Cities Rethinking the Value of Parking

The effort to reclaim public and private spaces from car storage had some setbacks since the days of al fresco and open streets in the first years of Covid-19. But widespread parking reforms and new evidence shows the public is rethinking parking.

2 minute read

October 17, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


New York City Open Streets

EQRoy / Shutterstock

The empty streets and suffering business that defined the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic also prompted a fresh look at the public realm, inspiring many cities and communities to reclaim and transform some of the spaces previously reserved for automobile storage into spaces for other activities, such as play, dining, and exercise. 

The programs that recovered parking spaces for more active, human uses retreated, to a degree, in the ensuing months and years: while some cities have made outdoor dining programs and parklets permanent, others have reopened streets to cars, rescinded permitting programs, and dialed back ambitions for a post-parking future.

Oliver Moore, writing for the Globe and Mail, makes the case that despite these setbacks for the cause, "the broader pattern is a gradual dismantling of the decades-long assumption that more parking is inherently better." Moore points to the parking reforms underway in Canadian cities, first in Edmonton, followed by more than a dozen other cities as support for the argument (the parking reform trend is also obvious in the United States).

"Perhaps the biggest recent shift in attitudes around parking has been the recognition of just how much value may be forgone by using desirable urban real estate as car storage," writes Moore. A recent report assigns financial value to the choice between parking or other uses of urban space. 

Researchers for an association of local business improvement areas estimated that customers spent $181-million in the repurposed parking spaces in the summer of 2021. The same spaces would have generated $3.7-million in parking revenue, according to the local parking authority, and even that modest figure assumed prepandemic levels of demand.

Moore's conclusion, with more examples and and appeals to authority, included in the source article (which requires an email to read for free): people are slowly waking up to the idea that parking doesn't play the same role in cities as it did in the 1950s.

Monday, October 10, 2022 in Globe and Mail

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