The dominance of parking has devastated once-vibrant downtowns by turning large areas into uninviting paved spaces that contribute to urban heating and stormwater runoff. It has driven up housing costs, since developers pass on the cost of providing parking to tenants and homebuyers. And it has perpetuated people’s reliance on driving by making walking, biking and public transit far less attractive, even for the shortest trips. Why, then, does the U.S. have so much of it?
Local governments often rely on traffic impact analyses to review and approve projects, charge impact fees, and ask developers to go above and beyond the basic requirements. These traffic studies, however, are often based on “junk science,” and may not hold up in courts much longer, according to a new Viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
More studies over the years have shown us that the price and availability of parking has a strong influence on people’s travel choices. A ten-year-old study from New York, for instance, called attention to the influence of parking availability on people’s decision to drive to work. Several years later, I led a study connecting long-term parking growth to citywide increases in car commuting. Now a new study by a cohort of researchers across North America, including myself, makes that connection even clearer by drawing a direct line from residential parking ratios to household VMT.
Over time, transportation demand management has shifted from mainly reducing single occupancy commute trips to something more encompassing, a larger shift toward active and shared transportation for all types of trips made by all types of people.
There is an important growing consensus around the need for achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The White House, Ford Motor Company, and many state and local governments seem to be on board. Yet the transportation sector—still an afterthought in some bold plans—may be our biggest challenge.
Last year saw a major shift from in-person work to teleworking, especially for white-collar workers. Although teleworking did not extend to essential workers—many of whom were seen commuting via public transit—it did lead to a brief period with no rush hours and empty roads.
Traffic impact assessments (TIAs) are commonly used by local governments to ensure that new developments do not cause excessive delay on nearby roads. There is growing cause for concern, however, that these tools have unintended consequences such as increasing transportation emissions and driving up housing costs.
Transportation agencies in California and Minnesota made major advancements, planning for VMT reductions and mitigations as a part of their sustainability and climate change plans.
After eliminating its minimum parking requirements in 2017, the city of Buffalo, New York, has seen a notable drop in the growth of new parking, driven mostly by changes in mixed-use developments.
Another deadly impact of COVID: even with fewer cars on the road, traffic deaths increased by 8% to more than 42,000 in total and deaths per mile driven increased by a staggering 24%. The solution is not more congestion, but instead safer streets.