Space for Parking

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An architect named Seth Goodman has prepared a fascinating series of infographics comparing the parking requirements (for office space, residential, restaurants) used by cities around the country.  The City of Atlanta falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, with parking minimums that are neither particularly progressive nor antiquated.

But the market tells a different story: a 2012 survey by Colliers International found that parking rates in Atlanta’s central business district were lower than those in peer cities, with flat prices and plenty of excess capacity. According to the free market, Downtown Atlanta has too much parking.

As discussed here before, various local governments are reexamining their parking requirements as a way to encourage more efficient development patterns.   One residential development in DC not only moved forward without off street parking but went one step further and prohibited its residents from seeking residential parking permits.  Instead, the development provided a combination of bikeshare, Zipcar, and subway credits. Slate has wrestled with this issue, writing about the economics of parking allocations and the possibility of a market-based approach for street parking permits.

ARC and Central Atlanta Progress are revisiting a previous study of parking conditions in downtown Atlanta. Given the glut of parking supply in the central business district and the suite of projects in the area that envision a compact, multimodal development (the streetcar, the Beltline, and TOD around MARTA stations), it is time for Atlanta’s parking policies to move toward the front of the pack.



Building the Case for a Better Built Environment

b-and-n-EPA-231K13001EPA has updated “Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions Between Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality.” This report is a second edition, updating a 2001 EPA report on the subject with additional research and data from the intervening decade. Many of the findings confirm the obvious, like:

  • Development in and adjacent to already-developed areas can help protect natural resources like wetlands, streams, coastlines, and critical habitat.

But the report parses the subject more closely, examining trends in land use, travel, and building behavior; the environmental consequences of these trends; and the comparative effects of different types of development on the environment. Interspersed throughout are a variety of useful facts and figures:

  • Residents of transit-oriented developments are two to five times more likely to use transit for commuting and non-work trips than others living in the same region (Arrington and Cervero 2008).
  • In general, the greater the population density of an area, the less the area’s residents tend to drive (Transportation Research Board of the National Academies 2003). Doubling residential density across a metropolitan region could reduce household vehicle travel by between 5 and 12 percent (National Research Council of the National Academies, Driving and the Built Environment 2009).
  • Green building retrofits of commercial buildings around the world found energy savings of 50 to 70 percent (Harvey 2009).

Compiling this variety of information in one place, the report provides a clear view of the many ways our built environment affects the quality of air, water, land resources, habitat, and human health.


Fourteen Steps into the Future

Reihan Salam at the National Review Online has an interesting piece on “Transportation Trends and the American Future.” It reworks an earlier, more academic post on The Transportationist blog entitled “Fourteen Trends Shaping Transportation.” Both are well worth reading, although the Salam article is more accessible. Here are its first three points, to pique your interest:

1. as state and local governments take on more responsibility for surface transportation, they will tend to make better decisions on capital and operating and maintenance costs, as they will be less skewed by the prospect of “free” or cheap federal financing;

2. because the U.S. surface transportation network is fairly mature, the emphasis will shift from new construction to “fix it first”;

3. the rise of electric vehicles will contribute to the collapse in motor fuel tax revenues, thus necessitating alternatives like VMT (vehicle-miled [sic] traveled) taxes or increases in retail sales taxes;

These trends have already begun to play out in Atlanta and around the country. And more important than any particular point is the larger conclusion that transportation technology is changing, transportation demands are changing, and transportation funding is changing.  So our approach to transportation planning must evolve and adapt as well.

None of the key trends are how to operate electric, flying, self-driving cars (although the Salam article does touch on that last part a bit).  Instead, the key transportation decisions will arise from planning and finance, like how to adapt 20th century infrastructure to 21st century needs or how to pay for anything after the gas tax dries up.  The one certainty is that what we’ve seen over the past decades won’t be a good predictor of the coming ones.


Voice of the People

The American Public Transportation Association has released new polling showing strong public support for investing in transit.  APTA has previously conducted similar polling and the numbers show a consistent year to year increase in support for transit.  For example:


The exact language of the questions and the strong numbers are worth a look.