Progressive Political Support Sought for Parking Reforms

Despite mounting evidence that parking requirements subsidize cars, raise the cost of housing, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, few policymakers have strongly advocated to end them.

2 minute read

January 24, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

South Mall Parking Lot

Scott Alderfer / Twitter

While housing advocates praise Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's move to call on city council candidates seeking her endorsement to fight to end single-family zoning, Nicole A. Murray calls on progressives like AOC to also address another component of zoning code that has far-reaching effects on housing affordability, density, and transit use: minimum parking requirements.

Originally pushed by the likes of The American Auto Association and Automotive Safety Foundation (which is associated with “automotive and allied industries“) to accommodate the influx cars in the post-war years, the parking requirements enshrined in the zoning law that has guided city policy since 1961 have mandated residential and commercial storage space for thousands of vehicles, regardless of proximity to (current or future) transit, the transportation needs and demographics of residents, or even local air quality or traffic-safety statistics.

Murray provides a list of reasons why mandatory parking requirements undermine affordable housing and public transit use. These include the high cost of building parking spots(which gets added on to the cost of housing units), the massive amount of space required for parking, and the added congestion that free parking encourages. They also raise costs for renters and carless transit users who don't benefit from parking. As Murray puts it, "Robert Moses couldn’t dream up a better deal to keep mass motoring alive." If Progressives want to make cities more livable and equitable, Murray argues, addressing parking regulations is an essential step.

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