Driving downtown and making it to work on time can be challenging enough. Then you have to park. Playing the odds to find the perfect spot can become a game, but it’s a game you’ll never win as long as you’re in your car. When you use transit or walk, you’ll eliminate the need for parking. If you cycle, you’ll find great spots free or at extremely low rates!
Cars take up a lot of space. Cars crowd out any other potential modes of transportation. Parking lots, freeways and roads spread amenities out so that the distances become too great for walking. And the more you optimize any given space for cars the more hostile that space is for pedestrians, making it very difficult to get things done on foot.
Research shows that adding more street parking or building more parking structures, only makes the problem worse in the long run. The phenomenon of “induced demand” argues that a new lane or a new freeway never reduces congestion in the long run. People respond to new capacity by driving more or by living or working in previously remote places, and you’re very quickly back where you started and have to build more. The same phenomenon applies to increases in the supply of parking. It’s a game you can’t win.
Mikhail Chester a professor at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering estimates there are as many as 844 million parking lot and parking structure spaces in the United States, or roughly three spaces for every automobile. That amounts to paved surfaces for parking covering nearly one percent of the land in the country, an area about the size of West Virginia (http://phys.org/news/2012-02-asu-berkeley.html).
Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor and author of the book “The High Cost of Free Parking,” claims that If the area used for curbside parking is added to the count, spaces that go unused most of the time, then there may be as many as 2 billion parking spaces making it the single biggest land use in any city.
Land use is about land prioritization and if parking continues to be a priority then it will only serve to support driving. A sense of community is enabled much more through livable vibrant spaces that facilitate social interactions rather than bulky parking spaces. Parking spaces are better used for buildings, parks or public space which make for better communities that are more walkable – and where you don’t have to spend your time searching for parking because you’re on a bike or bus.