Want to Increase Walkability? Get Rid of the Cars

By. Neil Williamson

The lead of the January 9th Washington Post article was enough to give anyone pause:

Fairfax County residents will have a harder time finding a free parking space in some neighborhoods, if transportation planners get their way.

No parking The article outlines a proposal to create a maximum limit for number of spaces in new commercial and residential developments near Metro stations.  The rationale given is these generally high density Transit-Oriented-Developments (TOD) don’t need  parking – everyone should take the train. Therefore the local government, not the market,  is seeking to severely restrict the number of parking spaces a developer may choose to provide for a project.

Under the current ordinances a new town home must have at least 2.75 parking spaces per dwelling.  Under the draft recommendations, parking would be limited to 1.75 spaces per dwelling unit. [emphasis added – nw]

By means of background, Fairfax County has a population of about a million people and covers roughly 400 square miles.

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth is quoted in the article:

We often like to say that too much parking can be a traffic magnet.  If we’re going to address traffic and make a walkable community in Fairfax, its important to get the parking right.”

The Free Enterprise Forum believes that the new planning goal is to limit transportation choices for citizens.  parking ticket By forcing developers to limit parking options, the planners behind this proposal believe they are funneling people into mass transit; they’re wrong.  The lack of parking will lead to an increase in illegal parking (often on the skinny roads favored by New Urbanism) creating a safety issue and therefore a new citizen demand for parking enforcement. 

To be deemed a success, this new parking proposal will limit consumer transportation choices thus increasing walkability and transit use.  Such logic reminds me of the philosophy of comedian Stephen Wright who famously said:

“Anywhere is walking distance, if you’ve got the time.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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One response

  1. If parking maximums are connected with forcing people out of cars, then, by implication, parking minimums must be forcing people into cars. Or at least forcing people to pay for car storage whether or not they intend to use it, thereby altering the economic incentives take our cues from. Given the value the Free Enterprise Forum places on transportation choice and the freedom for individuals to choose the lifestyle they wish to live, is it safe to assume that you oppose parking minimums (which are much more prevalent and have exerted their effect for many years) to the same degree that you oppose parking maximums? Thank you.

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