Best Deterrent For Driving a Car in The City? Expensive Parking

From Paul Bisceglio at Pacific Standard:

[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


5 Comments / Post A Comment

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

This absolutely makes sense. It’s why I live only an hour by car from an awesome big city, but I rarely visit, and when I do, I travel 2-3 hours using public transit instead. $30/day parking is for suckers.

Mlanterman (#6,065)

I would love to stop driving, but right now it’s the safest, most efficient way to get around. I have hours and hours of my life back that I used to spend on the bus/lightrail since I got a car. I’m very, very, lucky to be able to afford one.

I will GLEEFULLY sell my car and purchase a monthly bus pass when we get a bus/lightrail/metro system in Baltimore that goes remotely near anyplace I need to be, actually stops at the bus stops, and/or shows up according to any kind of schedule at all. I will also start riding my bike more when we get usable bike lanes.

@Mlanterman That efficiency trade-off in driving is interesting, because of the quality of the time spent, which I think a lot of people don’t consider. Here’s what I mean: I used to work three days a week in a city 60 miles from home. I could either drive for an hour or do a bike-train-bike commute that took closer to two hours. I often opted for the bike/train method because, while it took longer, it was so much more pleasant: an hour and a half on a train is immeasurably nicer than an hour in a car.

Mlanterman (#6,065)

@Josh Michtom@facebook Totally agree, and I think that holds true for a lot of folks. If I was commuting to DC you couldn’t PAY me money to drive.

I did take the train to work everyday for about a year because I didn’t have a car, and I wanted to see if I could hack it without one. However, in my particular city, public transportation is so poorly managed that my 5 mile, 10-15 minute commute by car became an hour by train, or an hour and a half by bus.

I’m still getting my bearings as far as biking in the city is concerned. There’s not a great path for a beginner to take from my neighborhood to downtown, and there’s no shower situation in my business casual office for muggy summer days, so for now- driving it is. I carpool with another person in my neighborhood so we both feel slightly less guilty about the short drive.

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