The Insanity Behind Urban Parking Requirements

Los Angeles Magazine ran a nice profile of UCLA Professor Don Shoup, pioneer of the parking reform movement to eliminate off-street parking requirements and modernize parking meters to charge performance-based prices.  In Shoup’s vision, local governments would dedicate any parking revenue increases to improving the neighborhood from which they came.  Few other reforms could do more to enhance the sustainability and convenience of urban design and discourage unnecessary driving.  The article describes the history of parking requirements and how two obscure manuals influenced urban planners across the country to impose boilerplate parking requirements on all types of new developments, regardless of their location or transit-accessibility:

Urban planners, says Shoup, have no theory, use no hard data, when choosing parking requirements; they consult the manuals to decide. Every business imaginable is found within: Funeral parlors? A basic formula is eight parking spaces plus one for each hearse. Convents? One-tenth of a space per nun is fine. Adult bookstores? One space for every prospective patron plus one for the cashier holding the longest shift (no mention of the flasher in the alley). Public swimming pools? One space for every 2,500 gallons of water on the premises, chlorine included.

California Legislators should consider this history when they once again consider a parking reform bill this year to reduce unnecessary parking minimums on transit-oriented projects. The “do-over” of AB 710, sponsored last year by the California Infill Builders Association, will meet head-on with opposition from the California League of Cities. The League was fond of arguing that the bill would impose “one size fits all” requirements on cities to reduce parking minimums in infill areas.  Shoup’s research, however, demonstrates that the true “one size fits all” problem is the parking requirements themselves, mindlessly copied and pasted into local zoning codes without regard for transit-accessibility and urban form.

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