Parking moratorium

January's episode of Reinventing Parking introduced six surprising parking reform ideas. 

This post explains the fifth idea, "Parking moratorium (or maybe even parking draw-down)".

This is a lightly edited transcript of that part of the episode, which starts at the 18:39 point.

Listen with the player below. Or subscribe to the audio podcast. This is the official podcast of the Parking Reform Network.

Parking moratorium or a parking drawdown (within existing built areas)

This is another idea for preventing excessive parking provision. 

What if a city or state declared a moratorium on expanding the supply of parking of all kinds within existing built-up areas? 

Does that sound wacky? Politically hopeless? We will see that it is not really as audacious as it seems at first look.

An even more ambitious variation would be a parking supply drawdown, aiming for an annual percentage reduction in parking supply. 

Let’s focus mainly on the slightly less outrageous moratorium idea of not letting parking supply increase.

The basic idea of a parking moratorium

Such a moratorium would NOT mean that no parking could be built at all. New parking would be allowed if it replaces existing parking capacity that gets closed or demolished. 

A simple way to implement the idea would be for any reductions in parking supply to be added to a tally of how much replacement parking can be built in each area. The city could then sell these as parking supply entitlements. These entitlements could even be tradeable  perhaps.  

The overall supply of parking would not be allowed to increase. In growing cities, it would gradually drop relative to jobs and relative to population, especially in areas with much infill development. A parking moratorium would change the parking supply situation gradually, development by development.

Could most areas of most cities make do without ever increasing their parking supply?

Why even consider it?

A moratorium would stop the expansion of a low-productivity use of urban space which is already oversupplied in many places. 

And it would prompt parking problems to be more often tackled by managing the parking rather than building more parking.

But those kinds of argument seem dreary to most people. 

So, if any city did this, it had better be part of some visionary plan together with other efforts to shift away from cars. Obviously, a parking moratorium would only be possible in a city where that kind of thinking is popular enough.

A parking moratorium is not as radical as is sounds- at least for downtowns

If you are thinking that this would be politically impossible, you might be right. 

But many cities do in fact have policies that limit parking supply.  

Some cities have parking supply caps in their city core areas. Such caps are more or less like downtown-only parking moratoriums, although they can be set higher than the existing parking supply. For example, in 1975 Portland Oregon set a limit on how many parking spaces can exist within the Downtown area, although it has also repeatedly raised the cap over the years. 

Copenhagen in Denmark is often said to remove 2 to 3% of its city-centre surface parking every year (although it is difficult to find online confirmation of this and of whether off-street parking is also capped).

The city centre of Zurich in Switzerland had a parking moratorium for 25 years and now has something like a drawdown policy!

And, of course, many cities around the world have parking maximums in their downtown areas and sometimes even in secondary business centres too. And many city-centre maximums are tight enough that they are gradually reducing the parking supply in those areas. 

So, limiting parking is a tried and tested policy. But it is currently mostly only done in city centres. 

But I am suggesting a city-wide parking supply moratorium

The kind of parking moratorium I am thinking about here should apply to the whole city. 

The idea is to confront car-dependence. So it should include the more car-dependent areas! 

It should include places where parking is currently free-of-charge. These are the places with such an abundance of parking that no-one sees a need to ration any of it. 

In fact, car-dependent places arguably have enormous oversupply of parking. They need parking drawdowns, not just moratoriums. 

That would be politically challenging, for sure.

What do you think? 

Is a city-wide parking supply moratorium a promising idea? 

What about the similar idea of a gradual parking supply drawdown? 

I don’t know. But I hope they are worth discussing. 

Listen to the audio episode here: 


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