Will Reducing Parking Save the Planet?


As stated previously, I can’t take climate change seriously as long as people keep putting forward their wacko ideas that they had long before climate was an issue as “the solution.” The latest example is a claim that ending minimum parking requirements is “one solution to fight climate change.” I think the proponents of this idea are just totally confused.

The article credits Donald Shoup with the idea that eliminating minimum parking requirements “could pave the way for cities to build denser housing, increase public transit options, and reduce their carbon emissions.” Shoup is a decent researcher, but he has made parking the focus of his work since 1975, long before almost anyone was talking about global warming. It is one thing to note that minimum parking requirements might not be necessary. It is another to claim that eliminating them will do all the things listed above.

Ironically, this article comes from Texas, which doesn’t allow counties to impose minimum parking requirements or any other kind of zoning. Yet anyone driving through developments outside of Texas city limits will find plenty of parking available. Retailers, office managers, apartment owners, and others know that parking is necessary to attract customers and quality employees.

Beyond that, denser housing and public transit options have almost nothing to do with either parking or climate change. I don’t see any clear mechanism whereby abolishing market minimums would lead to denser housing or more transit. Even if there was one, transit in general, and Texas transit agencies in particular, emit more greenhouse gases per passenger-mile than driving a car. Denser housing means more traffic congestion which means more greenhouse gas emissions.

Shoup’s research found that people are more likely to drive alone to work if they have free parking when they get there. That may be true, but the effects are small and are partly self-selecting: people who want to drive to work will be more likely to accept a job if their employer offers free parking. Even if the effects were large, that doesn’t automatically mean there will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, especially if less parking means some people drive around and around looking for a parking place.

Read the rest of this piece at The Antiplanner.

Randal O'Toole, the Antiplanner, is a policy analyst with nearly 50 years of experience reviewing transportation and land-use plans and the author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

Photo: Parking lot with an abundance of parking spaces. Courtesy Antiplanner.

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Take out all that parking - we don't need successful retail!

Long before the City of Minneapolis was destroyed by the George Floyd incident, the anti-car social engineering city decided to single handedly kill off the thriving Uptown business by eliminating the parking along Hennepin Avenue. After all, why take a car when you can ride a bike and wait outside for the bus in our constant sunny 80 degree days? Oh, wait, that's San Diego. We get good weather maybe 4 months, and the rest not so walkable and bike able. The moment they decided to kill off the parking, which the business wanted to fight, but could not, they killed Uptown. It's like going to the doctor and curing a cold by prescribing cyanide. The car is the scapegoat for just poor planning and planning decisions. So Uptown was dying a steady slow death - then George Floyd happened and the riots and damage extended into the Uptown area. I could easily ride my bike from my St Louis Park home to Uptown, but wait, you can't ride a bike on those sidewalks and no way would I trust riding with cars in those streets. Anyway, 5 months ago I broke my arm when my electric bike hit a speed-bump and nearly ended my career. So I'll be continuing my travels in the safety and comfort of one of my cars.