Opportunity Cost

Opportunity Cost

Sometimes data and reason aren’t enough to change people’s minds. For all the level headed arguments against parking minimums, about how current policy restricts housing supply and drives up costs, and about the unfairness of hidden subsidies for drivers at the expense of everyone else, the knee-jerk, emotional response resisting change will always be a powerful force. Those wishing to affect positive change have not only to construct reasoned arguments for it, but to tug on heartstrings as well. That’s the kind of appeal that The Sightline Institute made recently in the article “Ugly by Law”. It’s the kind of appeal that Park(ing) Day makes every year.  By seeing a vision of what could be, people will also view the world as it exists with new eyes. Many have become numb to car dominated landscapes and lifestyles. Providing a clear vision of what could have been and what we are missing out on, will bring to life the better world that will be if the space dedicated to cars can be right-sized. Showing images and examples of transformation from an on the ground, human perspective will be an important part of helping others to see that what exists now is not an inevitability, but a choice. What does our (institutionalized) obsession with cars cost us?

While the above graphic features the view from my apartment in Bogotá, Colombia, I hope it will have some universal appeal.

High resolution version

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Parking for High Schools

high school

This is the final installment of a five part series documenting parking minimums across the United States. Future graphs will explore parking minimums on a more local and conceptual level and will eventually include on-street parking policy as well.

There is no consensus on how to calculate minimum parking for high schools. The methods are so varied that I ended up leaving several cities off of this graphic in an effort to simplify comparisons. Still, despite my best efforts to use current national averages to build a fair basis of comparison, the numbers shown and the corresponding ranks of each city represent only one possible scenario and could shift significantly if different assumptions were used about student and staff population, built area, and/or the number of classrooms. The real lesson from this graph is the haphazardness with which minimums are calculated and the huge consequences for cities like Mesa that get it horribly wrong. Providing plentiful free parking to high school students gets them hooked on driving from an early age. It sets the expectation that driving is a rite of passage into adulthood and that any other method of getting around is immature or inferior. In a country with an obesity epidemic, that doesn’t seem to be the best lesson to teach. In a setting where equality should be a virtue, it provides a benefit to wealthier students, who have the means to drive a car, with funds that could go towards providing students (including those less well off) with a higher quality education.

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Parking Requirements for Office Buildings

office

This is part three of the five part series documenting parking requirements for various uses across the United States. Much of what was said about the restaurant graph applies here as well. Office building requirements are somewhat less dramatic in both size and variation but not by much. In comparing the three graphs that I have done so far, it is starting to become obvious that there is great inconsistency not only between cities but within each individual city’s code. Compare for instance the restaurant requirement versus the office requirement for both Kansas City and Memphis. In examining the restaurant graph, one might assume that Memphis has by far the less onerous minimums. However, in the office graphic above, the roles are strikingly reversed. Other cities are more consistent. Seattle and Milwaukee are good examples.
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Parking Requirements for Restaurants

restaurant 2500sf

This is part two of the five part series documenting parking minimums for various land uses in cities across the United States. I found the graphs above to be quite stunning and while I was working on them I often had to remind myself that these are not worst case scenarios, these are minimums. Much more so than the previous entry on apartments, this set of graphics illuminates the huge amount of real estate that city governments require to be set aside for parking. The spacial mismatch between cars and people is jarring, and it becomes obvious that creating a humane, walkable urban environment is totally impossible so long as these ordinances stand.
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Residential Parking Requirements

apartments

This is the first of a five part series. My intention is to demonstrate the prevalence, scale, and inconsistency of parking requirements across the United States for various land uses. This will likely be the least dramatic of the series which will include requirements for restaurants, offices, schools, and places of worship. Even still, this graph starts to reveal regional differences. It also raises questions such as: why would a two bedroom apartment in Omaha need twice the parking as the same apartment in Kansas City, MO? I found the bar graph particularly interesting because cities seem to fall into one of three categories:

1) cities that require one parking space per apartment regardless of size

2) cities that require about one and a half parking spaces per apartment regardless of size

3) cities that have variable requirements but have the most onerous standards for multi-bedroom units

It would seem to me that cities in the first two categories might have a higher prevalence of multi-bedroom units than cities in the third category since the cost of parking could remain constant. One would think that especially in the case of Fort Worth, there would be very few three bedroom apartments. Might there also be an effect on the percentage of families with children that live in multi-unit dwellings? Perhaps young people would be more likely to live with roommates in cities that do not vary their requirements. It would be interesting to test these hypotheses but I’m not sure how to go about that.

Finally, the plans at the bottom of the infographic demonstrate just how big all that parking really is, while hinting at the opportunity cost of building it. Could the person sitting on the couch have afforded an additional bedroom or study if not for the parking? Maybe a balcony or garden space could have replaced the pavement…

An editable PDF version is available here. I invite you to use it freely but ask that you attribute the work.

Updated: 31 March 2013 to reflect more recent source on Dallas