[Urban planners] have tried various strategies for discouraging car use in cities around the world, including expanding railways and building bike lanes. One of the most common strategies is hiking up the cost of on- and off-street parking—an intuitive approach. Its effectiveness has been difficult to verify, though, because so many different factors contribute to car volume in any given city.
The few times I have had access to a car in a big city I have definitely experienced the, “Ugh it’s not even worth driving and trying to find a spot only to pay $10 to park during dinner and I swear to god I will never drive around a three-block radius for 20 minutes only to parallel park again” thought process, so I can definitely see the “intuitive” part.
But what about THE DATA? Amy Auchincloss, an epidemiologist at Drexel University, some of her colleagues, and a consulting firm, have pioneered some good old-fashioned number-crunching:
By first crunching some numbers from a 2009 survey of public parking agencies in 107 U.S. cities, and then comparing them with those cities’ population densities and public transportation data, they found that, among large cities, at least, higher parking costs are positively correlated with the average number of miles each city dweller spends on public transit.
While this correlation isn’t surprising, identifying it remains an important step forward in city planning, the researchers say in their study published in Public Works Management & Policy. Cities tend to lack this type of big-picture perspective when it comes parking and transportation decision-making.
The study is “very exploratory” but might bring us one step closer to having fewer cars in bigger cities. And then there won’t be crazy traffic and I will finally buy a car and drive wherever I want, amen.
Photo: Cindy Funk