11/11/10

Big Deal Changes on Parking Minimums Coming to DC?

I just read Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking, which goes to great length the detail the problems with parking minimum requirements. Aside from being arbitraraily decided, parking minimums distort the pricing incentives for driving, physically uglify urban spaces and drive up the cost of housing. That's why it would be a really big deal if DC scrapped minimum parking requirements:
Parking minimums would disappear in most cases. In neighborhood commercial corridors or low-density residential areas without good transit, commercial, institutional, or multi-family residential buildings would still need to provide some parking. But any area with good transit service, or high-density areas, would have no requirements.
For bicycle parking, new buildings over a certain size would have to include some outdoor visitor bicycle parking (like bike racks), and for non-residential buildings, also a certain amount of indoor, secure bicycle parking along with shower facilities. Access to parking and showers is one of the most significant obstacles to people being able to choose to bike to work.
The parking location proposal would disallow parking between buildings and a street, such as in strip malls like the H Street Connection. This would have ensured that Walgreens designed the somewhat more pedestrian-oriented store they ultimately built at Van Ness instead of the very suburban style one they originally pushed for.
Market Urbanism is pleased, but could be happier:
Beyond that, however, the plan falls short of the market urbanist ideal. To misquote the internet meme, “planners gonna plan” – not content to simply dismantle the previous density-forbidden regimes, the planners are trying to stay relevant by instituting a few density-forcing rules. Parking maximums would come into effect (total lot size, for example, would be capped at 500 or 1000 spaces), and new parking lots wouldn’t be allowed adjacent to sidewalks, a reversal of the traditional setback requirements which encourage the parking-in-front designs so common in America. And while I’m sure in many of these cases the maximums will be set higher than people want to build anyway, GGW points out at least a few proposed projects that would have too much parking under the guidelines.
With all the discussion of the Height Act lately (here, here, here, here, and an extended back and forth here and here) and its implications for density, it's nice to see that planning officials are looking at other ways to increase urbanism in DC that don't involve Congress having to repeal a 100 year old law. All we need now is a congestion tax (never gonna happen) and performance parking (needs to be expanded) and DC will become the most progressive urban place in America. Still no vote in Congress though.

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