Transportation advocates have long known that free parking has a high cost: it encourages drive-alone trips, ties up valuable land in acres of impermeable, pedestrian-unfriendly parking lots, and creates business districts lacking in “life on the street.” This fantastic article takes a closer look at the high price of free parking in our cities, including Portland:
The central city districts that have done really well in recent years aren’t the ones that have provided the most parking; they’re the ones that have provided the least. Portland, Oregon, instead of expanding its downtown parking capacity, has spent the past 30 years restricting it. There was less parking per capita in downtown Portland in the 1990s than there was in the 1970s. And Portland, as any visitor notices at once, has one of the most successful downtowns in America.
It’s not hard to do the math and figure out that if every person in your office block drives their own car to work, it’s going to eat up a LOT of land to store their empty cars during the day. Some cities now devote more land to parking in downtown than to all other uses combined! Parking reduction is one of the best tools we have to get people out of their cars, benefiting the environment, public safety, and local businesses, not to mention freeing up land for development.
As the author quotes,
automobile dependency resembles addiction to smoking, and free parking is like free cigarettes…it will take decades for cities to recover from the damage.