Why Too Many Parking Lots Are Bad for Cities

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Among urban designers, it’s common knowledge that free parking isn’t as good of a deal as it sounds. UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup, in fact, has spent his entire career railing against it. But for most drivers, free parking seems like a boon. Why should you have to pay for it?

As shared by CityLab, the Canadian city of Ottawa has a helpful animated explanation as to why businesses should not be required to provide a set amount of parking spaces. Many cities have outdated zoning laws that require a certain amount of parking depending on a building’s estimated users. This creates unwalkable, barren concrete stretches of cities that aren’t pleasant to hang out in. Consider how hard it is to find parking in New York City, arguably America’s best city to explore on foot, and one with a vibrant street culture. Now think about Houston (seen in the photo above), a city infamous for a downtown that’s almost more parking lot than city.

Ideally, towns should be creating neighborhoods that feel like places you want to spend time in, rather than places you want to abandon as soon as your workday is over. Plenty of cities have these areas, but they’re usually in older neighborhoods whose design wouldn’t pass contemporary zoning regulations. Creating walkable and bikable cities isn't just good for reducing traffic, it’s good for business too, as the many cities currently revamping their downtown shopping areas can attest. You can fit a whole lot more stores in a block with only street parking, versus one in which each of those businesses has a dedicated parking lot. Plus, if people can walk around, they’re more likely to pop into a shop. It’s good for affordable housing, too. You can build a whole lot more apartments if you don’t need a parking space for every resident (even those that don’t own cars).

Get a primer in the video below:

[h/t CityLab]

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