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Attack on Transportation Demand Management off the mark

A parking operations designer based in New Zealand, Kevin Warwood, took Transportation Demand Management (TDM) to task for supposedly requiring parking systems to operate badly on purpose. TDM asserts that through smart public policy, there can be a more equitable and efficient overall transportation system. It does not suppose any of the things that Warwood claims. 

TDM recognizes that parking is one component of a larger transportation system. Polices that affect one system affect all systems. For example, zoning that requires developers to build x number of parking spaces (i.e. parking minimums) leads to the overbuilding of parking, which drives the cost of parking lower resulting in more  driving, which leads to the need for more parking. This policy has negative impacts other modes of transport such as transit, biking, and walking, all of which are not required to be built with every new development. 

If zoning, (i.e. parking minimums) went away, developers (“the market”) would build much less parking, the price of parking would go up, and fewer people would drive, resulting in more utilization of transit, biking, and walking. The higher price would mean a better return for parking lot owners. 

Warwood is correct that, “people will always travel where the incentives point them.” The problem is that our government policies over the past 50 years have incentivized driving and parking at the expense of other modes. These incentives can be found in fuel costs, on-street parking polices, road construction, law enforcement, healthcare, etc. So when you hear that transportation planners want to dis-incentivize driving and parking, they are not trying to eliminate the car, but are rather speaking about creating an even playing field with the automobile, which does not exist today. 

An equitable and efficient transportation system is a good thing for everyone: developers, parking operators, communities, drivers, transit riders, walkers, and bikers. To use Warwood's analogy, if everyone drove (which we are certainly closer to than a balanced transportation system), the "river" would overflow, flooding the nearby land and preventing a lot of water from ever making it downstream. But if the river has multiple flow ways, then all of the water will not only move to its final destination, it will move there quickly and efficiently.

Posted in Beyond Parking on Oct 24, 2014

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