Using aerial photographs, Christopher McCahill and other researchers at the University of Connecticut estimated that the volume of off-street parking in New Haven has more than tripled since 1960 and has nearly quadrupled since 1951.
New Haven was sometimes dubbed the "Model City" during the urban renewal era because of Mayor Richard C. Lee's adeptness in winning federal funds and using them to demolish supposedly obsolete areas and rebuild them for an automobile-oriented age. The study by McCahill and others suggests that this strategy amounts to a recipe for civic failure.
In an opinion piece in the New Haven Register, McCahill, a doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering, says, "It might seem there will never be enough parking in New Haven. But, based on a recent study at the University of Connecticut, our research group believes there probably already is too much."
The problem: As more land is used for parking, less land is left for the things that really make a city great: a place to live, work, shop and socialize. Our data supports this concept. ...
The best use of the city’s land is making great places that attract people. The role of transportation policy should be to provide access to these places in the fairest, most efficient ways.
The report's criticism of overreliance on parking follows up on earlier UConn studies by McCahill, faculty member Norman Garrick, and doctoral candidate Wesley Marshall. (Marshall has since completed his PhD and now teaches in the Department of Civil Engineering at the Univesity of Colorado Denver. He recently criticized dangers in the street network of Denver's Stapleton development.)
In April 2010, New Urban News reported on Garrick and McCahill's study of Hartford, Connecticut, and Cambridge, Massachuseetts. That study found that if employers subsidized transit and charged for parking, the demand for parking spaces might fall by a fifth.
In September 2008, New Urban News reported on Garrick and Marshall's study of mixed-use development in six New England centers. It found that when parking is oversupplied, the vibrancy of a center is dampened.
In his Register commentary, McCahill credited New Haven with having taken some steps in the right direction in recent years—adopting a Complete Streets policy, for example. He encouraged the city to continue a shift toward less automobile-dominated planning by redesigning the current Downtown Crossing project—the replacement of the Rt. 34 expressway—"to improve walking and biking connections."
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