U.S. cities rethink wisdom of 50s-era parking standards (et tu Phoenix?)

[Source: Sarah Karush, Associated Press] — Alice and Jeff Speck didn’t have a car and didn’t want one.  But District of Columbia zoning regulations required them to carve out a place to park one at the house they were building.  It would have eaten up precious space on their odd-shaped lot and marred the aesthetics of their neighborhood, dominated by historic row houses.  The Specks succeeded in getting a waiver, even though it took nine months.

Like nearly all U.S. cities, D.C. has requirements for off-street parking.  Whenever anything new is built — be it a single-family home, an apartment building, a store, or a doctor’s office — a minimum number of parking spaces must be included.  The spots at the curb don’t count: These must be in a garage, a surface lot, or a driveway.

D.C. is now considering scrapping those requirements — part of a growing national trend.  Officials hope that offering the freedom to forgo parking will lead to denser, more walkable, transit-friendly development.  Opponents say making parking more scarce will only make the city less hospitable.  Commuters like Randy Michael of Catharpin, VA complain they are already forced to circle for hours in some neighborhoods.  “Today I had an 11:30 meeting and I had to plan an extra hour just to park” said Michael, 49.  It ended up taking him 40 minutes to find a metered spot.

Advocates counter that parking is about more than drivers’ convenience; it can profoundly affect the look and feel of a city.  “Do you want to look like San Francisco or Los Angeles?” asked Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.”  “New York or Phoenix?” (Shoup prefers San Francisco and New York — hard to park in, but highly walkable.)  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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