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MBA: Parking Reform

In the tenth and final video in Streetfilms' Moving Beyond the Automobile series, we are talking about parking reform. From doing away with mandatory parking minimums, to charging the right price for curbside parking, to converting on-street parking spots into parklets and bike corrals, cities are latching onto exciting new ideas to make more room for people in our cities and repurpose the valuable public space that lines our streets.

"Historically the parking problem was defined as there not being enough convenient places to put your car," UPenn professor Rachel Weinberger told Streetfilms, "but increasingly cities are starting to understand that the parking problem could be defined differently and it could be the case that there is too much parking."


Paul Steely White:  [00.12] Parking policy in New York City and certainly parking policy in cities around the country is broken. 



Ethan Kent:  [00:20] Allowing cars to park for free on the street, to dominate that space for long periods of time with no added activity, is the lowest possible use for our streets and public spaces. 


Elly Blue:  [00:32] Even in the most dense cities new developments are often required to add a certain number of car parking spaces and the on-street car parking is made very cheap.  This makes it way easier to drive than it should be, and it also keeps our parking spaces full longer than they should be.  The policies don’t make economic sense. 


Paul Steely White:  [00:51] Our parking policy is exacerbating traffic congestion, giving a secret subsidy to the tune of billions of dollars per year to the automobile. 


Elly Blue:  [01:00] In the US, the average car parking spot costs $15,000.  Bike racks cost about $200 each.  We work really hard to make it easy and convenient to park cars but then we don’t put as much effort into making it easy to park your bike.


Rachel Weinberger:  [01:14] So we’re kind of in this never ending cycle, more storage, more cars, more storage, more cars.  And then we have more storage, more cars you have fewer and fewer houses, fewer recreational facilities.  And so in a way it’s a kind of downward spiral because then what you end up having is less city. 


Ethan Kent:  [01:31] The problem with how we’re planning our streets for cars and for parking is that it’s allowing our streets to be privatised.


Paul Steely White:  [01:37] So virtually every block in New York City is lined with free parking.  Only a fraction of New York City’s on-street parking is actually metered.  And of that metered parking, it’s still about 12 times cheaper than you would pay in a private garage.  You have about ten spaces per side on most blocks.  And these spaces average about 200 square feet in area.  So that works out to about 4,000 square feet of parking per block.  There are 6,000 miles of streets in New York City and that works out to about 10,800 acres of parking in New York.  How large is 10,800 acres?  Well it works out to about 13 Central Parks.  Imagine what you can do with all that space. 


Rachel Weinberger:  [02:22] Two parking spaces actually make a decent size studio apartment. 


Elly Blue:  [02:27] A bike corral is a car parking space that has been converted into multiple bike parking spaces.  In the space where you can park one single car, if you turn that into a bike corral, you can park anywhere from 8 to 22 bicycles.


Paul Steely White:  [02:41] When we talk about parking policy, we’re talking about you know the vacancy rate or the cost per hour or how many square feet of parking is devoted on a particular street.  This can like quickly get a little boring for people and it’s hard for people to kind of grasp why our parking policy is broken or why it’s problematic, or why the opportunity cost of devoting so much public space to car parking is a problem.  So with Parking Day we have really tried to give people a very visually impactful experience of how our public space is really being squandered.  People inhabit this space.  Sometimes we’ll put sod down or benches, but it’s really a way to humanise what otherwise would be used for simply automobile storage. 


Rachel Weinberger:  [03:23] Well I think historically the parking problem had been defined as there wasn’t enough convenient places to put your car.  But increasingly cities are starting to understand that the parking problem could be defined differently, and in fact it might be the case that there’s too much parking.


Andres Power:  [03:37] We sort of got the idea sort of inspired by the use of the reclamation of parking lanes, you know with programmes like Parking Day and such, and looking for places where we could really repurpose and sort of more aptly distribute the limited road right-of-way.  And from behind us we have the first pavement of park, parklet, and the idea here really is to sort of very simply and relatively cheaply build out a platform into the parking lane and just providing on top of that sort of a variety of different amenities, so café tables and chairs where appropriate, benching, bike parking, some landscaping.



Ethan Kent:  [04:14] We need to put parking back in its place. 


Paul Steely White:  [04:17] The grail of parking reform is to make it so that parking is not subsidised. 


Rachel Weinberger:  [04:22] Space is a scarce resource in cities and we’re not making more of it and so we have to manage what we have in order to get the right amount of movement for people rather than for vehicles.   


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  • http://www.facebook.com/worldstreets Eric Britton

    Once again excellent and timely. This little video should be widely viewed and discussed. We will pass it on via World Streets today.

  • Guest

    Parking Day is great!

  • Edpino

    This has been an eye opening series thanks for all your hard work. Now send it all to all of the DOT in America.

  • http://profiles.google.com/absolutegalore M Francis

    There is still a lot of resistance to parking reform, even in traditionally progressive places like Berkeley, CA:

    The old saw that people will flee downtown shopping areas with metered parking for the expansive and free parking at the big box stores and malls is alive and well. Of course with gas edging five bucks a gallon, that free parking out of town starts to get a little dear as my grandmother used to say.

  • Al

    final? MBA: Ambulatory Transit ?

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Al well there is always a chance of scoring more funding and doing another 5? 10? We had a long list to whittle it down to these ten.

  • http://profiles.google.com/getdynamicresults jonathan angelilli

    nice video!~

  • http://www.facebook.com/rpvitiello Ryan Vitiello

    I always though New York city should move the parking into garages under new development on each block, and then eliminate on street parking except for passenger drop of, pick up, and deliveries. I never thought the solution to making more people take public transit was to make driving worse, but to make public transit better. 

    I at one point lived in the East Village, and I owned a car. I would have loved to be able to take public transit to work, but working on long island made that impractical. What was about a 30-45 minute drive, was a 3 hour trip on public transit. If you took away the option of driving, you would not have pushed me to take public transit, you would have forced me to lose my job. 

    NYC still needs to improve their public transit system, ALLOT. As good as it is, its still far from perfect, and it's unrealistic to think we can just eliminate cars all together, without improving public transit. 

  • Tallycyclist

    And don't forget that parking spots being converted to bike parking or cafe space is way less stress and weight on the pavement, prolonging it's life and saving even more money for the city.  

    But there really needs to be a decent alternative to driving for this to be a success.  At my university there's not nearly enough parking spots for commuting students yet it's not uncommon for late-comers to circle around for 45 minutes trying to find a spot.  Not enough spots, but that alone isn't stopping too many people from driving either.  All that extra wear on the road and pollution from idling is doing no one any good, and a bunch of angry drivers on the road isn't good for pedestrians or cyclists.  But they don't have good alternatives either.  Not a cycle-friendly town and the city bus system is not very good.  

    You do have to start somewhere though.  One could easily use this as an cop-out excuse and then nothing will ever change which is not productive.  

  • HamTech87

    This is great.  Now we need one that talks about parking in the suburbs.  As we try to retrofit the suburbs to make them more walkable, bike-friendly, and transit-accessible, we need to show how parking makes all these things MORE difficult.

    And nobody can do this better visually than the StreetFilm folks.

  • Anonymous

    Recently these issues have been bubbling up to highlight significant issues in Ithaca, NY: our forward-thinking new 24 year old Mayor Svante Myrick changed his private, personal automobile parking space at City Hall to a PUBLIC park-let area for use by people.
    Additional housing and a Cooperative Grocery store (in a urban dense area that doesn't have a grocery) with a built-in bus stop, many bike/ped amenities as well as supportive TCAT and CarShare promotion is being held up (along with other projects) because of city zoning for minimum parking requirements. In fact many plans are just not created and put in front of the city, because it is so difficult to get a variance to avoid building parking, even in a dense urban area with a bus stop at its doorstep. This also has a big effect on housing affordability.

  • Anonymous

    There is one huge thing that will get people to drive less, and the second part of the statement is the 'new' part (as read in Green Metropolis)

    1) Put in place a gasoline tax.

    2)BUT the legislation would need to, when adding on $1? or more per gallon would also allow the municipality receiving this funding to then LOWER TAXES by as close to the same amount as possible.

    So what does the community get? More bus use, more walking, more biking and THEREFORE better infrastructure and awareness/safety of those  areas.  Of course we would not likely ever see taxes go DOWN, but the key to proposing such legislation is that PEOPLE CAN OPT OUT--by using less gas. Home owners would see a direct reduction in property tax, and renters would see a reflection of that in their lower rents (careful wording in legislation can encourage this). Less driving on a community wide basis has a big impact on getting people moving more, people living CLOSER, and people being less-burdened by smog, poisoned air. Public health over time would change. Walkable cities have people with much more healthy bodies.

    Who loses? Exxon, BP, OPEC, etc. The oil producers will be selling less gasoline. People who drive the same are also seeing the property tax reduction and so are not paying any MORE, but have the option to drive less any day, any week.

    Spread this idea. The larger the municipality, city STATE---that accept this, the better it will work.

  • Anonymous

    Tally----so if you see the above post, the college could implement a (better) parking permit system. It costs for a surface parking space, the entity to charge ~$50/month to maintain the space (more in harsh environments). If the school is not charging about $500 or more for parking permits, then they ARE charging for it, but you don't see it, since it is in HIGHER TUITION rates. 
    Best practice: give people the freedom to OPT-OUT. Encourage the school to start charging (more) for parking at the SAME RATE that they charge for parking (with the increase) they could LOWER TUITION RATES or also financially support a better bus system. If the school had a system to better promote car-pooling, bus use and of course charge those who choose to drive closer to the ACTUAL cost to build/maintain those spaces, allowing others to save money by opting out of these tuition charges, I bet the students would really like that plan!

  • GasAdvocate

    Breaking news...err nope. Gasoline taxes have been in place since the 1970's. Has a tax stopped everyone from driving? I don't think so. How about I opt out of you gas tax and drive my 11 mi/gal Escalade around while you can sit on the bus and light rail with all the wonderful people in your community. If you think all our air pollution comes from cars, you are dead wrong. Maybe putting a tax on China's pollution would help our health. Who has the option to drive less? People that work at minimum wage jobs...think about the regular people who work actual jobs instead of focusing on the illegal immigrants and college drop outs...BRO