Cities Improve Parking by Removing Parking Spaces

Car culture greatly damaged urban centres the world over and now cities are trying to undo the damage. Smart cities are banning cars from certain areas, installing bike lanes, more sidewalks, and now are removing parking. Cities built too many parking spaces for cars and now they are reclaiming that space. It’s important to remember that most of the time parking spaces are empty – and you can improve parking by managing the supply.

Sometimes, the supply of parking goes down because nobody needs it. Since 1990, the city of Philadelphia has conducted an inventory of parking every five years in the downtown Center City neighbourhood, counting publicly accessible parking spaces and analysing occupancy rates in facilities with 30 or more spaces. Because of plentiful transit options, a walkable environment and a high downtown residential population, Philadelphia is finding that it needs less parking. Between 2010 and 2015, the amount of off-street parking around downtown shrank by about 3,000 spaces, a 7% reduction. Most of that is tied to the replacement of surface lots with new development, according to Mason Austin, a planner at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and co-author of the most recent parking inventory.

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Trams Win For Moving People

Traffic is a problem in every city, and more and more people are concerned with the most efficient way of getting people from A to B. It turns out we already know the answer: mass transit. The issue in traffic planing is slowly changing from how much space should cars get to how much space should the car give up. Bicycling and mass transit are the most efficient way to move people through cities and now urban planners are thinking of how to divide up space that the car once dominated for those modes of transportation.

Cars, as you’d expect, came dead last, taking over four minutes to move just 200 people over the line. In the city, the superior acceleration and speed of a car give no advantage. Busses and trams come first—no surprise, they’re called “mass” transit for a reason. But bikes come in far behind pedestrians, taking two minutes to get 200 people over a line, compared to just 38 seconds for walking. Obviously, over longer distances, things change a lot, but it’s interesting nonetheless, as much city travel is stop-start.

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Supporting Bicycles is a Good Idea for Cities

Torontoist is a blog focused on, you guessed it, Toronto and they recently ran a series of posts about bike lanes. It’s not all about Toronto as they pull data from New York and tout Strasbourg as an inspiration that Toronto ought to follow.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In another recent post, Torontoist provides a look at three myths about bike lanes that people (for some reason) believe. The first myth is that bike lanes block people from commuting from the suburbs. The response to the myth is pretty great:

The myth here is that cycling infrastructure will cause congestion to the point of excessive traffic delays. Bike lanes don’t always add to traffic congestion, and really need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Except for rush hour, Bloor Street is already occupied by parking spaces on either side of the road, and, in turn, narrows a four-lane street down to two lanes. Bike lanes will remove parking spaces, sure, but in turn will leave the two-lane situation in the same condition it was prior to the installation of the bike lanes. If bike lanes do in fact cause minor inconveniences, these inconveniences are nothing in comparison to on-street parking used practically around the clock. Here’s an 808 page book on why that’s bad public policy.

Lastly, the site outlined why bicycle infrastructure is part of a larger movement to make streets good for all commuters. Having a multimodal approach to urban transportation is always a good form of planning rather than a monolithic approach focused on one mode of getting around.

The study of the improvements made to Richmond and Adelaide streets, which included the addition of a cycle track separated from vehicle traffic by flexi-posts and planter boxes, concluded that the upgrades resulted in an increased number of cyclists using the roadways and reduced travel times for drivers. During off-peak hours, a motorist’s trip was 30 per cent faster after the cycle track was installed and 12 per cent faster during peak hours.

In the study, both cyclists and drivers reported that they felt safer using the street once it had been upgraded. The report did not, however, mention how incorrect usage of the roadway, such as drivers and delivery trucks parking in the bike lane, can render it less safe since cyclists usually have to merge with traffic.

Pedestrians In Paris To Get 50% Of Street Space

Paris has had decades of extremely bad traffic and there’s no obvious solution: other than get rid the traffic. Infrastructure that encourages car use makes traffic worse while also debilitating cities as a whole. So Paris is doing what most places are afraid to try: giving the streets back to people.

“Parisians are finding out that what were once admirable squares of theirs are now just intersections,” says Jean Macheras, the Paris delegate of the French Transportation Users Assocation.

The shift started with the Place de la République—until 2013, it was also a busy road, but now it’s a pedestrian plaza planted with trees, lined with benches, and filled with people. The transformation was so popular that the city decided to keep going.

Each of the new designs give pedestrians at least 50% of the space in the square, taking away lanes of traffic even though each of the streets is a major route in the city. At the Place de la Bastille, the square will reconnect with a curb on one side, creating a new green space for people to sit. At the Place de la Madeleine, trees will mark off more pedestrian space and a new weekly market will be added.

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Change The City, Not Your Fashion

vision zero

Toronto runs ad campaigns that blame victims for being hit by car drivers, the campaign is so bizarre because it says it comes to pedestrian fashion choice. You’d think the city would learn that blaming victims because of what they wear is a bad idea (see Slut Walk for a previous example of this). To be clear, drivers are at fault in the vast majority of collisions.

Blaming the victims never works because they aren’t the people causing problems. So what Toronto should do is change the actual layout of the city. The Vision Zero Initiative is all about ways cities can modify policy and infrastructure to ensure that pedestrian deaths equal zero every year. And it works. The graph above is from Stockholm’s success and now other cities are using Vision Zero to reduce the number of people needlessly murdered by car drivers.

[S]everal studies have proven that so-called high-visibility clothing does not, in fact, help drivers pay attention to pedestrians and cyclists. A 2014 study by the University of Bath tested the impact on a wide range of cyclist outfits—including one that said POLICE—on driver behavior for 5,690 passing vehicles.


In fact, the only thing that is proven to make pedestrians safer is better street design.

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