Monday, December 28, 2009

Park More and Drive Less

As a parking and transportation planner, I often have to explain how paid parking is a tool that encourages good behavior. This is especially true with on-street parking, where a fee encourages people to park more and drive less. By that I mean paid parking causes greater turnover of the spaces, resulting in an increase in the availability of spaces and the reduction of congestion-causing cruising.
Dr. Donald Shoup, professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, has written extensively about this in the "The High Cost of Free Parking," and eloquently illustrated the point during an interview with Mark Gorton of the Open Planning Project on Streetfilms. Although they use NYC as the backdrop, I believe the thesis holds true for large and small communities alike.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The electric car is coming!

Over the past year or so, I have heard a lot of talk about the next coming of electric cars. Automakers are rolling them out at car shows, and cities are building the infrastructure to support them. But I have yet to see a single electric car on the road. What is the deal? Are electric cars coming? From what I have heard and read, it appears as though they are coming, but slowly (see Electric Cars are Coming! and Top 10 electric cars coming to US in 2009/2010).

Every time you bring up the issue of electric cars, someone is bound to point out that plug-in electric cars are not the environmental solution that everyone thinks they are. This is true. For example, what do we do with dead batteries, and what about the power that will be needed when 50,000 of these are rolling on the streets? (see Plug-In Hybrids Could Require 160 New Power Plants By 2030 (Or None At All and Plug-In Hybrids Use Over 17 Times More Water Than Regular Cars, Researchers Say). Since such a large portion of US power generation comes from coal, the increasing use of plug-in hybrid and electric cars will require serious consideration of other energy sources (for an example, see How Solar Panels Could Power 90% of US Transportation).

My recommendation: Get yourself a plug-in hybrid as soon as they become available, and then put solar panels on your roof.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

House of Cars:Innovation and the Parking Garage

When you think about the architecture of parking garages, the term "eyesore" often comes to mind. It has not always been this way, and it certainly does not always have to be.

A new exhibit House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. takes a closer look at parking structures past and future with a focus on their relationship between parking structures and the built environment.
"As soon as there were cars, there was a parking problem, and cities responded both by finding ways to fit cars into old structures – such as carriage houses – and inventing a new building type made specifically for automobile storage. As the parking garage's building type evolved, innovative engineers explored the best ways to lay out parking places and create structural systems to accommodate both cars and people. "
NPR also did an interesting story about it.

There is also an excellent companion exhibit that focuses on contemporary art in the parking garage. As a result, the exhibition includes a gallery devoted to the parking garage in art and the popular imagination.

Finally, if you can not make it to DC but want to learn more about the history of parking design and its relationship to the urban form check out the book, "The Parking Garage: Design and Evolution of a Modern Urban Form" by Shannon Sanders McDonald. It is published by the Urban Land Institute.