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MPC co-hosts Parking 101 roundtable: Municipalities flock to solve the daunting parking equation

c*(f+nv)=t(m-p)

- The parking equilibrium equation presented by Prof. Donald Shoup, Department of Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles

At a June 5 roundtable co-hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Council and Chicago Architecture Foundation, a panel of experts described the challenges of solving this equation for their communities. Dr. Rachel Weinberger, professor at PennDesign at the University of Pennsylvania and former private industry expert, Ald. Margaret Laurino (39 th Ward), and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4 th Ward) discussed practical ways to create great neighborhood retail centers by managing parking demand.

More and more successful cities and towns have given up on trying to accommodate more demand for driving by building more highways, widening streets, and increasing parking supply. They’ve learned that building more room for driving just fills up with even more cars, which leaves the city or town back at square one. So they’re taking a different tack and developing ways to manage demand for driving while still increasing the number of people shopping in their retail districts. After all, though the transportation engineering industry does not require or even encourage keeping statistics on this, most successful urban retail districts already have a solid base of people walking, biking, taking cabs, and taking the train or bus to the area. And their desire to shop at the retail district more often is directly impacted by the quality of their experience. You don’t need an equation to figure out that sidewalks that have been slashed with curb cuts and parking lots to accommodate more parking decreases foot traffic.

Dr. Weinberger kicked off the event by dispelling many of the myths about parking demand. She noted that communities have been lamenting the perceived parking shortage since the early 20 th Century. Dr. Weinberger, who has worked on a variety of parking management projects for the public and private sector, emphasized that communities that focus solely on increasing parking will likely fail to act in the best interest of promoting local economic development and quality of life. Communities that focus on maximizing access, however – whether it be in the form of people walking, taking the bus, biking, driving, taking the train, or arriving by cab – are likely to create the foot traffic that boosts local sales and makes the shopping area lively and inviting. Maximizing access requires prioritizing the most efficient travel options, like walking, over the most destructive, and then managing demand for those options that are most likely to have a negative impact on the shopping area and actively increasing options that will have a positive impact.

Ald. Laurino and Ald. Preckwinkle, both of whom have been leaders in considering the implementation of Transportation Enhancement Districts in Chicago, discussed the practical local challenges of managing parking demand while boosting overall access to the shopping area. Transportation Enhancement Districts (TEDs) maximize parking availability by setting the price of on-street parking to a level that ensures there is always a space available, and then returning the additional revenue from the meters to the local community to use for improving access to the district.

After their remarks, the panelists had a lively discussion with the audience about the impact of looming transit service cuts and other practical issues on the feasibility of implementing Transportation Enhancement Districts and other parking management tools in the Chicago region.

Watch the video of Parking 101 , courtesy of CAN-TV.

Learn more about Transportation Enhancement Districts .

View a diagram of the cycle of car-oriented development .

View a diagram of the cycle of people-oriented development .

This roundtable was generously supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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