I have been rambling on for years about how parking spaces are basically the worst thing you can put into a city (other than I guess the cars in them), but finally someone went and proved me right with math.
A pair of forthcoming studies by Garrick and several of his UConn colleagues examine the economic and sociological impacts of parking trends in six U.S. cities from 1960 to 2000. They conclude that some car-centric cities forfeit more than a thousand dollars per parking space per year in potential municipal revenues by using land for parking rather than more lucrative alternatives. The researchers also found that minimum parking requirements inhibit development and exacerbate traffic by placing incentives on car use rather than on walking and cycling.
The studies chronicle changes in Arlington, Va., Berkeley, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass.—all of which showed only modest growth in parking over the past 40 years—and Hartford, Conn., Lowell, Mass., and New Haven, Conn., where parking spaces were added with great zeal over that span.
Parking-centric cities also sacrifice income. In all six cities studied by UConn’s researchers, land devoted to buildings provides at least 88 percent of tax revenue and sometimes as much as 97 percent; parking contributes very little. In other words, cities that turn themselves into car lots relinquish tax money in the bargain.
Hartford loses an estimated $1,200 annually per parking space, a subsidy of more than $50 million per year, according to Garrick. The city is no anomaly: “We pick on Hartford because it’s our state capital.” Cities such as Cambridge, where parking is kept in check and more heavily taxed, don’t lose money. (read more here)
Hindsight is of course 20/20, but lets go over a little recap of what happened to many cities since the 60’s. Build big highways into the city, allowing people to commute from the burbs, whoops there goes your tax base, then you build lots of parking lots so those people have some place to stash their cars when arrive from 20-10+ miles away, roads get torn up without the tax base to pay for them, and whoops lost tax revenue because empty concrete doesn’t make much tax revenue. Then what are you left with? A city that is a traffic jam twice a day, a parking lot during the work day, and a ghost town at night and on weekends. You also have lots of ugly highways and overpasses that make it impossible for the people left to enjoy the city…in short building cities for cars is a nightmare.
I am uplifted by the fact that there has been a big trend in tearing down overpasses, making it more expensive to commute by car into cites, and removing, or reducing the number of parking spaces built. But we have a long way to go, our cities are still not designed for people, they are designed for cars. Hopefully people will follow the money and replace the parking spaces with something useful, like a garden, park, business, home, or bike lane!
Tags: economy, parking, throwing good money after bad
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