Parking Is King in Kansas City
Daniel Herriges' recent Strong Towns article is a part of a longer-term series about the history of Kansas City, Missouri, and the relationship between its development and economy. Up for discussion: "total embrace of the automotive, commuter culture wrought upon the city's historic fabric. And that is parking," writes Herriges.
An animated map of the land uses of Kansas City shows the extent to which parking has taken over large swaths of public space. As planners know well, parking mandates the silent and seemingly invisible force shaping cities and determining lot size and building type.
Prominent in the map are large red arrows pointing to parking structures. Herriges explains the reason for the gargantuan amount of surface parking in downtown Kansas City, describing the lack of demand for downtown real estate as the suburbs became popular in the late 20th century:
If you wanted to speculate on some downtown Kansas City land by buying it when it was cheap and waiting—even for decades—to sell to a developer, slapping a parking lot on that land was an easy way to make a bit of income in the interim. This pattern exists across North America: many of these lots are privately owned and, while they may bring in more than enough revenue to pay the low property taxes on unimproved asphalt, the point isn't really the parking operation. The point is land speculation.
There is more land dedicated to concrete and parking than buildings in Kansas City—over twice as much. Herriges says we need to look at data to identify inefficiencies and understand the fiscal impact of haphazard development.