Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Have you ever driven by a large retail center and noticed rows upon rows of empty parking spaces? If so, did you ever wonder why one big box retailer really needed such a large amount of empty asphalt in order to operate?
Or, what about this situation: have you ever seen metered parking spaces whose rates are so low (say, 25 cents per hour) that its more economical to park at a meter than use transit or a centralized parking structure?
Most of us realize that the above scenarios are not merely unlikely hypos but, instead, an established reality in many cities. Parking is often either too plentiful and free or too limited and cheap--both of which promote an inefficient allocation of transportation resources.
Fortunately, the Washington D.C. area is once again taking the lead with innovative land use policies that focus on the efficient allocation of resources--this time with newly proposed parking laws:
Planners mapping out a new, pedestrian-friendly mini-city in Tysons Corner to dovetail with the Metrorail line under construction are proposing parking standards unheard of in Fairfax County, where three-car families are not unusual.
Buildings near the four future train stations in Tysons will no longer have to have a minimum of parking. The code now calls for at least 2.6 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space; stores must have up to six spaces per that area. Townhouses get 2.7 spaces each.
The District dumped its parking minimums last year, rewriting the zoning code for the first time in 50 years to set parking space according to demand in a particular neighborhood. In another departure from tradition, Tysons will not only have fewer places to park, but businesses will also have to share spaces. Nightclubbers will park in the spaces defense contractors were in that morning. Considering that Tysons has more land devoted to cars than people -- with approximately 167,000 parking spaces covering 40 million square feet -- they're big changes.
You can read the entire Washington Post article here. It provides several other very useful examples of sound parking law strategy.
The idea of charging a market rate for parking is really a no-brainer. Especially when, in the case of much of the D.C. area, a viable transit option exists in the form of both busses and heavy/light rail.
After all, why should cities require massive amounts of (typically free) parking in suburban settings when many of those spaces don't get used and, instead, merely add to water pollution problems through the unnecessary run-off that all of this impermeable asphalt and concrete causes.
Or, in an urban setting, why should parking meters cost the same at 8pm as they do at 8am (when demand is typically much higher). In these times of fiscal austerity at the local government level, shouldn't revenue streams such as parking meters be used as efficiently as possible.
It's good to see the D.C. area jurisdictions continue to promote efficient land use policies through logical resource-allocation methods like this.
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.
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