Legislating the Waste of Land

Surveys of parking use in multifamily buildings across Cascadia have quantified the extent to which parking requirements have 'force fed' more spaces into projects than developers would provide based on demand. Alan Durning examines the implications.

"For more than half a century, cities have mandated oversized quotas of on-site parking at stores, offices, housesapartments and condominiums, and all other types of new buildings—even bars," writes Durning in the fifth post in Sightline's "Parking? Lots!" series. "The result has been millions of parking stalls that stand empty even at their hour of peak demand. No doubt about it: we have legislated the waste of land."

"British Columbia and the Northwest states of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have 2 million apartments, condominiums, and other dwellings in multifamily buildings, according to data from BC Stats and the US Census Bureau. For each of these dwellings, if the region has an extra 0.4 parking spaces, that’s 800,000 empties. Each space likely occupies at least 325 square feet of pavement, including access and maneuvering room. All told, that’s 260 million square feet of superfluous parking: more than 9 square miles of vacancy that, unlike mall lots, isn’t even useful for driver’s ed. It is, with apologies to T.S. Eliot, the waste land."

"Remember: that’s just the extra parking spots—the ones idle around 2 a.m.—and it’s only the excess parking at apartment and condo buildings," he adds. "It ignores the far-more numerous ones at single-family homes, on the street, at offices, factories, churches, schools, park-and-ride lots—and the malls where my kids have been practicing."

Full Story: Wide Open Spaces

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