Spring 2005, p.2

Provocateur
A New Plan for Parking:
The key for a successful city of
the future

Professor Knoflacher with his walking tool demonstrates the absurdity of giving valuable public space over to cars.

Professor Knoflacher with his walking tool demonstrates the absurdity of giving valuable public space over to cars.

BY PROFESSOR HERMANN KNOFLACHER
Institute for Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering (Interdisciplinary Mobility and Accessibility Research), University of Technology, Vienna

The transportation system of today is becoming more and more unsustainable. So-called experts have yet to recognize the real problem, focusing instead on cost ineffective measures to treat symptoms and an approach that is problem-producing, not problem-solving.

The dire situation we have created for our-selves is most obvious when we look at how we value the space and time allocated for drivers and for pedestrians respectively. Compare the property rights in public space for a car driver and a pedestrian wearing a walking tool the size of a car (pictured). If the pedestrian gets stuck in a line, nobody would take care of them because nobody would see this as a problem; people would think that it was crazy behavior. But if a car driver gets stuck in the system, then people would be worried about a so-called congestion problem.

The most fundamental misuse of our transportation and land use system is the proliferation of easy parking. We have not understood that parking at home and at destinations destroys all human structures and activities. When someone parks at home, he creates short- and long-term problems for the city, including transportation problems, congestion, environmental problems, degradation of the city economy, urban sprawl, shopping centers outside of cities and more. These results contradict all political and professional goals of creating clean air, easy access to jobs, preservation of open space and more.

If people can park cars in front of their house, no working, shopping or recreation facilities are necessary within a walking distance. All of these places can be reached in a concentrated far away location. Public transportation has no chance under these conditions. In addition, public space, which was formerly the street used by everybody, has to be separated into a privileged space for car drivers and then space for everyone else. This separation can degrade the walking environment and deter walking and public transportation use. Empirical results have shown, that, in a car-free environment, people will walk distances that are 70% longer than they would in a car-oriented environment.

The solution to our current transportation problem is a total reorganization of the existing parking situation everywhere, including outside cities.

We need to prevent the people from choosing to drive in the first place, not just treat the symptoms of a car-crazy culture. The solution is intelligent planning, not the treatment of traffic flow, road pricing, car design and technology or adjusting public transportation fares. More specifically, the solution to our current transportation problem is a total reorganization of the existing parking situation everywhere, including outside of cities. Instead of leaning on individuals to refuse to use their conveniently parked car, we need to mandate that all parked cars have to be stored in garages, which should be as far away as public transportation stops. Public transportation has to be as accessible as a private car to make it competitive. If the car is parked in front of the house, or in the garage in the house and the public transport stop is several hundred meters away, everybody will use the car. And if the destination is organized in the same way, public transport will have no chance against car traffic. So this total reorganization needs to happen for all origins and destinations.

The new parking system charges people in relation to the benefits they receive. People who park at home have to pay for the benefit of this exclusive and privileged position. People who park in a centralized garage, which should be at least as far away as the next public transportation stop, have to pay less. The charges have to be related to the cost of trips on the public transportation system and the financial and operational cost of the garage operators.

A total reorganization of the parking structure leads to, at a minimum, a 30% recovery of cities. Neighborhoods attract activity back to the streets and public transportation is finally able to compete fairly with cars. If we take real human behavior into account, the effect is much bigger. About 80% of the city will become socially and economically sustainable.

Furthermore, a reorganization of parking will create a lot of local jobs in construction, since thousands of garages have to be planned and build, hundred-thousands of miles of streets have to be reshaped and a lot of local activities will be established everywhere. And all the costs are paid by the responsible party—the car parker. In the transition period, money comes from the charge for inappropriate parking and can be used for the recovery of the city, recovery of the economy, construction of garages, improving public transportation and strengthening the local community and local economy. In its reshaped form, the parking system is much cheaper, needs more or less no subsidy and is in itself a problem-solving and not a problem-producing structure.

The above views are not necessarily those of Transportation Alternatives.

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