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

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 by
accommodating the number of trips generated by the appropriate mode of
travel, then the option of reducing minimum parking requirements across
the board can truly become a positive and cost-effective solution for
our 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 are
often the real limit to urban density. Minimum parking requirements
often force developers to provide more parking than they would
voluntarily provide, or smaller buildings than the zoning allows.
Off-street parking requirements do not promote a walkable and
sustainable city. Instead, off-street parking requirements promote a
drivable and unsustainable city.

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

If planners insist that cities must have good public transit
before they can reduce their off-street parking requirements for every
land use, cities will never get good public transit. The smartest step
cities can take is to convert all their minimum parking requirements
into 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 parking
requirements. They don’t know how much parking spaces cost at any site,
and they don’t know how the parking requirements affect development or
the transportation system. City planners also know little about the
effects of parking requirements, but they are expected to know exactly
how many parking spaces are required for every land use.

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


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Last week we published a reply from UCLA planning professor Donald Shoup to Cato Institute senior fellow Randal O’Toole, in which Shoup clarified his positions on parking policy and explained several ways in which government regulations favor the provision of free parking. In response, O’Toole ran this post on the Cato@Liberty blog. Streetsblog is pleased […]

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Weisbrod and Kimball Tie Their Own Hands on Parking Reform

Reducing the amount of parking in new development promises to make housing more affordable and curb traffic congestion, but it hasn’t gained much traction in Bill de Blasio’s first months at City Hall, despite the mayor’s ambitious promises to ease the housing crunch. Today, two top city officials explained why, unlike their counterparts in more […]