Better Solutions to Parking Shortage Concerns


My favorite local development blog features a project coming soon to the Brookland area on land acquired from St Paul’s College. One sticking point has been parking:

Chancellor’s Row is less than a 10 minute walk from the Brookland Metro and, as part of a compromise between the Office of Planning (OP) and the community, each unit will have one parking spot with the option to add a second for a nominal fee. The community expressed concerns that the new neighbors would (collective gasp) seek on-street parking; still, proximity to Metro trumped that concern and OP narrowly won the day with a theoretically smaller carprint.

A world in which a regulatory mandate of over one car per household less than a ten minute walk from a Metro station in a walkable, transit-oriented city counts as a victory against parking mandates is a sad world indeed. I’m not a libertarian and I think there’s nothing wrong with regulating private business to ameliorate, say, a genuine environmental externality. But mandatory parking is bad for the environment, bad for public health, and bad for low-income families on top of being economically inefficient. The only externality pushing in the other direction is the desire of incumbent homeowners to not see existing on-street parking opportunities get crowded.

What’s needed, I think, is some less destructive way of meeting this concern. If I ran the zoo, what I would do is try to scrap all these regulatory minimums—none whatsoever, developers will still build parking, of course, but not because the local community made them—and in exchange arbitrarily set up a new two-level residential parking permit system so that starting in 2011 anyone who wants a new permit to park on the street has to pay way more. That would be “unfair,” of course, in a way that the current system isn’t. But directly buying-off incumbent parkers would both do a better job of meeting the incumbents’ actual concern and also have fewer negative consequences for the community at large.