The high cost of free parking

The high cost of free parking


STEVE JOBS:
“And we’ve come up with a design that puts 12,000 people in one building” Four months before he died in 2011, Steve
Jobs made his final public appearance pitching Apple’s new campus, which opened this year. Central to his vision was turning existing
parking lots into a green landscape. STEVE JOBS
“The overall feeling of the place is gonna be a zillion times better than it is now,
with all the asphalt. so we’d like to plant a lot of trees including
some apricot orchards…” But Jobs didn’t mention that the new parking
structure on campus would have had more floor space than the office building. That’s because it wasn’t Apple’s plan. The decision came from the city of Cupertino,
which demanded 11,000 parking spots for the campus. But Cupertino is hardly unique. It’s estimated that in America there are
8 parking spots for every car, covering up to 30% of our cities, and collectively taking
up about as much space as the state of West Virginia. The more parking we have, the more we’re
able to drive. The rules that manage our parking needs not
only influence the way we move around but also shape our urban landscapes. DONALD SHOUP: If you look at pictures of the
American cities around 1920 and 1930, all of the curbs are just completely filled with
parked cars. And they couldn’t use prices to manage demand
because the parking meter wasn’t even invented until 1935. This is Donald Shoup. An Urban planning professor at UCLA, whose
speciality is parking. As cars filled cities in the early 20th century,
two inventions came to dominate parking management throughout the United States. The first was the parking meter. DONALD SHOUP: The way the meter manufacturers
popularized parking meters was they offered them free to cities and they kept the revenue
until the meter was paid for in about 6 months – and then the city got all the revenue. They offered to install them on one side of
the street only, so people could see how it worked on one side, and how it worked on the
other. Around the same time the parking meter was
invented, cities invented the idea of off street parking requirements. Off street parking requirement, also known
as mandatory parking minimums, are the second invention. And though you may not be aware of it them,
most of the parking lots you’re used to exist because of these rules in the background. SHOUP: look at any place from the air, any
suburban place from the air – you see an awful lot of land taken up for parking. And most people don’t know why. It’s our policy that we require our cities
to be built with a lot of parking. With the suburbanization after World War II,
off-street parking requirements became popular with city governments. They forced developers to include a parking
for their new buildings, which created a huge supply of parking lots at no cost to the city. SHOUP: Off street parking requirements really
spread throughout the United States faster than really any other urban planning invention. And they arose partly because of the lack
of management of on-street parking. If you can’t manage the on street parking
properly, you need off street parking requirements or everybody will say “how did you let this
building be built when there’s not enough parking.” A typical requirement looks like this: For every 1000 square feet of new building,
there has to be a set number of parking spots which varies by land use. SHOUP: You have to have parking spaces per
something. It could be a number of spaces per bassinet
in a hospital, or per holes in a golf course, or per thousand gallons of water in a swimming
pool. One of the oddest ones is for a funeral home,
because that’s sort of – parking spaces per what? An average parking spot requires about 330
square feet, which includes car storage and empty space for the access aisles. That means If a policy requires 3 spots per
thousand feet, the parking lot needs to be the size of the building. And many parking requirements need more spots,
a restaurant may need 10 spots per thousand square feet, making the parking lot over three
times larger than the restaurant. SHOUP: Planners don’t have any training
in how to set them, and there’s really no way to say how much parking every building
needs, so there’s a pseudoscience that has grown up, like blood letting, which was a
major form of medical treatment for a couple thousand years, and that’s just like parking
requirements today. Building parking is expensive especially when
it involves a large construction project. SHOUP: We pay for the free parking that we
demand in every role that we have in life other than as a driver. As a tax payer, as a resident, as a shopper. And just because you pay nothing for parking
at the parking lot of the grocery store doesn’t mean the cost goes away. It’s still there. It’s just that the driver isn’t paying
for it. Developers who don’t comply with parking requirements
pay tens of thousands of dollars for every spot that they don’t include. A lot of times, these costs prohibit new development. SHOUP: This is the most valuable land on earth. Land is expensive for housing but its free
for parking. And you wonder why we have a problem? Parking requirements often result in more
parking space than building space, so they lower density of cities, pushing buildings
further apart from each other, making it harder to walk and encouraging more driving. Many of the dense cities that we love like
Paris, Washington DC or Amsterdam or New York wouldn’t look like this with parking requirements. These arbitrary rules continue to shape the
growth of our cities, and increase traffic congestion. But the excessive amount of land dedicated
to parking spaces is able to be repurposed. SHOUP: We have a terrific opportunity to convert
underused parking lots into housing to parking for people who want to live. The upside is that we have a lot of benefits
to reap from changing our policies. SHOUP: To boil an 800-page book into three
bullet points, I have three basic recommendations. Remove off-street parking requirements. Charge the right price for on-street parking, by which I mean the lowest price the city can charge and still have one or two open spaces on every block. So nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking. In order to reach that price you have to vary
it by location and time of day. But once you’ve done that, and make it politically
popular you can spend the revenue on public services on the metered streets. Well I’m worn out.