Friday, October 9, 2009
Almost every jurisdiction has some form of a minimum parking requirement as part of their zoning code or subdivision regulations. This has always been a curious thing to me.
"Curious" because the legal rationale (health, safety, general welfare) is not nearly as clear as, say, maximum stories, lot use, or even signage or landscaping regulations. Ultimately, one might reasonably ask "Why do cities require minimum amounts of parking?"
This is especially curious when most places where you seem these requirements (such as your local strip mall) rarely end up using all, or even most, of the mandated spaces. Indeed, even at the most popular Publix here in Montgomery, the huge lot is rarely more than half full. That's alot of asphalt and striping paint and (resulting stormwater runoff from the impermeable surface) that the law requires to be built even though its rarely used.
Donald Shoup's book, The High Cost of Free Parking, does an excellent job detailing how parking requirements actually end up hurting the public health, safety, and general welfare more than helping. The result is a strange type of police power contango where the intended good ends up bad and vice versa.
The reason this land use topic popped back into my mind today was a recent Washington Post article discussing how the District is re-evaluating whether it's laws should actually mandate certain amounts of parking--especially the off-street/on-site variety:
The empty garage is part of the evidence that District officials cite as they rewrite 50-year-old regulations so they will no longer require developers to build a minimum number of parking spaces for new retail outlets, offices and apartments in areas near Metro stations. Instead, the District would like to leave it to developers to analyze market conditions and determine the appropriate parking levels.
Read the whole article here.