Parking Perspectives

In New York City, urban planners are considering new rules which would make it more difficult for developers to construct parking garages, the Wall Street Journal reports.  Currently, parking garages are prohibited if they are expected to increase congestion:

The current process requires developers to show that their garage won’t adversely affect traffic congestion in the immediate neighborhood. Some transportation advocates want the city to take a broader view when considering the issue of congestion, which could make it harder for developers to get permits.

Parking is a complex issue in planing regulation.  On the one hand, some urban critics argue that subsidized parking facilitates urban sprawl by allowing people to easily rely on cars for transportation without bearing the full cost of driving and parking.  On the other, privately-managed, unsubsidized parking garages offer a relatively efficient way for commuters to park in high-density areas while better internalizing the cost of this behavior.

As New York City may move toward limiting parking garages, others are celebrating their contributions to city life.  Baltimore author Shannon McDonald has recently written The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Form, exploring the architectural and utilitarian contributions of American garages.  She points out that in addition to serving the need for storing vehicles in high-density places, entrepreneurs have recently developed new uses for garage roofs including green roof parks, swimming pools, and solar energy plants.

On the Diane Rehm Show with McDonald, Robert Puentes of the Metropolitan Policy Project at the Brookings Institute points out the if municipalities broadened the role of the private sector in parking garage provisions, they could unleash incentives for entrepreneurs to improve the mix of uses of existing garages.