Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A hierarchy of street allocations

I've talked with some livable streets advocates who are opposed to doing anything that would increase the amount of parking on a street. They're a pretty small minority; most people acknowledge that there are plenty of uses that are worse than parking. But I've talked to other advocates who are reluctant to publicly endorse increasing the parking supply, for fear of lending legitimacy to the narrative that parking is scarce and it must be expanded at all costs.

I personally think that if you do it right, you can argue for parking under restricted circumstances without endorsing the idea that parking is always the best use for a piece of land. In that spirit, I've thrown together this hierarchy of land use.

Imagine a 10' by 30' rectangle, roughly the size of your average American parking space. Such a rectangle could be used for various purposes, all with different impacts on people's decisions to drive for a single trip, to make a habit of driving, to buy a car, or to lobby for more car improvements. I've given them a rough ranking, with the least desirable uses at the top of the list.

There are some rankings that will depend on the circumstances of the area. Places with lots of pedestrians would probably have a greater need for sidewalks, while places with more bus riders would need more bus stops and lanes. In general, though, I think this is pretty accurate. Your suggestions are welcome.

  1. Electric vehicle charging station (Added June 22)
  2. Shark pit
  3. Curb cut used as queue for garage, gas station or car wash (Added June 22)
  4. Curb cut for off-street parking
  5. General purpose driving
  6. Shared bike lane
  7. Parking reserved for individuals
  8. Parking reserved for classes of people
  9. Unmetered, unlimited parking
  10. Limited-time unmetered parking
  11. Limited-time parking with long-term permits
  12. Limited-time parking with parking meters
  13. Limited-time parking with muni-meters
  14. Limited-time parking with dynamic pricing
  15. Limited-time parking with market-rate pricing adjusted quarterly
  16. Limited-time parking with market-rate pricing adjusted hourly or in real time
  17. High-energy use retail (truck with compressor, air conditioner) (Added June 22)
  18. Loading zone
  19. Taxi stand
  20. Parking for motorized two-wheeled vehicles (motorcycles, mopeds, scooters)
  21. Painted bike lane
  22. Part-time bus lane
  23. Sidewalk
  24. Sidewalk with bench
  25. Sidewalk with chairs and tables
  26. Bike parking
  27. Low-energy-use retail (hot dog, ice cream or tamale cart) (added June 22)
  28. Pop-up cafe
  29. Physically separated bike lane
  30. Bus stop
  31. Full-time bus lane
  32. Full-time trolley lane


Alon Levy said...

You shouldn't have sidewalk-adjacent transit lanes, unless the street is narrow enough to be a transit mall.

You should add retail to your list of uses of the street space - for example, a lunch cart, or a street fair booth.

Cap'n Transit said...

Thanks, Alon! I've added your suggested use, and a couple more. But now that you've got your own blog, I'd like to see you expand on why you shouldn't have sidewalk-adjacent transit lanes. Are they really worse than sidewalk-adjacent general-purpose driving lanes?

Alon Levy said...

Short version: on multi-lane streets, LRT and BRT space should preferably be in the median. I'll expand on this more on my blog soon, I promise.

Helen Bushnell said...

There are lots of places where sidewalk adjacent transit lanes work very well, such as Paris. Putting buses in the center of multi-lane traffic, means that people have to cross that traffic every time that they want to take the bus.

Nate Wessel said...

If you did the shark pit properly, it could be a neat little attraction for the pedestrians.

I can imagine families stopping and a local vendor starting to sell bits of raw meat to kids who want to feed the sharks. It would need to be properly fenced in of course. A section of glass floor would be great! :)

Helen Bushnell said...

Curb cut for used as queue for gas station or car wash is worse than curb cut for off street parking as these areas are really dangerous for pedestrians. You can safely put a bus stop near an entrance to off-street parking; you can't put one next to an entrance to a gas station.

See The Bus Bench ( for examples of dangerous bus stops in Los Angeles.

Helen Bushnell said...

@Nate, shark pits can be better than parking.

@Alon, yes let's draw people into the street.

Joseph said...

Why is "Electric Vehicle Charging Station" the very worse use, from a transit advocacy perspective? Are you being silly, seeing that is placed as worse than "shark pit"?

Adirondacker12800 said...

Putting buses at the curb means they have to cross traffic every time they want to use the bus. Unless it's a very short ciruclator type of thing where you get on the bus at the same stop you use when you come back.