So let's get back to one of my biggest heresies with regards to conventional urbanism: namely my opposition of on-street parking.
|Lyon in France, remember that this isn't the point of view of pedestrians, but of car drivers, pedestrians are pushed to the side|
|Sendai, in this case, pedestrians really have this view|
|Another place in Lyon, look at the lack of space between cars and building walls, is this some place to hang around in?|
|One residential street in Sendai|
|Arterial in Lyon|
|Arterial in Sendai|
|Lyon, narrow sidewalks, where only two people can walk side by side, stuck between cars and walls|
|Sendai, sidewalks seem 2 to 3 times as large, providing a comfortable walking area no matter how many pedestrians there are, and even a bike path|
The government as a parking provider
Well, if we take one average city block that is 300 meters or 1 000 feet long and 60 meters or 200 feet deep, and we have a public right-of-way that has 2 3-meter (10 ft) lanes, 2 2,5-meter (8 feet) shoulders for parking and 2 1,5-meter wide sidewalks (5 ft)...
|Basic ROW shape|
So the typical block would look a bit like this:
|Typical block, in red, the parking places|
We have 720 meters of parking space on the street (2 x 60 m + 2 x 300 m). Supposing an average of 6 meters per car, that is 120 parking spots, which occupy about 8% of the land area.
So by committing to build space for parking on the street, the government commits to building 51 parking spots per hectare or around 21 per acre, or for a bigger scale, around 5 000 parking spots per square kilometer (13 000 per square mile).
So if you have a city with a built area of 200 square kilometers (80 square miles), that city will have built around 1 million on-street parking spots. That is undeniably a massive amount of parking, all provided by the city government.
Ramifications of the government as a parking provider
This role of supply manager is actually what leads governments to adopt minimum parking requirements and limits on density (most of the objections to new developments in already dense areas are rooted in fear of overwhelming existing on-street parking, making it harder for residents to find parking there). Off-street parking requirements were conceived initially as a way to prevent parking overflow on city streets, in order to keep parking spaces free on the street, it was required of developers to build off-street parking so that the people who live/work/shop in these developments wouldn't overwhelm the public provision of on-street parking spaces.
Without on-street parking, the government could have left developers to deal with their parking problems by themselves, or let the market provide only as much parking as drivers were willing to pay for. With on-street parking, city governments were forced to intervene, as a major parking provider itself, it couldn't turn a blind eye on issues of parking supply and demand. The government can't say that parking issues aren't its business when it is the main parking provider in the city.
Of course, in a situation where on-street parking is significantly under-priced or even free, any off-street parking operator choosing to put a price on its parking lot can expect people to just park on the street if there is any place available there, which can result in parking overflow on streets even as the parking lot stays empty. This can lead to the city government coming down on that parking owner, because this is exactly the situation that the city government sought to avoid by having minimum parking requirements.
Economic ramificationsIn case I've not made it clear enough, my position on parking is the following: there should only be as much parking as drivers are willing to pay for, parking supply should neither be inflated by government (minimum requirements) nor limited by government (maximum parking rules).
In general, letting developers decide how much parking to build should result in this "user payer" situation, as they will make economic calculations and build only as much parking as they can justify economically. But what happens when they have to compete with on-street parking, often provided for free by the government? It completely distorts the market, private off-street parking options will generally not even exist, because who would park there for a fee when they could park for free on the street? At least, not unless on-street parking is completely overwhelmed.
|The owner of a private parking lot has the option of continuing operating his lot or selling for development, in the case presented here, over a 30-year analysis, it's better to keep operating the lot...|
|But if the value of land increases, it may become more profitable to just sell the lot for development, reducing the supply of parking but increasing the supply of land to develop|
ConclusionSo there was my take on the perverse effects of on-street parking, how it makes providing parking and managing parking supply a government responsibility while disrupting the pricing mechanism for parking spots, largely eliminating for-profit parking businesses except in a few exceptional places. I accept that, unfortunately, most North American city streets are already built much too wide to accommodate parking, but I think that on-street parking is one of the greatest obstacles to a sane parking policy that would have drivers assume the full cost of the parking they use.
Parking shouldn't be a government's responsibility, yet that is ultimately the result of allowing on-street parking to be massively used. This leads to the absurd hypocrisy that city governments will take more seriously their "responsibility" to provide sufficient parking to all drivers, but not their responsibility to make sure all their residents can find proper housing. As if an human being not being able to afford a place to live in is sad, yet tolerable, but a car without a parking space is unacceptable.