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Should Boston limit new parking spaces?

Posted by Joanna Weiss  July 11, 2013 11:44 AM

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parking spaces.jpg
Location, location, location

How coveted is a parking space in Boston? So much that this lovely pair of tandem spaces in the Back Bay recently sold at auction for $560,000. (The winning bidder, who already owned three spaces, said she'll use them for "guests and workers.") That's why so many heads turned when the Boston Redevelopment Authority announced plans to approve new apartment buildings with little or no required parking -- because, officials said, so many city residents already don't use cars.

Reaction has been mixed, and a little explosive. Some cheer the move away from cars, and think the end of parking mandates will help rein in housing costs. But some say parking is still essential in a city that lacks late-night-transit -- and is battered by winter weather, and is trying to attract more families. Do you park a car in Boston? Do you want the city to have more parking spaces, or fewer? Here are some thoughts about the looming war on cars. Add yours to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BostonParking.

It's parking vs. people

Q.pngOne parking space roughly occupies about 300sf, enough room for a small studio apartment. On average architects and developers currently need to match one parking space per unit, which drives up the cost of development to house vehicles and decreases housing availability for residents. Not only is this economically taxing on builders and residents, but it begs the question: What city do we want to live in? Do we want to keep depending on cars that congest our streets and consume acres of land in an urban model where transit systems and density make them obsolete or do we redirect funds into infrastructure improvements, green street initiatives, bike parking, and housing? Cars aren’t our top priority; it’s people. Our cities are growing and we need to strategically think about how we want to define our spaces. Do we make room for parking or people?
Quinton Kerns, @QisforQuentin
Designer, ADD Inc.

What about the people over 35?

Larry Harmon mug.jpgThis car-free city thing is getting out of hand. Whoever is driving this movement probably doesn’t spend much time shuttling elderly relatives to medical appointments or picking up the kids from their friends’ houses across town...There are still plenty of voters out there with more to do after work than walk to a nearby restaurant and decide which craft beer to match with which sushi roll...If Boston officials are so confident of a car-free future, they should charge a small fortune for new on-street residential parking permits in densely settled neighborhoods. Theoretically, there should be few takers. Current sticker holders, meanwhile, would retain permanent rights to free on-street parking. Upon sale or vacancy of their units, the sticker could be transferred to a new owner or tenant.
Lawrence Harmon, Globe columnist
"Car Free Future? Not for Families." Boston Globe, July 13, 2013

Everyone on the T? Really?

"The goal is to encourage the use of public transportation."
This would make sense if public transportation were underused, but it is not. It can't even handle the current ridership. So my reaction to this statement was pretty much: hIfnD7N.gif

Reddit user Gemini6Ice, on an r/boston thread about parking.

Neighborhood groups: Go back to school!

Just let the market do its work

matty.jpegBoston officials should be commended for this. But what they really ought to do is something radical, and it’s the exact same thing every other city and suburb in America ought to do: reduce the number of required spaces to zero. To be clear, that’s not to say nobody should build new parking spaces. Cars are very useful, and if you want to own one, you need someplace to put it. A parking space is valuable, and so reasonable real-estate developers will typically want to feature parking spaces as part of a new development. But parking spaces are a building amenity like any other—granite countertops or spacious bathtubs or a fitness center or a roof deck—and so they’re something the real-estate market is capable of generating in the quantity that people demand.
Matthew Yglesias, @mattyglesias
"Out, Damned Spot," Slate, July 9, 2013

Why people need cars

Having a car is not the same thing as driving it to work. The BRA needs to wake up and realize that. As another commenter stated young urban couples want to travel outside the city during non-working hours. Not having a car makes that impossible in most instances unless they use Zipcar. A city where transit services, such as they are, shut down just after midnight has no business making it difficult for people to park their personal vehicles near their homes
-- SML49

Not only that but people seem to forget that we are not Portland, OR. We get SNOW here and lots of it, and bitter cold winters that do not support bike riding 12 months a year. We need public transportation that is reliable and scaled to serve the growing number of residents that are flocking to our city.
-- Tony91
Reader comments,

Less demand on the way?

parking infographic.jpg
Boston Globe infographic

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