Smoking is bad for your health, yet people still smoke. Driving is bad for your health, yet people still drive. Over the last half century we’ve worked hard to help people quit smoking and deter people from engaging in the behaviour in the first place. It’s time we help people quit driving and deter them from even starting.
The reasons people think they need are a car stem from many directions. The way cities and suburban locations are built are designed for limited mobility (car focused), cities don’t provide non-car options, and just like tobacco there’s big money encouraging everyone to drive. Over at Vox they’ve outlined multiple approaches to getting people out of their cars and into the world.
End single-family zoning to encourage mixed-use development
On its face, single-family zoning is a housing policy that creates quiet, uncrowded neighborhoods by restricting the development of apartments, townhouses, or any other dwelling thatâ€™s not a freestanding home. Itâ€™s incredibly prevalent in the US (75 percent of residential land is single-family zoned), and,Â as my colleague Jerusalem DemsasÂ points out, it is incredibly harmful. It has had a racist impact, having been used to exclude people of color from certain neighborhoods, and it overall increases the cost of housing by limiting supply.
Car culture in North America has led to massive subsidies for car drivers that go pretty much unnoticed. One of these subsidies is in the way of “free parking,” which is anything but free. Cars occupy space during the day that could be used for productive means or green space, instead cars sit unused with nobody inside of them most of the time.
In San Francisco they have changed their municipal parking system to reflect market demands for parking space. The result is a drop in people who “cruise” looking for parking spaces. Therefore, car drivers have become a little less destructive in the city.
According to aÂ study published last monthÂ inÂ Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, the program has worked. San Franciscoâ€™s occupancy goals have been met, and â€œcruisingâ€ for parking â€” driving around and clogging up streets after youâ€™ve already reached your destination â€” is down by 50 percent.
The group of researchers â€” who represent the University of California, Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon and transit consultancy Nelson\Nygaard â€” analyzed the 256 blocks subject to SFpark and compared them to a 55-block control group. With access to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agencyâ€™s data, the team had a total of more than 2.4 million data points during metered hours to analyze.
Using a model to simulate a driver looking for parking (the model â€œcruisesâ€ down a street and, if it doesnâ€™t find any open spaces, takes a series of random turns until it does), the researchers estimated that the blocks under SFpark saw a 50 percent reduction in cruising. They also found that the program met its goal of a 60-80 percent occupancy rate for spots. Under the program, if occupancy was below 60 percent, parking rates were cut by 25 cents. If more than 80 percent of spots on a block were occupied during metered hours, rates were hiked by the same amount.