More! That’s the scream of merchants and others who believe that an American downtown without an endless sea of parking is not worth going to. But once the whole downtown turns into a parking lot it’s not really worth much anymore is it?
Yet, we still see the discussion of parking dominate, without an eye for the destruction that it can cause a downtown if left unfettered.
Before Portland’s miraculous return as an urban Mecca, it, too, was once infested by parking. So was the city of Houston, where parking lots took over most of the downtown at one point.
Via Mike Lydon and Transit Miami, via the book City Shaped.
Perhaps you can say how different this is from Rotterdam after German bombing…
Image: author provided.
It’s unfortunate that we didn’t see what we were doing to our wonderful cities in the name of cars first. Europe had war, yet we dismantled our cities in a similar way in the name of progress.
So much parking, though: what has that done to the city’s value? What has it taken away in terms of tax revenue from land and greater employment agglomerations? A study by Anne Moudon and Dohn Wook Sohn showed that, in the Seattle region, offices that were clustered had greater values than those that weren’t. In addition to the spending on highways that expanded our regions to their current far reaches, how much real estate value did we destroy?
Greater value for downtowns was lost. In the process we saw places like Hartford, Connecticut (as found by Dr. Norm Garrick at the University of Connecticut) lose population, employment, and their character.
Not is this just the loss from parking, but from the gutting of the city by the Interstate System. Here are some slides from Dr. Garrick showing the destruction. When he toggled through the first time, the room I was in audibly gasped for air. Hartford Pre Interstate:
Hartford Post Interstate:
So what’s the damage? The amount of tax-creating employment did not grow; but parking spots skyrocketed.
So in aggregate what did this look like? The red shows it all:
Lost revenue, lost agglomeration, lost value. Perhaps these examples teach us a lesson about too much parking.
Jeff Wood is principal at the San Francisco transport consultancy The Overhead Wire, and edits The Direct Transfer.
This article first appeared on his blog in 2010.
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