Back in February Streetsblog had a good three–part series on planning changes in New York City since the beginning of Michael Bloomberg’s term, and while they had a lot of praise for upzonings that have occurred throughout much of the four urban boroughs, they highlighted minimum parking regulations as the biggest impediment to walkable, transit-oriented development. The series ran a few months ago, but I was reminded of it because of Tyler Cowen’s article in the New York Times a few days ago, in which he made the same general Donald Shoup-esque arguments about parking that readers of Market Urbanism are familiar with.
But back to the Streetsblog series – the second part is mostly about parking minimums in NYC, which haven’t been lowered despite the upzonings and other policies that emphasize mass transit over cars. The article has a great map which shows that, outside of areas south of Central Park, parking minimums are barely relaxed at all in areas of all five boroughs with the best transit access, and this paragraph sums up the paradox of New York’s planning regulations pretty well:
Perversely, because you can build more densely near transit, parking minimums per square foot of land are actually higher where transit options are most robust. So even as the planning department tries to concentrate growth near transit lines, it is simultaneously filling that valuable real estate with unnecessary parking.
As one commenter points out, the Department of City Planning probably isn’t intentionally sabotaging its walkability goals – many current residents own cars and want to continue to use them, and a development’s car-less residents from the hypothetical future don’t get a say in local politics.
Fast-forward a few months, though, and it looks as though the City Planning Department may be reconsidering its parking policies, at least in business districts:
The planning department is also studying transportation accessibility for people who live in transit-rich neighborhoods surrounding Manhattan’s Central Business District—Harlem, the South Bronx and western Brooklyn and Queens—in part to determine whether current requirements that large new residential buildings include garages are appropriate.
The studies are expected to be completed by year-end, a planning department spokeswoman said. The work is part of the department’s broader look at transportation in the city—from bike parking and car sharing to water taxis.
The WSJ article also includes this quote from a parking garage owner, who suggests that the age of the automobile might be done for good:
Richard Chapman, one of the city’s biggest garage operators, has had misgivings about the prospects for the business his mother started in 1920 by converting Manhattan stables into parking places. “We hope we’re wrong,” he said, “but we think that the glory days of after the Second World War will not repeat.”
Mr. Chapman, whose Garage Management Co. operates about 70 Manhattan garages and owns about a dozen, said he is looking to convert some of his garages into medical buildings or schools—uses, he said, that have a better future in the city than parking.