“We don’t want developers to build surface lots. And our zoning, still to this day, is based on parking minimums…The only reason we are going into the CASP [Core Area Specific Plan] update at all is we recognize that our downtown redevelopment efforts are lagging. They are not near what they could be or what they should be. We need to have as a primary goal how to spur downtown redevelopment.” – Robb Davis, City of Davis mayor
Foreword: As the Davis community continues the conversation around creating a vision for our downtown, updating our Core Area Specific Plan and replacing the current zoning ordinances and design guidelines with form-based codes, the following interview with Donald Shoup (author and UCLA professor) and Jeffrey Tumlin (director of strategy for Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates) will fundamentally inform our conversation.
Here are some highlights from the interview, conducted by Public Square editor Robert Steuteville:
Public Square: “Parking is one of the primary shapers of US communities, and has been for a century. The walkability of a city or town is often determined by how much parking dominates the public realm. New urbanists promoted design solutions to reduce the impact of parking on public spaces and ideas like “park once” and shared parking to create better urban places. Like-minded innovators have taken reform to new levels through market-based parking strategies that allow urban places to flourish.”
Donald Shoup: “On-street parking provides a barrier between the sidewalk and moving traffic. If treated well, curb parking is not the evil that many people think it is.” On the other hand, “There are negatives, especially where parking is placed between the sidewalk and the front of a building so that when you’re walking along the street, you see a parking lot between you and the front of the store and it’s clear that the real customers of the store are drivers, not pedestrians.”
Donald Shoup: “One of the things that New Urbanism has definitely got right is the park-once strategy. With municipal parking structures, people can park in one location, and then walk around for as long as they’re in the district. That’s very different from what most cities require, which is usually that every building has to have its own parking on-site.”
Donald Shoup: “The quality of the off street parking matters too. Wrap the parking structure with active uses, a thin layer of offices, or apartments so that when you walk down the street it doesn’t look like the typical concrete-block parking garage. These are the aesthetics of parking.”
Jeffrey Tumlin: “Let us celebrate parking for a moment, and how parking drove the marketability of the suburbs. It’s easy as urbanists to underestimate the appeal of suburbia, not only today but particularly as it was being invented in the post-war era. The idea of limitless personal mobility is incredibly alluring. The ability to park, in part, drove the invention of a new lifestyle.”
Jeffrey Tumlin: “The mistake that we made was trying to apply the concept of the suburban dream on certain urban places. That we put a one-size-fits-all approach to the automobile and to automobile parking in both contexts, that was the failure. A one-time simple solution for almost any urban planning need fails either the city or the suburbs.”
Donald Shoup: “My main criticism does not concern parking itself but parking requirements. I’m not against cars and I’m not against parking. I’m against off-street parking requirements in zoning ordinances which I think have led to pedestrian-free zones in cities.”
Donald Shoup: “Consider three urban policies to stimulate the demand for cars and fuel,” he said. “First, separate different land uses. Housing here, jobs there and stores somewhere else. Second, limit density so you have to travel a distance to get from your house to your job and to a store. Third, require ample free parking everywhere, so cars become the natural way to travel everywhere.”
Donald Shoup: “Free parking in particular enables car travel. With these three policies, cities have reduced the cost of driving and raised the price of everything else to pay for it. It makes the city more drivable but less walkable.”
Donald Shoup: “If drivers paid for the cost to provide parking, we would use cars more rationally.”
A little over a decade ago, Don Shoup wrote the book, The High Cost of Free Parking.
In talking about his book Shoup explained, “When the book came out, half the planning profession thought I was crazy and the other half thought I was daydreaming. Now planners are beginning to think that the ideas were practical and sensible.”
Shoup believes the book has three key principles:
First, charge the right price for curb parking so there are always one or two open spaces on every block.
Second, spend that revenue to pay for added public services on the metered blocks so that the stakeholders benefit from these metered spots.
“Some cities use the money to provide free wi-fi to everybody on the street. They pressure wash the sidewalks frequently, plant new street trees, and remove graffiti every night. Investing the money back into the metered street creates the political will to charge the right price for on-street parking.”
Third, remove off-street parking requirements because nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking if drivers can always see one or two empty spaces on every block.
“Removing off-street parking requirements can have a big effect, even in the short run, because it allows the adaptive re-use of older buildings.”
Read more here.