Stop Making Developers Build Parking

As I think of New Year’s Eve complaints about Uber surge pricing I am reminded again of another supply and demand quandary, parking.  Just as Uber attempts to encourage more drivers with exorbitant surge fares, so should we be thinking about how parking is not priced to its true cost at the detriment of our urban landscape.

David Shoup’s eponymous “The High Cost of Free Parking” gave us the economic realities of parking. We planners created the very regulatory scheme that resulted in oversupply of parking.  The market responded, accommodated, and continues to follow and nudge against corrective measures such as minimum parking requirements and transit demand management.

On Demand Parking

As it is Uber’s goal is “to make sure you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes,” so has Shoup indicated parking meters need to be priced significant higher during high demand periods to encourage overturn.   While cities tinker with on-street parking availability, the fact that planning regulation continues to blight urban areas with parking is the core problem that should be addressed now.

Architect Seth Goodman has a wonderful blog called graphing parking that offers infographics on the inconsistent regulatory frameworks between local governments.  His data suggests cities have no rational basis in its approach to manage parking.  This regulation continues to punish developers and in turn society, by spending on average $59 per square foot to provide an asphalt platform for personal vehicles.

Let’s say a typical U.S. parking space is 8 feet (city average) by 19 feet (DOT recommended length).   Two spaces average about 300 square feet, the typical microunit apartment.  Shoup says cars are parked 95% of the time.  We are devoting hundreds of millions in square footage to idle “transportation” machines instead of providing minimum shelter to Americans.

Redevelopment of Minneapolis' Stadium Village along the new Green Line. Many buildings were given parking exemptions or reductions.

Redevelopment of Minneapolis’ Stadium Village along the new Green Line. Many buildings were given parking exemptions or reductions.

Unbuild

Fortunately, cities are paving the way to undoing this nightmare.  In 2012, Seattle created complete parking minimum exemption zones for downtown and retail districts.  Last summer, Minneapolis approved relaxing parking requirements on new development.  San Francisco’s Planning Commission recently approved a 60 unit apartment building with no parking.  ReinventingParking has a list of international cities abolishing parking minimums.

In Minneapolis’ case, the Star Tribune reported it, “allows buildings with 50 or fewer units to be built without parking outside of downtown — where there are already no parking minimums — if they are a quarter-mile away from transit with 15-minute frequencies.”

The Federal Highway Administration’s analysis of Transit Demand Management even admits that. “Plentiful and free parking encourages driving.”  With so many oversight levels in agreeance, it’s time for local jurisdictions to give up the parking racket.