Thursday, July 1, 2010

Parking Debate

Via Houston Tomorrow, I found this article on parking:
First, remember that the traffic patterns flowing to and from every property are unique, thus the exact parking ‘needs’ for each property cannot be accurately established by any ’standard’ ratio. We already stratify properties into 69 different categories – even if we further broke them down into hundreds of categories there would still be more exceptions than properties that were adequately served by the rule. So as we move forward in search of the best solution for parking in the city, we have to keep in mind that the government does not know how much parking any particular property really needs.

But there is someone who knows exactly how much parking each property in the city requires – the
owner of each property!
While I agree in principle, I think we need to temper the teabaggin' tempest, to which I respond:
What you're basically advocating is shared-parking as a free-market response because establishing parking minimums creates a "dumb" or non-reactive scenario where supply always greatly exceeds demand for parking, hence parking becomes either unduly cheap or completely free.

This is already getting written into PDDs as a defense against mandated oversupply of parking, but what we must also pay attention to is inertia caused by the transportation system. You can say the property owner or the market always knows the right amount of parking for their use, but that market is created by the government and the type of transportation alotted, ie big, wide roads = need for lots of parking. The "market" may still want big parking lots, because "why not?"

Saying the government doesn't play a role is the wrong way to approach this. As parking requirements are an element of zoning (or at least coding in Houston's case), the City has a role in protecting the asset of neighboring properties. If you put a 500-space parking lot next to me, you drop my property value.

Government can steer the inertia in a positive direction by reducing demand for driving and car use by setting parking maximums (based on proximity to alternative modes of transportation perhaps) allowing increased density and walkability (in that surplusses of parking are public health hazard in a number of ways) and allowing market-based pricing for what parking is available so that if you want to park close, you have to pay for it. If not, residents of Texas cities could use the exercise.

No longer subsidizing parking is necessary for allowing Houston and Dallas to adapt to their new "bones" or transportation frameworks that now includes rail and will increasingly lean on a broader hierarchy of distance appropriate transpo, ie bike, streetcar, etc.