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Thread: Free Parking?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian ablarc's avatar
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    Free Parking?

    No Parking. You're Welcome.

    By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS


    Let us now praise New York legs.

    Not in a sexist way, of course. We're talking about the beauty of walking rather than driving, not to mention the millions, perhaps even billions of dollars that New York's policy makers, in their collective wisdom, save every year by not providing cheap parking for residents and visitors.

    In much of the country, free or at least cheap parking is a God-given right. Americans expect to be able to drive to a movie, a bookstore or a department store and park at relatively low cost just steps away, either on the street or in a parking lot.

    Not in New York. Just try driving to the local multiplex in Brooklyn or Queens, let alone the Empire State Building.

    Now a new book with the policy-wonky title "The High Cost of Free Parking," published by the American Planning Association, goes a long way toward making New Yorkers feel good about the onerousness of parking in the city. In 733 pages, it offers a "comprehensive examination" of the parking customs of urban Americans, the fruit of 25 years of research by Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    There is, he contends, no such thing as free parking. To him, free parking represents lost revenue, squandered land and polluted air. To him, parking garages are not an amenity, but an antisocial car subsidy. If parking is scarce, Dr. Shoup says, that means it is underpriced. He calls for unleashing market forces: If the price of parking is high enough, there will be vacancies.



    This makes a lot of sense. Parking on the Upper East Side would be a breeze if it cost $1,000 a day, and some might say that the city is already headed in that direction.

    The Shoup book comes on the heels of a recent study by a senior economist at the RAND Corporation showing that New Yorkers are healthier than people who live in sprawling suburbs. This is because it is better, the RAND researchers suggested, to walk to the subway every day than to drive to work and go to the gym once a week.

    Told of Dr. Shoup's analysis, Jerome Barth, director of operations for the 34th Street Partnership, a business improvement group, said: "This is one more way that New York is ahead of the country. In New York, you can park anywhere you want, if you can pay $30 an hour."

    If maximum inconvenience to drivers is the goal, nothing beats alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations. "This is, I think, very unique to New York," Mr. Barth, who is French, said admiringly. Certainly, Mr. Barth said, such a system does not exist in Paris, where men wash the streets and sweep between parked cars with old-fashioned brooms, no moving required.

    According to Sam Schwartz, a k a Gridlock Sam and probably the city's pre-eminent traffic historian, New Yorkers owe the modern era of punitive parking to Ross Sandler. It is because of Mr. Sandler that New Yorkers look at an unclaimed parking space and say "Uh-oh," because they know it's too good to be true. Park in that space, and you are certain to get a ticket, because, as everyone knows, there is no such thing as free parking in New York City.

    In 1977, Mr. Sandler was the lead lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council when he won a court order that resulted in thousands fewer parking spaces south of 60th Street as a way of forcing the city to comply with the Federal Clean Air Act. Later, as a transportation commissioner in the Koch administration (with Mr. Schwartz as his deputy), he introduced the "Don't Even Think of Parking Here" sign.



    Mr. Sandler, now a law professor, thought Dr. Shoup's economic argument missed the point. "To think about parking in terms of money alone is pretty silly, because it really is politics," he said. He should know, having once granted two free parking spaces to Mother Teresa, at Mayor Koch's insistence. As a political move, granting parking spaces to a future saint was a lot more felicitous than activating parking meters near churches on Sundays, as the current administration has done.

    Progress marches on, and Mr. Schwartz predicts that quarter-fed meters will soon go the way of dime meters and take dollar coins instead. In that spirit, he suggests that moves to reserve parking for residents in neighborhoods like Brooklyn Heights are, well, anti-New York. "New York is a more freewheeling place than anyplace else," he said. "People visit each other. I just don't think residential parking is compatible with the New York style."

    All that walking, Mr. Schwartz likes to say, gives New Yorkers a competitive and maybe even an evolutionary edge over people in car-dominated cities like Los Angeles. "I like to joke that our legs are a millimeter longer," he says. And still growing.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    It seems to me...

    ...that the goal of a good planner would be to put PARKING in its proper place, or perspective.

    Why would anyone want to artificially reduce or penalize parking? It is a perverse, anti-freedom approach. Conversely, city forms built entirely for parking convenience are pretty atrocious and come with the problems you are all familiar with.

    I think that a flexible approach that tries to fit as much parking as possible WITHOUT sacrificing density and streetscape is a goal people should be able to agree on.

    Oh, and by the way, I've parked free in NYC more than once. You just have to do it at night.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  3. #3
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    More Parking ------> Less Cars

    I personally feel that we first need to provide more parking in order to get to less cars.

    There's a larger battle here than off-street parking. This is about urban form. And I believe that we need to make parking easy to make dense urban areas attractive to more people.

    Then, once they're here, they find they don't particularly need their car.

    Disclaimer: I do not support this to the extent of widening streets, tearing down buildings for parking lots, etc. But I think there's a lot that can be done to improve parking AND improve quality of life, i.e. removing curb cuts which both harm pedestrian life and decrease on-street parking, allowing slant parking on streets that are too wide, etc.

    I think that underground parking really helps this, by restoring urban form without sacrificing parking. I think rates need to be as cheap as possible.

    I also think that when planning big-box stores, which are still an inevitability in many cities, we should plan them for eventual infill, including the eventual transfer of the parking lot underground, underneath new buildings.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff_Rosenberg
    I personally feel that we first need to provide more parking in order to get to less cars.

    There's a larger battle here than off-street parking. This is about urban form. And I believe that we need to make parking easy to make dense urban areas attractive to more people.

    Then, once they're here, they find they don't particularly need their car.

    Disclaimer: I do not support this to the extent of widening streets, tearing down buildings for parking lots, etc. But I think there's a lot that can be done to improve parking AND improve quality of life, i.e. removing curb cuts which both harm pedestrian life and decrease on-street parking, allowing slant parking on streets that are too wide, etc.

    I think that underground parking really helps this, by restoring urban form without sacrificing parking. I think rates need to be as cheap as possible.

    I also think that when planning big-box stores, which are still an inevitability in many cities, we should plan them for eventual infill, including the eventual transfer of the parking lot underground, underneath new buildings.
    Perhaps. My fear/observation, though, is that if they can use the car, they will.

    Even while restoring urban form through underground, convenient parking, you are seriously compromising the environmental air quality and quality of life by facilitating the heavy movement of cars in constrained urban environments. Downtown San Francisco is utter gridlock at rush hour-and providing more parking helps exacerbate this problem. Not that downtown SF doesn't also have great volumes of pedestrian flow, but.

    I see where you are coming from in some ways. Downtown Berkeley is seriously struggling right now for a variety of reasons-one of which is loss of parking garages and parking spaces
    Off-topic:
    (the main reason, of course, is the collection of Big Boxes and Lifestyle Centers in Emeryville, at the foot of the Bay Bridge, is effectively the "Downtown" for the urban east bay.)
    At the same time, said garages are being replaced with dense urban mixed use. Maybe the City will suffer during the short to medium term as parking is constrained, but over the long term, they may be creating a healthier core in every way.

  5. #5
    Member Jeff_Rosenberg's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Even while restoring urban form through underground, convenient parking, you are seriously compromising the environmental air quality and quality of life by facilitating the heavy movement of cars in constrained urban environments.

    . . .

    At the same time, said garages are being replaced with dense urban mixed use. Maybe the City will suffer during the short to medium term as parking is constrained, but over the long term, they may be creating a healthier core in every way.
    BKM, that's exactly my thought. I do understand that, in the short term, it does not make things better. But my hope is not to simply force people into leaving cars -- they'll just go elsewhere -- but to accept losses in the short-term in hopes of truly changing living habits, and thus eventually behaviors. Consider it a calculated retreat.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff_Rosenberg
    BKM, that's exactly my thought. I do understand that, in the short term, it does not make things better. But my hope is not to simply force people into leaving cars -- they'll just go elsewhere -- but to accept losses in the short-term in hopes of truly changing living habits, and thus eventually behaviors. Consider it a calculated retreat.
    Especially if we'e talking about teh US. Too many people will just NOT go someplace if they can't drive. I say, don't fight the car like it was satan itself, just make sure it doesn't entirely take over. ia gree it's a fine line but taht's why you professional planners are paid so handsomely
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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