To Reduce Driving, Put a Real Price on Parking

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Roger Valdez of Worldchanging
examines whether making parking more difficult can actually reduce
driving levels — and recalls the frustration he used to feel before he
was able to jettison his car:

9972_largearticlephoto.jpgPhoto by functoruser via Flickr.

[F]rankly,
one of the things I enjoy the most about not having a car is being free
from the hassle of finding a place to park it.

If there is one thing that motivated me to change my driving
habits it was the increasing challenge of parking. I used to think that
there was a conspiracy to eliminate, one by one, every last available
on-street parking spot.  There actually is a plan.
A
major part of Seattle’s strategy to deal with parking is to reduce
demand by encouraging people to choose convenient options for getting
around besides cars. And beyond my intuition that it works there is
some evidence to back up the idea.

According to a review of regional modeling studies done a few years ago by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute,
parking has a significant impact on reducing VMT.  Their review showed
that land use and transit policies have very little effect on VMT by
themselves unless they include complementary policies that put a price
on parking. Free or cheap parking tends to support more driving.

We’ve also got a post from Veracity‘s
"Year with Jane Jacobs" project, which is examining Jacobs’s ideas from
every angle. Today, the subject is how Jacobs viewed the Interstate
Highway System as part of a shortsighted post-Depression drive to
prioritize full employment above all other considerations. Interesting
stuff, especially in these times of stimulus. Also, Trains for America looks at the latest attacks on Amtrak, and Copenhagenize urges Londoners to bike the Tube strike.

  • Speaking of this, I helped a lady get from Caltrain to Union square last night on the 45. She said that he wasn’t familiar with getting there without a car, but she chose to ride BART (she got on Caltrain by mistake at Millbrae, I guess that backs up her claim of never taking public transportation) because she didn’t want to have to deal with parking her car.

    I tried to help as much as I could because I knew I had to make her trip as easy as possible or she’d go back to driving and putting up with parking. Hopefully I was successful and she will give PT another try.

  • how funny. I knew Roger when I lived in Seattle, and I remember hearing about that parking garage in my old neighborhood….

  • Mikesonn,
    That was really nice of you. It’s a pity (maybe a tragedy?) that she got on Caltrain instead of Bart, because Bart would have put her only a block or two away from Union Square, and then she could have gone home and told her friends how simple and easy it was to take Bart to the city. (Gosh, is the signage at Millbrae that bad that people would confuse Caltrain for Bart?) At least she’ll go home saying there are nice, helpful young men in the city.

  • Thank taomom, I wasn’t saying it to bait for compliments. Just saying that those who are transit advocates out there need to help make it as simple and easy as possible for those who appear to be lost or first timers.

    Yeah, I was a bit surprised she got on the wrong SYSTEM myself, but told her to take BART home and that it was very easy to find from where she was going to be. Hopefully the trip home will be nice and easy and she’ll have learned the BART/Caltrain difference and that it can be an easy and enjoyable ride.

  • Susan King

    On the true costs of parking: SF real estate is worth millions per acre, and it amazes me that there is still the expectation that we give this space away rent free in the form of free parking. We are in a massive budget crunch on every level (CA’s budget, in part, due to our Guv’s eliminating and only partially re-instating the Vehicle License Fee), and parking fees that are tied to demand, and raised so they more closely reflect the true costs of driving should be considered a prime source of revenue. City leaders have rebuffed recent attempts to take advantage of this option.

    To whit: commuters from outside SF clog parking spaces in Golden Gate Park and Marina Green, where parking is virtually free all day (very little enforcement of the four hour time limit), yet our Mayor removed this potential revenue source from Rec and Park’s budget. Rec and Park, by the way, has laid off 80% of their Recreation Dept staffing, so parking is free, but the clubhouses in City parks will be shuttered most of the summer.

    MTA staff were similarly over ridden by MTA and Board of Supes (who approve the MTA budget) with their proposal to raise parking fees and increase hours (weeknights till 10, Sundays till 6) instead of raising Muni fares and cutting service. So we have a more expensive, less reliable transit system, but parking remains free every eve and all day on Sunday. This is not the way to encourage people to take public transit.

    Furthermore, our City suffers when potential revenue is lost and vital services have to be even more deeply cut as a result.