Monday, May 27, 2013

The P Word... and its controversy.

Parking. Everyone seems to have an opinion on parking. Some people think we need more, some think we need less. Some are adamant about parking requirements for new developments and some say parking requirements prevent development from happening in the first place. Donald Shoup believes the latter. His article “Free Parking or Free Markets” makes a strong case that the cost of parking is usually hidden and placed on non-drivers. His study on parking requirements and the effects of parking policy makes a strong case for reducing requirements in order to spur infill development and promote the reuse of older buildings.

Continuing Mr. Shoup’s hard work on the investigation of cities and their parking requirements, Seth Goodman, an architect who lives in Bogota, Columbia created three infographs to demonstrate the unnecessary amount of parking required in cities around the nation. He investigates office building, dining space and residential apartment parking requirements. Mr. Goodman’s graphs do a spectacular job at demonstrating which cities have high requirements for certain developments and not others. One of the more interesting points in Mr. Goodman’s infographs concerns the sheer amount of space parking consumes. On average, a 2-bedroom apartment requires 1.5 parking spaces. Those 1.5 spaces account for more than half the square footage of the apartment itself.

Portland City Council recently passed a law that would force a minimum parking requirement for large apartment buildings in areas that used to have no minimum at all. The law would require parking spaces on a sliding scale per total units. The highest requirement would be for apartments with more than 50 units, requiring 1 space per 3 units.  The most controversial part about the new Portland law is that these requirements have been placed for areas around transit hubs, both with frequent service and proximity to light rail. As Mr. Shoup mentions in his article, this type of parking force feeds developers to have to make space and spend money for parking even if it isn’t wanted by citizens. Creating dense and vibrant pedestrian-centric communities around transit will continue to be difficult if cities do not stop requiring auto-centric development. Hopefully Portland realizes all this before its too late.

 Special Thanks to Sravya for editing my post. 


  1. Brenda-

    Interesting piece - I'm agnostic on this issue to date, but I am curious to see how this issue evolves with the success of the current fad rental car companies (ZipCar, Car2go, getaround, etc.). If the argument is less cars (or is it greater transit use? or is it less emissions? or is it more revenue for the cities?) then how does the city prepare for the possible proliferation of a Car2go, et al?

    It will be interesting to see the impacts of allowing private companies to further reduce existing parking through purchasing of the public ROW.

    Incidentally, in this months Planning (May/June 2013) there is both an article about Shuop since 'The High Cost...' was published - (on page 24) along with an article covering sexy new parking structures that are going up around the world - breaking the mold of the typical parking garage - (on page 18).

  2. I can understand why the City Council felt pressure to pass this law though. The neighborhoods where these complexes are going up are losing their parking spots. It's really difficult to find parking anywhere near the Mississippi Historic District due to all the new apartment complexes. The same thing is happening along Interstate Ave. Even though people moving into these places live on frequent transit lines, they still may have cars and take over the neighborhood parking spots. Most lots don't have garages or driveways and have relied on their street parking.

    Maybe there needs to be some type of parking enforcement?


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