There is a great article published yesterday on Salon.com about the North American compulsion to build parking lots. It includes a look at “minimum parking requirement” legislation and how many American cities are starting to fight back against the gutting of their dense neighbourhoods for parking. Judging by the amount of comments on last week’s post about the Toronto Parking Authority’s decision to level the Matador for 20 parking spots at Dovercourt at College, people here are still a bit shell-shocked that this is happening in Toronto — with the local councillor’s support — a place we thought knew better. Some excerpts from the article:
To Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, parking requirements are a bane of the country. “Parking requirements create great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment,” he writes in his book, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”
It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. As parking lots proliferate, they decrease density and increase sprawl. In 1961, when the city of Oakland, Calif., started requiring apartments to have one parking space per apartment, housing costs per apartment increased by 18 percent, and urban density declined by 30 percent. It’s a pattern that’s spread across the country.
In cities, the parking lots themselves are black holes in the urban fabric, making city streets less walkable. One landscape architect compares them to “cavities” in the cityscape. Downtown Albuquerque, N.M., now devotes more land to parking than all other land uses combined. Half of downtown Buffalo, N.Y., is devoted to parking. And one study of Olympia, Wash., found that parking and driveways occupied twice as much land as the buildings that they served.
Read the rest — it goes on to list the various environmental problems associated with parking lots, and the link between more parking leading to more cars leading to more parking leading to…(Dovercourt?)
Thanks to jeffreygeoffrey for pointing us to the article.