Planners and Green Groups Call for Off-Street Parking Reform

parking_presser.jpg Yesterday, several planning and environmental organizations joined Transportation Alternatives on the steps of City Hall to tout the release of "Suburbanizing the City" [PDF], the new report that critiques New York City's off-street parking policies. The coalition is similar -- but not identical -- to the array of groups that pushed for congestion pricing earlier this year. Their testimony highlighted the range of benefits that off-street parking reform would deliver, from mitigating tailpipe emissions to reducing housing costs.

Planning advocates recommended doing away with parking requirements and "unbundling" the cost of parking from the price of housing. "There's no reason for parking to be paid for by people who don't own cars," said Tri-State Transportation Campaign director Kate Slevin, adding that the construction of parking should be "a choice rather than a necessity."

Minimum parking requirements are especially ill-suited to affordable housing developments, said Elena Conte of the Pratt Center for Community Development (pictured at the mic). "[A parking minimum] really makes no sense at all for communities where less than 20 percent of households own cars, because it drives up the cost of housing and takes up valuable space that otherwise could be used to create additional units or public space."

Representatives of Environmental Defense and the New York League of Conservation Voters rounded out the proceedings, calling on the city and state to take stock and head off the traffic-congested future that excessive off-street parking threatens to bring about. "We're building the infrastructure to encourage more people to drive with very little understanding of the environmental impacts," said Josh Nachowitz of NYLCV.

T.A.'s Paul Steely White tied the issue to preserving New York's streets for people on foot, noting that more off-street parking means less sidewalk integrity: "Curb cuts enable cars to drive across the sidewalk and block the sidewalk; it erodes the pedestrian environment."

Major planning groups, including the American Planning Association, the Regional Plan Association, and the Municipal Art Society, have also signed on to the report and urged Mayor Bloomberg to revise the city's ad-hoc policies governing off-street parking. According to one organizer behind the effort, this marks the first time all three organizations have lined up behind the same transportation reform.

Streetsblog will have more soon on the recommendations being advanced by this coalition.