When cities invest in infrastructure, it’s often the gray stuff like roads and bridges. Or it’s hidden away like water and sewer pipes. Not to say that infrastructure isn’t interesting and vital to a city’s success, but it’s hard to get excited about.
A recent blog from Twin Cities Sidewalks highlights growing evidence that vehicle miles may have peaked. If the right policies are put in place, vehicle miles can go down even as the population and economy rises. The graph dramatically shows the historical trends of vehicle miles traveled in the US and how they have changed in recent years. Young adults, who may set the direction for generations to come, are on a steep downward trajectory. After that graph came out, the Federal Highway Administration reported that only 67 percent of 16-to-24 year olds had driver's licenses in 2011, the lowest level since statistics have been kept. For cities, where more alternative transportation options are available, the trend is potentially stronger: from 2005 to 2009, as the population of Washington, DC, grew by 15,000, car registrations in the District dropped by 15,000, according to Jeff Speck in Walkable City. This adds impetus to getting rid of policies like minimum parking requirements (why turn America into even more of a parking lot than it already is?). Let's, instead, go with the flow and spend more on walking, biking, and mass transit, and less on expanding highway capacity for cars that likely will not be there.
With parking now consuming as much as 30 percent of precious urban land in some American cities, it’s no wonder that parking has become one of the leading hot-button issues in planning and urban design. Rethinking A Lot enters the parking fray with MIT Professor Eran Ben-Joseph tackling the issue of ubiquitous and banal surface parking lots. Ben-Joseph believes that these lots are ripe for design interventions with the potential to make parking lots a significant civic element like plazas and parks, writes planner and Cornell lecturer David West in his review for the January-February 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. Ben-Joseph's book focuses narrowly on better design for surface parking, but does not delve into wider discussions of parking mandates and whether we need so much parking in the first place. The publisher is MIT Press.
The District of Columbia is "reserving thousands of on-street parking spaces for residents on weekdays in the city’s most crowded neighborhoods, part of an aggressive effort to limit spots for visitors," The Washington Postreports. The effort will affect as many as 10,000 spaces, and is part of an overall strategy "to promote bicycling and mass transit while increasing the odds that residents can find parking." Under the new regulations, for example, 550 blocks of DC's Ward 1 will have one side of the street reserved for cars with parking permits, while the other side is open for nonpermitted autos.