Tag Archives: parking

September 2016 in Review

3 most frightening stories

  • The U.S. and Russia may have blundered into a proxy war in Syria. And on a loosely related war-and-peace note, Curtis LeMay was a crazy bastard.
  • The ecological footprint situation is not looking too promising: “from 1993 to 2009…while the human population has increased by 23% and the world economy has grown 153%, the human footprint has increased by just 9%. Still, 75% the planet’s land surface is experiencing measurable human pressures. Moreover, pressures are perversely intense, widespread and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity.” Meanwhile, as of 2002 “we appropriate over 40% of the net primary productivity (the green material) produced on Earth each year (Vitousek et al. 1986, Rojstaczer et al. 2001). We consume 35% of the productivity of the oceanic shelf (Pauly and Christensen 1995), and we use 60% of freshwater run-off (Postel et al. 1996). The unprecedented escalation in both human population and consumption in the 20th century has resulted in environmental crises never before encountered in the history of humankind and the world (McNeill 2000). E. O. Wilson (2002) claims it would now take four Earths to meet the consumption demands of the current human population, if every human consumed at the level of the average US inhabitant.” And finally, 30% of African elephants have been lost in the last 7 years.
  • Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 24. The obsession with car seats may not be saving all that many lives, while keeping children out of cars as much as possible would be 100% guaranteed to save lives. And one thing that would be guaranteed to help us create more walkable neighborhoods and therefore save children’s lives: getting rid of minimum parking requirements in cities once and for all. And yet you don’t hear this debate being framed in moral terms.

3 most hopeful stories

3 most interesting stories

  • Monsanto is trying to help honeybees (which seems good) by monkeying with RNA (which seems a little frightening). Yes, biotech is coming.
  • Some people think teaching algebra to children may actually be bad. Writing still seems to be good.
  • There have been a number of attempts to identify and classify the basic types of literary plots.

minimum parking requirements

Here’s a short, visually engaging video about the problem with minimum parking requirements. Apparently, this worked in Ottawa. I don’t want to be cynical, but I am not convinced the residents, politicians, and bureaucrats of my town would respond similarly to such a logical argument. I would love for everyone to prove me wrong.

parking benefit districts

This article explains why eliminating minimum parking requirements is such a good idea, and suggests the idea of parking benefit districts as a way to get past misguided political and neighborhood opposition.

Eliminating existing requirements currently on the books in almost every city, namely that housing builders install lots of off-street parking spaces, is a key strategy for housing affordability. Most people wouldn’t guess it, but parking requirements (or “quotas”) raise the rent—and not just by a little, but by a lot. Here’s a full rundown of how they do so, but some major ways include:

  • Parking quotas raise the cost of building housing, especially inexpensive housing, and they suppress the number of apartments and houses that can fit on a lot—often by a quarter to a half.
  • Parking quotas block adaptive reuse of old buildings, such as vacant warehouses, to housing.
  • Parking quotas disperse housing by suppressing housing units per city block, which exacerbates sprawl and therefore distances traveled, which makes transit less practical and driving more common. And driving is expensive.

I’m all for it. The only concern I can think of is that neighborhoods with higher-cost parking (likely to be more desirable, richer, less diverse neighborhoods in most cities) would get greater benefits than other neighborhoods. So it seems like maybe a portion of it could stay in the neighborhood, and a portion could be shared across all neighborhoods in a city or even metro area that agree to the policy.

This is both a great example of progressive policy innovation, and a market-based way of aligning peoples’ economic incentives with the best policies. So it should be able to gain support across the political spectrum. But the article also talks about how bureaucrats at existing transit agencies can be an obstacle to this sort of policy (as they can to other good ideas like flexible bus routes). This is sad. In my ideal world, there would be a single agency in charge of getting people from point A to point B and using space in the most efficient, safest and healthiest ways, open to innovation and stakeholder input.

hidden parking costs

Hidden parking costs drive up the cost of rent in U.S. metropolitan areas by an average of 17% according this article. The implication is that people are paying for housing and parking together, and don’t realize it. By separating the two, the cost of housing would be reduced, and people would be free to choose to pay for parking, or use the money saved on other transportation options.

Hidden Costs and Deadweight Losses: Bundled Parking and Residential Rents in the Metropolitan United States

There is a major housing affordability crisis in many American metropolitan areas, particularly for renters. Minimum parking requirements in municipal zoning codes drive up the price of housing, and thus represent an important potential for reform for local policymakers. The relationship between parking and housing prices, however, remains poorly understood. We use national American Housing Survey data and hedonic regression techniques to investigate this relationship. We find that the cost of garage parking to renter households is approximately $1,700 per year, or an additional 17% of a housing unit’s rent. In addition to the magnitude of this transport cost burden being effectively hidden in housing prices, the lack of rental housing without bundled parking imposes a steep cost on carless renters—commonly the lowest income households—who may be paying for parking that they do not need or want. We estimate the direct deadweight loss for carless renters to be $440 million annually. We conclude by suggesting cities reduce or eliminate minimum parking requirements, and allow and encourage landlords to unbundle parking costs from housing costs.

more Donald Shoup!

Like I keep saying, you can never get too much Donald Shoup. Urban policy can get so complicated, but getting rid of minimum parking requirements would just be such a simple and easy thing to do, and have so many benefits.

Minimum parking requirements create especially severe problems. In The High Cost of Free Parking, I argued that parking requirements subsidize cars, increase traffic congestion and carbon emissions, pollute the air and water, encourage sprawl, raise housing costs, degrade urban design, reduce walkability, damage the economy, and exclude poor people. To my knowledge, no city planner has argued that parking requirements do not have these harmful effects. Instead, a flood of recent research has shown they do have these effects. We are poisoning our cities with too much parking…

Parking requirements reduce the cost of owning a car but raise the cost of everything else. Recently, I estimated that the parking spaces required for shopping centers in Los Angeles increase the cost of building a shopping center by 67 percent if the parking is in an aboveground structure and by 93 percent if the parking is underground.

Developers would provide some parking even if cities did not require it, but parking requirements would be superfluous if they did not increase the parking supply. This increased cost is then passed on to all shoppers. For example, parking requirements raise the price of food at a grocery store for everyone, regardless of how they travel. People who are too poor to own a car pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store.

It’s one of those issues where the evidence is clear, but it may take a generation for professionals, bureaucrats, and politicians to pay attention to the evidence, reach the right conclusions, and act on them. Why is this so hard?

May 2016 in Review

3 most frightening stories

  • There are scary and seemingly reckless confrontations going on between U.S. and Russian planes and ships in the Indian Ocean. And yet, it is bizarrely humorous when real life imitates Top Gun.
  • The situation in Venezuela may be a preview of what the collapse of a modern country looks like.
  • Obama went to Hiroshima, where he said we can “chart a course that leads to the destruction” of nuclear weapons, only not in his lifetime. Obama out.

3 most hopeful stories

3 most interesting stories

  • I try not to let this blog get too political, really I do. But in an election season I just can’t help myself. This is a blog about the future of civilization, and the behavior of U.S. political, bureaucratic, and military elites obviously has some bearing on that. In May I mused on whether the U.S. could possibly be suffering from “too much democracy“, Dick Cheney, equality and equal opportunity, and what’s wrong with Pennsylvania. And yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, TRUMP IS A FASCIST!
  • The world has about a billion dogs.
  • It turns out coffee grounds may not make good compost.

Donald Shoup

I can never get enough Donald Shoup. Here are some policies he suggested at a recent talk in Philadelphia:

  • parking benefit districts, where parking revenues go to street and pedestrian improvements, so people can see what they are paying for
  • parking permit blacklists – essentially, people who move into new buildings without parking are not allowed to apply for city parking permits. This might seem unfair, but in my neighborhood in Philadelphia one way existing residents are able to hold up new development is by raising parking concerns with their elected politician. So this could be politically practical in that it might remove one of the sticking points between long-established residents and newcomers. At least, alleviating this one concern might allow people to move on and tackle others. It would force the new developments to either provide onsite parking, or just develop in places and ways where people are not going to demand as much parking. You could drop any minimum parking requirements and let the market decide.
  • Parking cash-out – employees who choose not to use company-paid parking can opt for a cash payment instead. California has done this apparently and it makes sense to me. It removes a perverse incentive for some people to choose driving to work over other options.
  • build transit passes into University fees

more on Tesla and buttock thrusting

Mr. Money Mustache has taken a ride in a Tesla. He says a number of things that were news to me. First, he says the car in question, the $75,000 Tesla S, was the best-selling luxury car in the United States in 2015, claiming over 25% of market share. It’s electric, powered by a rechargeable battery. You can drive about 3 hours and then have to stop to charge for 30 minutes. Tesla has built a network of thousands of free, solar-powered chargers “in the U.S. Europe, China, and elsewhere”. And this car is self-driving right now on the highway, although a person has to take control in the city. All these were things I expected to see commercially widespread in maybe 5-10 years, with skeptics saying 20+ years, but I had no idea they were widespread and commercially available (okay, to be honest, available to the rich) right now. Prices will come down.

He goes on to talk about how self-driving, solar-powered cars could change cities:

Although only multimillionaires should even consider buying a car this expensive, there’s nothing inherently expensive about electric car technology in general. Almost half of the cost of this car is in the battery, and the price of that technology has been dropping like a stone – down by over 80% in just the last 10 years. Tesla just announced their next car, the Model 3, which is almost as good by any reasonable standard and will sell for $35,000. General Motors has a competing model called the Bolt that will be ready much sooner, and all the other car companies are scrambling to catch up…

But the real way to win the car game is not to play it. The best life is spent not sitting on your buttocks within the confines of a car, but using the fine muscles within that curvaceous piece of engineering to thrust your legs downward as you provide your own propulsion. And that’s why I’m excited about what Tesla is doing.

They started deliberately at the top of the market by making prestigious and fun toys for rich people, because we’ll buy anything. But in the long run, the cars are destined to become ever-cheaper, and to be bought by the million by fleet companies like Uber. With cheap autonomous driving at our fingertips, you can summon a car for the time you need it, and then it can promptly go off and serve somebody else. Thus, won’t need to consume our cities with large parking lots, and we won’t need huge garages at home. It might even replace the expensive hassle of local-scale public transportation that we’ve struggled with for so long.

I for one am looking forward to hearing friends and neighbors fret less about parking, get out there and thrust those buttocks!

autonomous vehicles displacing traditional vehicles

If self-driving cars come into their own, will they reduce the total amount of vehicles on the road, or will everybody who owns a car now just buy a self-driving one? This study set in Austin says that each self-driving car will displace 9 normal cars. So even if the same or more cars are in motion at any given time, there will be a lot less land required for parking. That land can be used for something else – housing, commerce, habitat, recreation, gardening/farming, or some combination. Bring it on!