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Parklets for the Suburbs?

Sustainable real estate developer, A-P Hurd asks some fundamental questions about the on-street parking in her Seattle neighborhood and concludes that residents should be able to do more than park cars with the spots in front of their homes.
October 17, 2012, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Hurd writes, "Most of us in single family neighborhoods have a proprietary relationship with the street parking spot in front of their house. We think: "someone is parked in MY spot."

Generally speaking, the street space in front of homes is not owned by the homeowner - but that doesn't deter A-P Hurd, who is also a Runstad Fellow in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington from exploring possibilities

Living on a narrow street, she asks, "Why is the city in the business of paving and maintaining three lanes of street when only one of them is actually moving cars?" (See her photo of her street in article).

Her next questions stem from the observation that 'curb lanes' are used for nothing but car storage, even when the homes may have driveways and carports or garages.

  • "Why should local zoning require on-site parking when hardly any one is using their on-site parking for parking?"
  • "The most interesting question: If we think on-site parking has better uses than parking, could we elect to use our street parking for better uses as well?"
  • If the resident has "zero, or even one car per household, you're not really allowed to do anything else with that space, so you're losing out relative to your multi-car neighbors." Is that fair?

"Given that people do have this (proprietary) relationship with the parking spot in front of their house, what if we enabled them to do something other than park there? Some compact neighborhoods have taken to putting bike corrals or patios in parking spots..." (photos shown of Mission District parklet, San Francisco and Melrose Market Bike Corral, Seattle).

Hurd doesn't insist on parklets - she suggests 'monetizing' the parking, which is what "The High Price of Free Parking" author, Donald Shoup, defines as a Parking Benefit District. And technology has already jumped on this monetization - there's an 'app' for that.

Bottom line: "There is wasted space in the "parking" lanes of our single family neighborhoods. Let's build some frameworks that open up these spaces to human ingenuity, and see if we can't get more value out of them."

Hurd is also the "author of a recent book of practical strategies to get to better cities and stronger economies using less energy: The Carbon Efficient City."

Thanks to The Atlantic Cities newsletters

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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