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John Petro

Do Away With Parking Minimums

A new report from nine environmental, urban planning, and transit advocacy groups calls on the Bloomberg administration to revise New York City's parking policies in the five boroughs. Suburbanizing the City: How New York City Parking Requirements Lead to More Driving takes a critical look current policies, which include residential parking minimums for new developments in most of the City. These policies require developers to construct parking spaces when constructing new housing.

In a city as dense as New York, off-street parking minimums do not make sense. First, there is space. New York is the most dense city in the US with some of the highest real estate values anywhere. We need land for housing, new commercial development, and open space and parks. To use up valuable real estate for parking facilities, even if some of these facilities are underground (an expensive option), is not appropriate for the urban nature of New York, San Francisco, central Chicago, and the urban neighborhoods of Washington, DC.

Second, there is the effects on car-ownership, congestion, Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), and carbon emissions. The report estimates that new development will increase car ownership n the city by between 113,000 and 178,000 new automobiles, add as many as 1.1 billion VMT per year, and add 450 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

Third, parking adds to the cost of housing. San Francisco estimates that the cost of a parking space is between $20,000 and $50,000 for a unit, depending upon the neighborhood. As the report points out, minimum parking requirements are particularly absurd for affordable housing developments. "Requiring any parking at all makes little sense in neighborhoods where fewer than 20% of households can afford to own cars."

Lastly, by increasing the amount of parking, and thereby the amount of car use, parking minimums erode what makes living in dense cities special.

"One of the most attractive aspects of dense cities like New York is the easy access to amenities and destinations. This accessibility has made New York City increasingly attractive to more affluent households, which outside of New York City have high levels of car ownership and use, but who own vehicles at a much lower rate in Manhattan and other dense parts of the city. The more the city tries to accommodate car ownership through residential parking requirements, the more spread out the city becomes, the less accessible its amenities are and the more congested its streets become. This decreases the attractiveness of the city... New York is one of the few cities in the country where the density of land use and the robustness of the transit system make living car-free a feasible option.""

The Mayor and the Planning Department should pay close attention to this report. Current parking policies, both residential and commercial, do not reflect the goals that the Mayor laid out in PlaNYC, the city's sustainability plan. In addition to reforming residential parking policies, the city should also be looking at the proliferation of commercial parking spaces in the Outer Boroughs and in Manhattan (also here).

The city should also be looking at parking policies such as San Francisco's SFPark.

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Posted at 4:28 PM, Aug 18, 2008 in Cities | New York | Urban Affairs
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