Sunday, April 13, 2008

Curbside Parking: Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It

Over on Streetsblog, commenter ChipSeal writes, "Why not eliminate curbside parking and open up the public space for all road users?"

Why not indeed! If cars are bad, why provide any space for them? If it's good to make it a little more difficult for people to drive, why not make it a lot more difficult?

In the long run, that's true. The less you accommodate cars, the better. The problem is that people often hit parked cars with their own cars. If the cars aren't there, they often go up on the sidewalk. It all depends on how fast the cars are going. Below 15 miles per hour, it's probably safe for pedestrians and cars to mix, but above that I think that curbside parking improves street safety.

Of course, there's still every reason to replace curbside parking with other uses, such as loading zones, bicycle parking and bus bulbs. And it's a good idea to reduce the overall amount of parking, which can be done by reducing off-street parking. But eliminating large amounts of curbside parking is not a good idea when cars are going fast.


ian said...

The situation up north might be different, but down here in Houston we've got to be very careful about our parking situation. I would love to see more destinations that are accessible by bike, transit, or walking, but Houston just isn't quite there yet. At those few destinations that DO exist, most people still have to drive there because they live too far.

It's hard to break out of this cycle. To increase our residential density, more destinations need to be offered in small areas. But new commercial and retail developments are loathe to give up their parking because they have to compete with established businesses that have plenty of parking. In Houston, people don't go where they can't park. . .UNLESS that place is sufficiently interesting (usually BECAUSE of a lack of parking and resulting increases in density and vibrancy) to make people grudgingly accept expensive or far-out parking.

I see curbside parking as a possible tool in bridging the gap. I'd much rather have that than huge, empty parking lots creating massive dead zones.

Cap'n Transit said...

Good point, Ian. The situation is definitely different here in New York - although someplace like Detroit or Kansas City is probably pretty close to Houston in the parking department.

Since businesses in car-dependent areas tend to be dependent on car customers, I would say that in those kinds of places it's better to focus on making transit convenient enough for people to make the switch away from cars.

If there's not the funding to do it citywide, you can at least make it so that, for example, 90% of students at a particular college can get to 90% of their destinations without cars, then reduce campus parking. Once you've done that successfully for colleges, then you can move on to other industries.

I think it's probably better to start with residential parking, then move on to work parking, and finally shopping parking.

Adron said...

I hate curbside parking, but am fully aware of the implications as you stated.

What I'd really like to see is places people can park, because I don't want to ruin the economy, but that place should be out of visible range.

i.e. Parking garages that have multiple use like retail on the ground floor, parking above, in closed spaces, with filters to clean the fumes when they exit the building. ...or pump them back into the garage so the car uses can taste the shit they spew everywhere.

But I digress, I just hate seeing such a mess along the roads, it seems it would be a great place instead for a separated bike lane space and trees. The trees could stop roving and wondering cars from hitting people.

...I'm sure there are some street examples out there. Chris Smith put one up on about 6 or so months ago.

Cap'n Transit said...

(grrr... blogger munging my links again!)

We've just gotten one of those physically separated bike lanes in New York, but of course here our trees are planted by supermodels. And it has car parking too.

I agree that from a safety point of view, bollards, trees and cycle tracks are probably just as effective as rows of parked cars. Okay, I've got two other objections:

First, even if the architects are careful to put retail and other pedestrian-friendly uses on the ground floor, large parking garages are still an ugly waste of space, and that waste of space gets felt in all kinds of ways. They also need ramps to get on and off the street, which can be very obnoxious.

Second, to the extent that getting parking off the street is a good idea, it's not necessarily the best use of transportation advocates' time and effort. How much energy would it take to build political and financial support for a plan to convert a parking lane into a physically separated cycle track and build a garage with street-level retail to hold the cars?