Being a Councillor in a town with a lot of old streets and a lot of new developments mean parking issues tend to come up quite frequently. So, I found this article on the wider costs of providing parking spaces quite interesting, especially in the light on some of the experiences we’ve had.
Of course, much of the article is from an American perspective, and their experience of the issue is much different to ours as a lot of their infrastructure – indeed, a lot of their cities – was mapped out after the rise of the car, which can result in a style of urban geography that’s quite alien to European eyes. That sensation of working out how to get from A to B across what looks like an ocean of concrete before realising that you’re intended to drive across is one not normally replicated on this side of the Atlantic.
However, while the article does point out some of the disadvantages caused by creating parking spaces, it’s a bit light on the problems that can be created by insufficient parking. The example of Vauban in Germany does show that it’s possible to design the car out of a residential urban environment, but that was with special attention paid to what replaced the car, especially for commuting. The problem we’ve faced with new developments has been one of designing them with limited parking spaces, but then not ensuring that the replacement transport systems are in place. This, of course, means that people still have the same number of cars but don’t have the places to park them and so we end up with streets covered in parked cars – though one could argue (not very successfully, I would imagine) that’s just keeping the heritage appearance, as it’s the same situation with old streets which were built without parking spaces in mind.
I’m sure I could come up with some wonderfully glib solution to the problem as a conclusion, but this is an issue that cuts across a number of areas – beyond planning and transport issues, there’s some very thorny economics about the costs and benefits of car travel – and what can seem like a simple solution only throws up more problems. So, if there’s anyone out there in my rather small peanut gallery with a solution, feel free to share.