Cars are indispensable from an image of a stereotypical American. American vehicles need to be big, powerful and numerous – it is impossible to imagine a “normal” American family without at least one car. It is obvious that every car needs a parking place and the government makes its best to provide the most comfortable conditions for drivers.
There are numerous off street requirements for parking that architects and city administration have to follow. This policy had a great impact on the image of cities in the US. According to the new architectural conception that changed according to the requirements, vast spaces for parking are constructed around one building. Good examples of this change are so-called “big box stores” and “office park”. The cities start reminding a post-apocalyptic landscape, where there is no nature and the planet is filled with robots. It seems like cars replace people, because the surface of parking lots might soon surpass the space for living and recreation.
Even though many people are against these innovations, the issues described in the minimum parking requirements reflect the main governmental policy for parking. This document influences the way American cities function and look. However, the used methods to create this minimum are considered incorrect. The most serious drawback of this policy is that they do not take into consideration the existing transport system and the context. For example, the parking requirements for the shop that is situated in the downtown and the one situated in the village are the same. The law does not pay attention to the car density in the place, which makes the requirements difficult to follow. In addition, such recommendations create problems for drivers and pedestrian, and even cause incidents on the roads.
Analysts think that there is another problem of the parking policy is that it views different types of parking (off-street and curbside) as independent issues. It leads to a situation when off-street parking lots have big, yet empty space, and there is no place to park at curbsides. Car owners need to drive more in order to find a place to park. All these issues cause problems for pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists. Only the coordination of on- and off- street parking might lead t efficient results in making the situation better.
Another problem of the parking policy is that the community perceives the appearance of numerous parking lots as a man-made disaster. Alyse Nelson writes that parking regulations create unnecessary difficulties for people. For example, it is impossible to build a new shop or house, or even remodel the old one, because the owner has to provide a number of off-street parking spaces. It makes the streets unattractive, increases costs for development and reduces the income from new shops or cafés. With these parking requirements, building an affordable house is a myth (Nelson, A., 2013).
In addition, vast parking lots reduce people-oriented space, where there could have been parks. Rachel Weinberger in the work “U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies” gives the following data:
Each parking space provided for urban affordable housing, adds 12.5 percent to the total development costs.37 Nonprofit affordable housing developers in San Francisco report that the city’s requirements added 20 percent to the cost of each unit and decreased the number of buildable units on site by 20 percent (Weinberger, R. et al., p. 32-33).
Alan Durning, the author of the article “Infographic: Living Space v. Parking Space” wonders why the garage needs to be bigger than the bedroom according to the parking requirements. He writes that the requirements vary from state to state. According to his information, it is necessary to have one parking place for a two-bedroom apartment in the cities like Washington, Oregon, Eugene, Spokane, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. In Boise, Idaho; Surrey and Burnaby, BC; and Tacoma, Washington the minimum rises to 1,5 place. The administration of Meridian and Nampa, Idaho; Kent and Yakima, Washington; and Gresham, Oregon requires 2 parking stalls per apartment (2013, July 18).
Sometimes people use extreme measures in the fight for the territory. This “civic war” for on-street parking is a key point in understanding that the policy has serious drawbacks and people do not agree to follow it.
Even though the current situation connected with parking policy has much to be desired, the Americans found alternative ways to make their cities look better despite numerous parking lots. For example, the administration of the City of Los Angeles decided to cooperate with an architect Michael Lehrer to transform urban view into a recreation zone with practical benefit. As a result of this campaign, a parking lot became a Spring Street Park. This showed that it is possible to combine the city needs with the ones of the community.
Carter Rubin described another peculiar experience in ““How Flexible Parking Requirements Spur Economic Development: Lessons from Santa Monica” (2013, July 23). This example showed that certain flexibility in applying parking regulations could bring profit to the budget. In the city of Santa Monica drivers were paying an in-lieu fee for on-site parking. According to the author’s survey, the area with flexible payment method generates the profit per parcel that is eight times bigger than standard one that is described in parking requirements.
It is necessary to note that the rate of illegal on-street parking is extremely high in the country. Multiple drawbacks in service and high demand for parking places create problems with following parking policy despite its strictness. Drivers often do not pay for parking and overstay the time. The survey conducted in New York City gave the following results:
It was found that 20 percent of all vehicles parked in one Brooklyn neighborhood were illegally parked. A similar study in Manhattan found the average stay in one hour metered parking was 93 minutes. Audits by a scanner equipped vehicle in Fredericksburg, Virginia, found that 25 percent of all curbside parkers overstayed time limits. Analysts found that the average parking duration in one hour parking zones was 2.1 hours. (Weinberger, R. et al., p. 35)
The parking policy has a number of drawbacks, and the most serious problem of these requirements is that they do not reflect real state of things. Therefore, the main way to make the policy better is to start considering every case in its context. The second problem that is closely connected with parking policy is high costs on houses and nearby territory. It is possible to eliminate this difficulty by reducing off-street parking requirements. According to these changes, the owners of the houses or shops will decide themselves how many places for parking they need, judging from previous experience. Chances are that this compromise might satisfy customers, drivers and administration. It is not difficult to solve the problem connected with illegal parking by introduction of in-lieu parking fees that provide a flexible payment system. The last problem that is caused by numerous parking lots in the cities is the harm such places cause to environment and urban view. The previously mentioned examples illustrated the way out of this situation by combining parks and parking lots. Another initiative to reduce the space for cars is making shared parking. Several people can use one place in the parking lot according to the schedule. Many people use their vehicles during different hours. To conclude, the problems connected with parking policy are evident, and when the “enemy” is known, it is not difficult to eliminate it.
Durning, A. (2013, July 18). Who Parked in My Spot?! Sightline Daily. Retrieved from http://daily.sightline.org/blog_series/parking-lots/
Durning, A. (2013, July 18). Infographic: Living Space v. Parking Space. Your car’s bedroom is bigger than yours. Sightline Daily. Retrieved from http://daily.sightline.org/2013/07/23/infographic-living-space-v-parking-space/
Nelson, A. (2013, June 18). Ugly by Law. A photo essay on parking requirements and the ugly buildings they produce. Sightline Daily. Retrieved from http://daily.sightline.org/2013/06/18/ugly-by-law/
Peach, J. This Big City, (2013, July 8). The Los Angeles Park That Used to Be a Parking Lot. This Big City Weekly. Retrieved from http://thisbigcity.net/the-los-angeles-park-that-used-to-be-a-parking-lot/
Rubin, C. (2013, July 23). How Flexible Parking Requirements Spur Economic Development: Lessons from Santa Monica. LA.Streetsblog. Retrieved from http://la.streetsblog.org/2013/07/23/how-flexible-parking-requirements-spur-economic-development-lessons-from-santa-monica/
Weinberger, R., Kaehny, J., Rufo, M. U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Retrieved from http://www.itdp.org/documents/ITDP_US_Parking_Report.pdf