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How Is a Parking Space Different From a Toilet?

112238400_82425abf91.jpgDon’t plan for parking spaces the way
you plan for these. (Photo: Admit One
via Flickr)

Here’s the analogy of the day from the Streetsblog Network: Parking
spaces are like toilets — at least for conventional planners.

That line comes from Reinventing
Urban Transport
, and while it’s good for a laugh, it yields several
important insights on closer examination.

Paul Barter, the blog’s author, has been thinking about the
parallels between parking spaces and toilets for several months now.
Here are some of the similarities that he notes:

    1. Both are treated as an essential ancillary service that every building will need.
    2. It is usually assumed that no fee (or a token fee at mostperhaps) will be charged. Remember, we are talking about theconventional approach to parking policy here. Some jurisdictions evenban fees for such facilities.
    3. There is thus little direct return on the investments. So the private sector would under-provide them unless forced to. To the rescue come regulations in the form of parking or toilet requirements inplanning or building codes.

But as Barter goes on to argue, planning for parking the way you do
for toilets is a fundamentally flawed approach. Here’s how he starts
breaking it down:

    1. It is much more difficult to predict parking demand than topredict toilet demand (which itself is not easy). The human need toexpel waste changes little (except when beer is consumed in largequantities perhaps). The demand for parking can change enormously overtime as car ownership changes and as mode choices shift.
    2. Everyone needs toilets. Only car users need parking. (Butconventional parking policy assumes that ‘car users’ = ‘everyone’.)
    3. Parking takes a lot more space than toilets. Forgive me forstating the obvious here. It is common for American suburban officeparks to be required to have as much parking space as they have floorspace for other uses. Buildings in Kuala Lumpur…or Bangkok often have athird or more of their floors devoted to parking. Parking standardsoften dramatically limit the density that is feasible on a site.

There’s a lot more to his original post, and Barter is looking for
more insights to help develop the idea — which he finds has been quite
useful in presentations. Head on over to his site
and offer your feedback.

More from around the network: The Bicycle
Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
reports that the installation of
1,500 bike parking rings on old meter posts has begun. This is a
stimulus-funded project. Bike
has the story on a $15 million grant for bike lanes in
Austin, Texas. And The
Transport Politic
asks, whose turn is it to lead transport

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