Fun Facts About the Sad State of Parking Policy

Wichita_Surface_Parking.jpgSurface parking stretches halfway to the horizon in the heart of downtown Wichita, Kansas. Image: Wichita Walkshop via Flickr.

If you haven’t checked out the ITDP parking report we covered yesterday, it’s a highly readable piece of research, walking you through parking policy’s checkered past and potentially brighter future.

In addition to describing six cases of innovative parking strategies, the authors draw from a wide-ranging body of evidence about the woeful state of most current parking policy, marshaling revealing facts and figures. We culled some of the ones that leap out the most. Enjoy:

  • Ninety-nine percent of U.S. car trips begin and end in a free parking space.
  • The average automobile is parked 95 percent of the time.
  • Although many businesses today believe they benefit from free parking, curbside parking meters were actually introduced in 1935 by an Oklahoma City department store owner. He wanted to increase parking turnover so that there would always be spaces available for his customers.
  • Conventional parking policy counsels providing enough spots to handle car storage on the 30th busiest hour of the entire year, usually the weekend before Christmas. That means intentionally planning for an oversupply of parking the other 8,730 hours of the year.
  • At free parking spaces, 40 to 60 percent of vehicles overstay posted time limits.
  • Parking typically represents a full 10 percent of development costs.
    What’s more, the people who actually park only pay 5 percent of the cost of non-residential parking,
    meaning that public subsidies and developer capital pay for the rest.
  • In
    San Francisco, parking requirements have reduced the number of affordable housing units nonprofit developers can build by 20 percent,
    with each residence costing 20 percent more to build than it would have without parking.
  • Seventy percent of Southern California suburban office developments built exactly
    the number of parking spaces required by law, suggesting that parking
    minimums are forcing developers to build more parking than they want
  • How much space does parking eat up? Office space typically requires 175 to 250 square feet per person. In comparison, curbside parking requires 200 square feet per vehicle, and garages require 300 to 350 square feet per vehicle.
  • Even in the Park Smart pilot areas of Greenwich Village, where peak hour meter rates have been raised, on-street parking still costs $12 per hour less than off-street parking. At that rate, cruising for 15 minutes to find an on-street space to park for one hour pays off at the equivalent of a $100,000 annual salary.
  • NYC has 32 percent fewer meters per capita than Chicago.
  • Only two major U.S. cities, Houston and Chicago, are adding more metered parking. In Houston’s case, they are more than doubling their metered spaces in coordination with the city’s light rail project.
  • MRN

    I’m no math guru, but I don’t understand how saving $12/hour “pays off” at the rate of $100k/yr (which translates roughly into a $50/hr rate)

  • MRN

    Additionally, off-street parking in Park Slope maxes out at around $25/day, so all-day parking at $2.50 matches the peak rate.

  • The math is that you spend 15 minutes to save $12 per hour, which comes to a savings of $48 per hour spent cruising.

  • Great report. I would love to bring the authors into certain Community Boards in NYC, to force-feed the conclusions to the board members, Clockwork Orange-style.

    One point not discussed (at least I didn’t notice it) is the need for commercial parking in residential districts. In a neighborhood like Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side, the only business that seem to be able to pay the astronomical rents are European clothing boutiques and nail and hair salons. Many people rely on Fresh Direct, UPS and Fedex to deliver low-margin staple items which cannot be profitably sold in the neighborhood. While facilitating this kind of mail-order direct-to-consumer commerce intensifies the trend by reducing the customer base of local merchants (and the sales tax base, for that matter), the trend seems inexorable absent radical measures like commercial rent control.

    Assuming for a moment that this trend is inexorable, then shouldn’t it be accommodated with commercial-only curbside parking in residential districts, so that deliveries can be made in an orderly fashion without double parking and ticketing of delivery trucks which pass the parking fines onto their customers as overhead?

  • But BicyclesOnly, the fleet trucks you mention don’t pay parking fines like ordinary singleton motorists; rather, they belong to the Stipulated Fine program.

    If there were loading zones on the avenues, couldn’t the grocery trucks park there and make their deliveries to the street blocks?

  • Clarence Eckerson

    These are some great juicy tidbits.

  • Ben, your math has a unit problem. You need to know how long you’ll be parking in order to determine the hourly rate for what you save by cruising.

    If you’re trying to park your car for one hour, you’ll save $12, so cruising for 15 minutes pays off at $48/hr. But if you’re trying to park for two hours, you save $24, so cruising for 15 minutes pays off at $96/hr. Etc., etc.

  • Mike — good point. The text has been adjusted.

  • The main thrust of this effort – to undo a major economic inducement to driving – is great. Extending it to show how it holds back economic develop totally flips conventional wisdom and makes a great case that many zoning requirements work against the public interest.

  • Jonathan, I know well about the Stipulated fine program, but NYPD keeps writing tickets on Fedex, UPD and the rest, and only some of the fines are eliminated, while others are reduced. You see delivery trucks festooned with summonses in the vain hope of inspiring remorse in the TEAs, but they keep writing ’em. There’s got to be some money changing hands.

    As for using the avenues, they are pretty far from midblock location on standard “long” blocks (~.25 miles), but it could work on the UES between 5th and Lex, and on the UWS between Broadway/Amsterdam and Riverside.

  • BicyclesOnly, it might be worth a FOIL request to see what the actual amounts that UPS and FedEx are paying per ticket.

    You are right about the long blocks.

  • JW

    Overall the mentality is this…

    “Tear down your house/neighborhood/business to provide me with free abundant parking!”

  • John Kaehny

    The recommendations in the report are generic. For recommendations specific to NYC by the same authors, see the parking studies at Parking policy is mostly about politics, misconceptions, and planning rationalizations which appear objective but have little basis in in fact or quantifiable analysis. It makes complete sense to meter side streets in most of Manhattan, and in mixed uses of other boroughs, instead of just on the avenues and South of 60th street and a few side streets elsewhere. It would make a great deal of sense to have peak and off peak meter rates based on an 80-85% occupancy target. Current curbside parking policy is inverted: priority is given to long-term residential parking, instead of short-term commercial parking. Commercial parkers, including service and delivery vehicles, are engaged in activities which are far more socially and economically productive than the free storage of private cars. But those free parkers know they’ve got a valuable entitlement and they show-up and vote. Protecting the free parking entitlement is one reason that so many community board transportation committees are dominated by car owners.


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