Do We Really Need Academic Research on Parking?

Apparently so.

I’m not really surprised at some of the topics on the list below. They are academics and they like to challenge concepts that seem obvious on their face. Or, prove things that seem to need no proof.

I took a brief look at a couple – Food Shopping in the Urban Environment, and How Minimum Parking Requirements Stimulate Driving.  In each case, I made up my mind about the article from the headline and sure enough, I was proven correct.

Although my reading was cursory, I found that if a grocery store had a large easy to use parking lot in front, the chances are that more people would drive to the store.  If it was on the sidewalk more people would walk. It was also determined that the size of the family, whether or not they had multiple cars, and the amount of groceries needed related to whether or not a person would drive  or use an alternate means of transport.

Minimum parking requirements stimulate driving. Minimum parking requirements mean that there are more parking spaces available at the end of a trip. Typically it also means that the cost of parking is lower (supply and demand). MPR means a lot of cheap parking and therefore people have a greater tendency to drive because they know they will have an inexpensive place to park.

I don’t mean to make fun of either of these articles. They serve a useful purpose. Governments tend not to rely on common sense when making decisions. They need ‘backup’ studies to ensure that when something goes wrong, there is somewhere to place the blame. Far be it for a city councilman or mayor to decide to do away with minimum parking requirements if the goal is to lower traffic or to stimulate urban renewal without an expensive study to back up their action.

The academics and consulting firms that create these studies provide a service.  They allow politicians to blast through the gridlock and make decisions, any decision, without risking any political fallout. Just as no one was every fired buying IBM, no one ever lost an election by backing an expensive, well written and researched report.


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