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Donald Shoup

Point/Counterpoint: Parking Reform Now or Later (or Never)?

1:01 PM EDT on September 19, 2008

What better time than Park(ing) Day (or should I say "Parrrrking Day") to break out a fascinating piece from the magazine known as Parking Today, "the leading publication serving the diverse needs of
today's parking industry."

The trade pub recently ran a debate between parking planner Don Norte and performance parking guru Donald Shoup. Norte contends that cities shouldn't adopt reforms like off-street parking maximums until they have reached a certain level of density and transit service:

Once a city or region has achieved transportation efficiency byaccommodating the number of trips generated by the appropriate mode oftravel, then the option of reducing minimum parking requirements acrossthe board can truly become a positive and cost-effective solution forour policymakers.

But holding off on parking reform will only interfere with cities' attempts to become more walkable and transit-oriented, responds Shoup:

Every developer knows that cities' minimum parking requirements areoften the real limit to urban density. Minimum parking requirementsoften force developers to provide more parking than they wouldvoluntarily provide, or smaller buildings than the zoning allows.Off-street parking requirements do not promote a walkable andsustainable city. Instead, off-street parking requirements promote adrivable and unsustainable city.

If West Hollywood or any other city waits until there is excellentpublic transit before it reduces its off-street parking requirements,most people will continue to drive everywhere, even if Santa Clausmiraculously builds the transit system.

If planners insist that cities must have good public transitbefore they can reduce their off-street parking requirements for everyland use, cities will never get good public transit. The smartest stepcities can take is to convert all their minimum parking requirementsinto maximum parking limits, without changing any of the numbers.

More from Shoup, including plenty of observations that apply to parking reform in New York, after the jump.

City planners have no professional expertise or training to set parkingrequirements. They don't know how much parking spaces cost at any site,and they don't know how the parking requirements affect development orthe transportation system. City planners also know little about theeffects of parking requirements, but they are expected to know exactlyhow many parking spaces are required for every land use.

In trying to foretell the demand for parking, urban plannersresemble the Wizard of Oz, deceived by his own tricks. No one shouldblame planners for dispensing the elixir of ample free parking,however, because everyone wants to park free. Nevertheless, plannerscan be faulted for their pretension to special skills in dealing withparking. Planners cannot predict parking demand any better than theWizard of Oz could give the Scarecrow brains or send Dorothy back toKansas.

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