Cars and Vibrant Cities: Opposites That Don't Attract

New research out of the University of Connecticut shows that making room for parking in cities only leads to more cars, and less people and economic development.
February 14, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Building on research from the University of Pennsylvania that validated the idea that more space for cars in dense cities translates to less space for people, Chris McCahill and Norman Garrick "found that cities with higher rates of driving have fewer people – a difference of more than 4,000 people per square mile for each 10 percent change in automobile use," in work published recently in Urban Design International.

The authors look at the histories of six cities that bolstered their parking beginning in the 1960s to "support economic development and help their cities compete with the surrounding suburbs."

"If the function of parking in these places was to enable growth and development, the data suggests they were abysmal failures," note the authors. "The number of people and jobs dropped by as much as 15 percent and the median family incomes fell by 20 to 30 percent in some places.  Today, these places still struggle to compete in their regions."

However, in the three cities that changed course in the 1980s to limit the provision of parking, the authors found a different outcome. "Even as they cut back on surface parking, the number of people and jobs climbed upward, as did incomes. Less parking in these places has meant the urban fabric can be stitched back together and there is more space for shops, restaurants, jobs and other things that make cities great."

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Published on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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