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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Musings on parking requirements

The recent requirements for certain levels of bicycle parking at retail establishments in Farragut, Alcoa, and other cities and towns brought out the question of the effects of parking requirements on urban and suburban development. Traditionally, outside of downtowns, retail developments were required to have a certain number of parking spaces in order to accommodate their expected customer base, and then some. The rationale was that if parking wasn't readily available, then people would park their cars at adjacent establishments; this spillover then unfairly hurts the establishments next door.

But "free" parking really isn't free. One big effect of the parking requirements is that stores became much more widely spread. The resultant lower density made bus service less and less practical. In addition, walking and cycling as transportation options became less practical as well due to increased travel distances and increased high-speed traffic levels. In recent years, municipalities have started to reduce but not eliminate their parking requirements in a bid to reverse these unintended effects.

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