Want to understand just how twisted the politics of parking are in New York City? Take a look at Nashville, Tennessee.
Two years ago, Nashville scrapped parking minimums completely for its downtown, a fact called to our attention by blogger Charlie Gardner. The elimination of parking mandates in the area seems to have proceeded without controversy, based on contemporary news articles.
New York City, in contrast, is moving toward reducing parking minimums in certain “inner ring” neighborhoods, but it remains to be seen whether they will be eliminated or merely reduced. Here, parking minimums are seen as politically necessary.
Admittedly, downtown Nashville is small compared to the great swaths of New York City covered by parking minimums. The 1,780 rezoned acres hosted around 47,000 workers and 3,344 residents in 2007, when the proposal first started to take shape.
That said, it’s also an area dominated by the automobile. The city’s entire transit system had a ridership of 9.4 million trips over the course of 2008, and less after the economic crash. That’s less than many individual New York City bus lines. The area’s only passenger rail line set a record last year of 1,455 riders in a day.
If Nashville can eliminate parking minimums with minimal fuss, even in just the downtown area, New York City should be able to. That parking minimums still govern most of New York, and that any effort to even reduce them is likely to elicit howls from certain community boards and City Council members, says more about parking politics than what the city actually needs.