I’m sorry that I have been bashing the parking issue to a bloody pulp and I will move on to other things, but if you want to know what is wrong with urban planning today, how unresponsive we’ve become to market conditions, and how poorly we treat our towns and cities, pedestrians and transit systems, please read this post.
Monthly Archives: February 2012
I would like to add a bit of anecdotal experience of living in a large city and commuting and the insidious effect that parking minimums have on cities, generally, and transit, specifically.
I live in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. It is part of the city’s famed bungalow belt and is located in the extreme northwest side of the city. Though my part of neighborhood was plated in the 1920’s, most development occurred in the 1940’s and ’50s. As such, it was developed with the automobile in mind. Despite the fact that most homes are on postage size 25’x125′ lots (thank you 1920’s plats!), most of the commercial corridors filled in during the 1940’s-’50s and are auto-oriented.
Because my home has a back alley garage (guaranteed parking) and much of the neighborhood has easy free parking thanks to zoning that requires parking minimums, I actually drive a fair amount, much more than I’d like to. Accordingly,
“A guaranteed parking spot makes use of the automobile a more attractive option”
much to the detriment of transit and pedestrian space.
When the car takes precedence in transportation planning, other things get neglected. When retail is built into “centers” and “strip malls” and not corner stores, pedestrians and transit get neglected. And what are shopping centers and strip malls: just urban design that satisfies parking minimums.
We use projections in transportation planning all the time. I am not convinced they are sound. Dealing with the provision of commuter parking for a commuter railroad, for example, we rely on population/household forecasts from the metropolitan planning organization along with some in-house variables that assume that most people will drive to access transit. But if we build the transit station so that the only way to access it is by driving, than we are fulfilling our own prophecy. With energy costs dramatically increasing, is it rational to be planning for the continuing use of the car as the predominant mode of transportation in our community? This is not an example of Strong Towns planning.
I would like to take the opportunity to give a little shout out to the RTA to promote a new document they put together called Access & Parking Strategies for Transit-Oriented Development.
This is a much-needed guide for municipalities in the Chicago area on the “how” of TOD. Sure, all urban planners are familiar with TOD but in practice, how many know how to really make it work? A big reason why TOD fails is parking. As in, too much parking. Many municipalities will build TOD but still keep parking minimums that are more appropriate for suburban style development patterns. The great thing about the RTA guide is that it rightly reminds people that one of the biggest ways to support TOD is to make it more difficult to use a car. Because, as any driver knows, people who are already in cars tend to stay in cars. Adding density and mixed land uses within close proximity and easy access to transit makes transit successful. It makes TOD successful. The RTA points out the need to reduce parking demand is the key to a successful TOD.
So, how do we reduce parking demand, particularly in suburban areas that are designed around the automobile? In creating a TOD area, we do the following:
- Provide as much on-street parking as necessary at a variable market rate.
- Unbundle parking from private development, particularly in TOD areas
- Set parking maximums rather than minimums.
- Implement shared parking
- Create alternatives to access transit. This includes bike and pedestrian trails, shuttle buses, and remote parking facilities.
When we do these things, we create a way for transit to be successful. When transit is successful, frequency can rise, resulting in a positive feedback loop that generates more transit customers.
This morning’s Atlantic Cities article on whether big box stores can reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) because it “brings shopping closer to where people live” fundamentally misunderstands the problems that big box stores cause in urban communities and why many urbanites do not want them in their communities even though they may patronize these stores. Nothing about these stores’ design is urban. It is not walkable, there are no accommodations for transit or bike/pedestrians. The only way to access these stores comfortably is with a car. This development pattern drives up traffic locally on urban streets that may not have been designed for these traffic volumes. It impacts neigboring land uses through light pollution from its vast parking lots, through water runoff, and through large deliveries at night in the back of the store (sometimes facing residential neighbors).
That’s not to say that big box stores can’t work in urban areas. They can and do. When you reorient them to face the street, making it easier to access via transit, bicycle and pedestrian modes, reduce parking ratios (per square foot) and build big box stores in a more mixed use environment, they can work in a much more urban-friendly way.
Sorry to have to start this blog on a bad note, but our friends in the U.S. House of Representatives believe that transportation policy should go back to the 1970s.
You know, that era of gas shortages and rampant urban sprawl. Look, there is a reason why the Highway Trust Fund is used to fund transit. It has long been recognized that “if you build it they will come” when it comes to highway building. We’ll never build our way out of congestion and therefore, transit is a vital component of an urban area’s mobility. Forcing everyone to rely on the private automobile is unsustainable, not practical in most of our oldest cities and deeply un-conservative.
Welcome to my professional blog, Transport Nexus. Before I explain what I am going to write about on this blog it is helpful if I unpack this name a bit. “Transport” describes public transportation and is particular to Europe and the English-speaking countries outside of North America. I chose “Transport” rather than “public transportation” or “transit” because I like the way that “transport” can be mode neutral in a way that public transportation and transit is not.
A nexus is a connection or series of connections. Which aptly describes transportation – a way of connecting from one place to another. I am particularly interested in how land use affect how people use transportation as well as how public transportation can be used more efficiently.
I welcome you to my blog and look forward to carrying on this conversation.