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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Onsite Parking: The Scourge of America's Commercial Districts

I want to give a shout out to a 2006 post on Planetizen by Mott Smith.

His post, "Onsite Parking: The Scourge of America's Commercial Districts", is an exceptionally clear explanation of why it is a catastrophic mistake for dense urban areas to impose suburban-style on-site parking minimums on every building.
Perhaps more than anything else, rules requiring onsite parking -- to be distinguished from "on street" or "offsite" parking -- have created the blighted conditions that characterize many older North American commercial districts and boulevards. ...

How this has happened is simple geometry. Parcels in older commercial areas are often small by today's standards. ...

This is traditionally the perfect size for a small businessperson to build a shop and maybe even housing or office space above, with minimal capital. An entrepreneur with a property like this could get a lot of bang for his or her buck by building right up to the front and side property lines, so land-use efficiency is maximized and pedestrian-friendliness is encouraged. ...

But onsite parking rules have made this sort of development nearly impossible. Now, it's often economically infeasible to build anything at all on a 7,500 square foot parcel, let alone something that's pedestrian-friendly. ...

Typical inner-city parcel with one-story building, built to the property lines (Mott's figure 2)
What can be built if we require 4 parking spaces per 1000 square feet of built space (as many American cities do) (Mott's figure 3)

The answer? Public parking is much better suited to such areas, which work much better as park-once districts.

Is this relevant to your country? Yes! Don't let foolish parking policies destroy your older commercial districts like the United States did!

Local governments in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and many other countries are trying to impose parking minimums everywhere, including their older urban districts. They have not blighted them much. Not YET. But if they persist with this kind of parking policy, we must expect similar results to those seen in the US.

I don't agree with absolutely everything in the post but it is well worth a read. Take a look!