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John Petro

Counting All the Parking Spots

The New York Daily News has been running a series on what it calls a “chronic and severe” parking shortage in some New York City neighborhoods.

But in a city where most households don’t even own a car, it is worth asking, “Just how much parking does the city need?”

The problem is city officials don’t even know how much parking exists in the city. And if you don’t know how much you’ve got, you can’t really plan for current or future demand.

Today, Streetsblog reports that San Francisco became the first major city in the country to complete a comprehensive count of the number of parking spaces that are publicly available.

"Most cities have very little knowledge of their parking inventory," said Rachel Weinberger, a planning professor at the University of Pennsylvania and former transportation policy adviser to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Weinberger called the parking census a "tremendous effort."

"Without the basic knowledge [city planners] have no basis on which to make decisions about future supply policy, about current management policy or even about how their transportation systems are working."

San Francisco found that there are 441,000 parking spaces in the city for 360,000 households, even though a quarter of all households don’t have a car. The impact of all that parking is huge: the city’s 280,000 on-street spaces take up an area larger than Central Park.

In New York, we simply don’t know how much parking we have and whether it is more or less than we need. To properly plan for an additional one million residents by 2030, we need to consider the impact that parking has on automobile ownership. The more parking that is available, the more likely residents are to drive. Traffic congestion, air quality, environmental sustainability, and the livability of the city’s neighborhoods depends on whether or not the city is able to accommodate this new growth while reducing the rate of automobile ownership in the city.

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Posted at 3:52 PM, Mar 30, 2010 in Urban Affairs
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