The Politics Of Parking

March 16, 2010

So I ducked out from my studies for a late lunch last week, squeezing the last hint of surprising warmth from the day’s winter sunshine on a downtown restaurant patio. With me is a scholarly friend of mine, employed at a much more august institution of higher learning than I am presently but I don’t hold it against him. We talked city politics over pitchers of beer and stodgy Italian food.

Covering a wide range of topics, we eventually arrived at the inevitable subject of cars and traffic, situated as we were at a busy-ish corner, chock full of private vehicles, streetcars, bikes and pedestrians. While both occasional drivers, we share a preference for other modes of transport to get around the city. “An evil necessity,” I said in terms of our car usage. “How about a largely unnecessary indulgence?” my drinking-and-dining companion countered.

A few days later, he sent me this from the Toronto Star. It’s worth taking a moment to read through it but for our purposes here, it introduced me to one Dr. Donald Shoup, “America’s parking guru”. A professor at UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, Prof. Shoup is also a bestselling author of the 2005 book, The High Cost of Free Parking. In a nutshell, he believes cities set aside too much land use for parking and that the price to park a car does not accurately reflect fair market value. This simply causes unnecessary congestion as cars that do find spots, tend to stay for long periods because it is cheap to do so. Other prospective parkers are then forced to spend inordinate amounts of time, circling, looking for an open spot or they throw out the anchors and illegally double park, adding further to life draining congestion.

Hear it directly (and much more thoroughly) from the horse’s mouth here.  While at the Streetfilms.org site, take some time to browse and check out their other films especially Fixing the Great Mistake: Autocentric Development. There are viable solutions being discussed to combat urban gridlock and our unhealthy car dependency. Unfortunately, not here in Toronto. Certainly not during this election campaign.

In fact, what’s being spewed forth from our major (and some minor) mayoral candidates is little more than knuckle-dragging, backward looking, boned tired rhetoric. Despite articles like this in seemingly car friendly sites like Parking Today (who knew?), all we hear about is some alleged War on Cars. But if we’re truly want to usher Toronto into a prosperous, life affirming 21st-century, the debate really needs to be reframed as The Car’s War on Livability.

pastaly submitted by Acaphelgmic