The Problem of Parking, Part 2

In the last post I scratched the surface of the complexities involved in parking requirements and why they simply don’t work in real life. Free parking isn’t free, and the costs go beyond just financial. The livability of our neighborhoods declines as buildings get swallowed up in expansive parking lots. Every building gets more and more spread out and, while the attempt is to make life more convenient for us by increasing available parking, we end up driving more and more miles to do the things we do.

I started receiving a magazine a few months ago which is geared toward professionals in the parking industry. I barely knew there was a parking industry, but nevertheless, there are many companies out there working to improve parking technologies, facilities, and regulations. Perhaps the magazine’s writers are biased, but they often come back to the issue of parking supply and demand. They would argue that the price and location of all parking, both on-street and off-street, should have a price determined by its demand. The rule of thumb is that curbside (metered) parking should be priced such that one parking space would become available along a block at any given time. The higher the demand for curbside parking, the higher its cost. Then, garage parking and other off-street parking would cost a little less.

Arguing a shift toward paid parking won’t win friends or elections, which is why this typically only happens in the densest of cities. In larger cities, it’s not uncommon to pay more for a day of parking than for your lunch, while, here in Downtown Waco, I’m not even sure where you would go to pay for parking.

Aside from simply asking drivers to pay when they park, there is another solution to the parking problem. Shared parking is one possibility, meaning that a single parking facility would service multiple buildings. Because most business types require parking only at certain times, their facilities are usually left vacant at times when they could be utilized by others. For example, a lot or garage that serves professional offices during the daytime hours could easily serve a movie theater or apartment complex where most parking occurs in the evening hours. In this scenario, fewer overall parking spaces are needed, thus freeing up valuable real estate for other uses. Unbundling parking from buildings could also reduce real estate prices for businesses, allowing smaller, local businesses to open and thrive, all while maintaining nearby parking.

How do we make shared parking a reality? Stay tuned for part 3…


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