute! The oceans of parking in automobile dependent landscapes are not invisible! But for people who have lived all their lives in such places, all that parking just seems normal. It doesn’t register as a problem, except when it is full. I certainly didn’t question it as I grew up in the Australian suburbs.
Even worse, eliminating parking minimums provokes fears of spillover. I think spillover is a bogey monster, which would cease to be a problem if we did parking policy right. But it is a bogey that most people find much easier to visualise than the problems caused by the minimums. And without smarter parking policies, I guess they have reason to worry.
Shoupistas are obviously having a hard time persuading people that performance pricing means never having to worry about spillover. The connection is not obvious enough perhaps.
And the prospect of new pricing then gets portrayed as a problem in itself. It seems to provoke horror for many suburbanites who are used to free parking everywhere they go.
Pricing shouldn’t be so frightening in inner cities of course. But I guess it doesn’t help that many of the new trials of performance pricing are not also implementing the sweetener policy that Shoup says should always go with it: returning on-street parking revenue to the area that generates it via parking benefit districts.
Do YOU have a good explanation for the surprising resilience of parking minimums in the face of all the attacks on them? How could parking reformers do better on this one?
|Photo by Flickr user Zach Bonnell|