Get Invoved with WCTM:
A Culture of Parking

A Culture of Parking

David Gardetta’s article for Los Angeles Magazine, “Between the Lines,” from last month, highlights the role of parking in the transportation choices we make everyday. While the entire piece is fascinating, with its focus on the history and particularities of parking in Los Angeles, the  findings about the parking culture give anyone a reason to think about the choices we continue to make about our built environment.

Consider the following (which I have paraphrased from the article):

  • In Westwood, drivers drive an extra 950,000 miles a year hunting for parking.
  • When all parking prices are the same, people will “spend” the time circling for the closest space to their destination. When parking is priced by availability, people will consider the value of proximity and “spend” their time walking to a destination from cheaper parking, or spend the premium for the scarce available parking.
  • Sometimes, if the price of parking falls too far, usage goes down. Researchers do not yet know why.
  • According to parking enforcement professionals, only about 10% of violators are ever cited.
  • No one really knows the origin of the number of spaces specified in minimum standards for business parking.
  • When a resource is abundant and free, people do not consider the initial or ancillary costs.

The solutions seem simple and self-evident to anyone who has lived for a time without a car, or cheap, abundant parking. Fewer spaces. Contrary to what many believe, the seas of asphalt we see surrounding our grocery stores and shopping malls are not responses to market forces (parking is expensive!), but rather a mandated amenity in adherence to engineering guidelines that assume that every user of a property will (or would like to)  arrive by their own private automobile.

One of the best observations was that “L.A. wasn’t built around the car. It was built around the parking lot.” As someone who has lived in Southern California and the Midwest, I can share the personal observation that the land use perfected in Los Angeles, that prefers the parking space to all other uses, has been successfully exported to cities throughout the country that have seen significant greenfield development in the second half of the 20th Century – the age of the automobile.

Because cheap, plentiful parking is the solution we’ve used in the past, doesn’t mean it is the only way forward for the future. If we, as a society, had not continually changed course throughout our history, we would have failed long ago for our lack of foresight and flexibility. As we look to the future, we have an opportunity to think anew – what is the city and the community I want to live in rather than drive through – and build that.


No comments yet.

Add a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to Newsletter