Huge parking lots, garages and vehicle-lined streets are just part of the view for big-city dwellers. But it turns out, all this accommodating of the car actually makes cities less accessible and less friendly. A study by University of Connecticut researchers (read here) compares three cities that have supressed parking with three that have provided plenty. The gist of it is more space for cars means less space for people.
Cities like Berkeley, Arlington and Cambridge experienced something different. Even as they cut back on surface parking, the number of people and jobs climbed upward, as did incomes. Less parking in these places has meant the urban fabric can be stitched back together and there is more space for shops, restaurants, jobs and other things that make cities great. More importantly, the parking isn’t needed. People own cars at higher rates, but they don’t use them as much. Instead, they live close to the urban core where upwards of 30 percent walk or bike to work.
Saturating cities with parking can now join a long list of ideas that seemed reasonable at the time, but were actually not so good, ideas like “bleeding” sick people with leeches, Agent Orange, acid-wash jeans, and soda machines at elementary schools.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my car and I love plentiful parking, and I predict a long a successful life for the parking industry, but I wouldn’t mind if the latest parking trends would support making cities more like communities.