Almost 10 years ago I read a blog post about a book called The High Cost of Free Parking. It wasn’t available at the local library so I asked my wife, who was working at the university, to see if she could get it. I soon had a copy from Oregon State University via inter library loan and very quickly I was hooked on parking reform.
As someone who didn’t study planning or transportation, I hadn’t really thought much about parking spaces or where they came from. I imagine my reaction to Professor Shoup’s revelations was similar to someone a little more than 100 years earlier reading through a copy of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle; I was horrified and angry.
Nearly a decade later and I think parking reform is more important (and possible) than ever. I’ve seen parking requirements in Portland get increased in 2013 and then reduced again in 2016. We’ve developed new permit policies, passed performance-based parking management, and we’re on the verge of joining a handful of US cities in, effectively, having no residential parking requirements city-wide. Through it all I have learned that most people still haven’t really thought about parking spaces or where they come from, but when they find out often they are shocked just like I was.
My experience here in Portland led me to believe that every city needs a parking reform champion, at least one. The evidence is strong and the arguments are compelling. A generation of planners and consultants has had the opportunity to learn about the problems with 20th century parking policy. The housing crisis in our big cities has brought parking requirements to the forefront. I believe there’s an opportunity to foster a real parking reform movement and it can’t happen soon enough.
The Parking Reform Network will be the backbone of that movement, providing information, materials, and support for parking policy advocates. We will build a library of parking regulations, articles, and literature; and we will develop a rubric for grading a municipality’s parking policy so they can be compared in an apples-to-apples fashion. [Update on this project available here.] This library will be a resource for city staff, planners, and academics as well as reformers, providing a trustworthy and up-to-date source for best practices and policy pilots.
We’ll also serve as a literal network for communications and relationship building among professionals, advocates, academics, and elected officials who are interested in parking policy reform.
Sound like something you want to see happen? Join the Parking Reform Network today!
Today there are three copies of The High Cost of Free Parking and two copies of Parking in the City available in the Multnomah County Library system. How many are in circulation in your town?