Parking: Private Pork

pigs trough Our overclass has done such a bang-up job demonizing public spending and public enterprise, nobody ever bothers to comment on the vast, ecocidal private-sector waste on which the corporate economy utterly relies.

The cardinal form of such waste is cars-first transportation, to which corporate shareholders are intractably addicted.

The lavishness and logic of the waste entailed can be appraised by these facts about the construction of parking spaces for automobiles, as reported by UCLA’s Donald Shoup:

Urban planners often ask questions about parking requirements. The Planning Advisory Service of the American Planning Association (1991, 1) reports that it “receives hundreds of requests each year about off-street parking requirements for different land uses–in fact, we receive more requests year after year on this topic than on any other.” Yet, to my knowledge, urban planning education offers students no instruction in how to set parking requirements.

Urban planning textbooks offer no help in learning to set parking requirements. Consider the four editions of Urban Land Use Planning by F. Stuart Chopin and his coauthors (Chapin 1957, 1965; Chopin and Kaiser 1979; Kaiser, Godschalk, and Chapin 1995). This distinguished text is considered the “bible” of urban land use planning, yet no edition mentions parking requirements.

What possible explanation could there be for this, other than that the system needs to make sure that business requirements always and everywhere easily trump engineering calculations?

Meanwhile, here is the method deployed in actual construction practice:

The only source of data that systematically relates parking demand to land use is Parking Generation, published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.  The ITE (1987) reports the “parking generation rate” for 64 different land uses, from airports to warehouses.  The parking generation rate for each land use is defined as the average peak parking demand observed in case studies…. The objective of the survey is to count the number of vehicles parked at the time of peak parking demand.

Even this peak “parking generation” number, however, is not enough for cars-first:

Planners often set minimum parking requirements higher than the ITE parking generation rates. For example, a survey of 33 cities in nine southeastern states found that parking requirements averaged 3.7 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space, or 32 percent higher than the ITE parking generation rate of 2.79 spaces per 1,000 square feet (Polanis and Price 1991, 32). Similarly, a survey of 117 cities in California found that parking requirements averaged 3.8 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space, or 36 percent higher than the ITE parking generation rate (Shoup 1995, 18).

The generous parking capacity required by planners often goes unused. Studying office buildings in ten California cities, Richard Willson (1995) found that the peak parking demand averaged only 56 percent of capacity. Gruen Associates (1986) found that peak parking demand at nine suburban office parks near Philadelphia and San Francisco averaged only 47 percent of capacity, and that no office park had a peak parking demand greater than 60 percent of capacity. The Urban Land Institute (1982, 12) found that the recommended parking requirements for shopping centers provide a surplus of parking spaces for all but nineteen hours a year, and leave at least half of all spaces vacant for more than 40 percent of the time a shopping center is open for business.

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Readers may be interested in recent research on the heavy environmental cost of “free” car-parking in the USA at

  Non-Turning Point - Death by Car

[…] So, anyhow, here we are, living in a world of Peak Oil and impending oil shocks. And what, at this late moment, remains “the world’s primary manufacturing industry?” That’s right: the one that turns out 4,000-pound petroleum and coal burning machines that sit idle for 95 percent of their lives. […]