Is parking too cheap?

HenryAlan

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There are too many anti-car, and especially anti-off-street parking people to allow anyone to build a parking garage from scratch which is not intrinsic to another component of a large development
Ironically enough, that group will quite easily get on board. They believe that most parking is only built due to mandates in the building code. I know quite a few people in this group, and they tend to favor market-based solutions on the assumption that parking exceeds demand when unsubsidized and that a free market will adjust quantity accordingly. The challenge will not be anti-car folks, but people who can't conceive of parking in a garage a couple of blocks from their apartment, or who are unwilling to accept the idea that their current parking situation is subsidized.
 

curcuas

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If there are so many crazy anti-parking-at-all-costs people out there, how do we still have parking minima? The statement is silly. Let's let the market rule parking and enable cheaper housing and not be building empty, expensive garages.
 

shmessy

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If there are so many crazy anti-parking-at-all-costs people out there, how do we still have parking minima? The statement is silly. Let's let the market rule parking and enable cheaper housing and not be building empty, expensive garages.
Personally, I am not an anti-parking at all costs person, but I am certainly a "the city should not be losing economic opportunity due to parking" person.

The amount of real estate taken by garages and side of street parking actually HURTS the city economically. That is an, objectively, dollar opportunity cost. Widening the transpo lanes, by not having both sides of the street parking, improves transit flow and economic efficiency of a city. The streets of a city are the vessels and arteries. On-street parking is plaque.

I am fully in favor of inner cities treating parking like states have treated tobacco or fossil fuels. Tax the hell out of it for revenue stream. Parking a car in the city is an individual, not society-based, benefit. The city shouldn't subsidize it, the individual should bear the costs. JMHO.

The opportunity cost of parking garages (I'd like to see the full square footage numbers for Boston) is how much more housing capacity would be freed up by repurposing what is already there over the next few decades as the inevitable technological changes occur.
 
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donkeybutlers

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An interesting example of this question coming up in local politics:
Less than 24 hours after the results of Boston’s preliminary mayoral election had been decided, a super PAC supporting City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George took aim at fellow general election candidate and City Councilor Michelle Wu over, among other things, her support for charging an annual fee for residential parking permits.

The only issue: Essaibi George holds the same position.
Both candidates do claim to want to charge more for parking. I believe Wu means it more though.
 

tysmith95

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Parking cars on city streets is simply private storage on public property.
It's definitely something that should be neighborhood specific. Neighborhoods like the north end should have high parking fees while ones like west roxbury should have small or no parking fees.
 

Brattle Loop

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Parking cars on city streets is simply private storage on public property.
It's an amenity and public good that is functionally not all that dissimilar from, say, the MBTA providing bike cages (private storage of a different form of rubber-tired vehicle) on their public property, or, maybe an even better example, Cambridge's on-street bike racks (some of which ate parking spaces) which are, if I recall correctly free private storage on public property.

Saying that street parking is private storage on public property is true in a technical sense, but if it's meant to be an argument against the practice it's not an effective one. Permitting the use of public property for various private properties is a normal prerogative of governments, we all know this. I don't see anyone here complaining about cities like Cambridge allowing the private storage of bicycles on the public streets. Now, obviously, that's because around here we tend to look much more kindly at bikes and look for ways to reduce auto usage, and reducing the availability of street parking is beneficial to that end. But that's the point, the end we're looking for is to reduce use of one kind of transportation and increase use of others, which is a matter of prioritization and policy. We're not cutting parking because we don't like people storing private vehicles on the public way, we're doing it because we want people to drive less and would be perfectly happy to redirect some or all of that public road to storage (and use) of preferred forms of transportation just like Cambridge did with their bike racks.
 

JumboBuc

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Now, obviously, that's because around here we tend to look much more kindly at bikes and look for ways to reduce auto usage, and reducing the availability of street parking is beneficial to that end. But that's the point, the end we're looking for is to reduce use of one kind of transportation and increase use of others, which is a matter of prioritization and policy. We're not cutting parking because we don't like people storing private vehicles on the public way, we're doing it because we want people to drive less and would be perfectly happy to redirect some or all of that public road to storage (and use) of preferred forms of transportation just like Cambridge did with their bike racks.
I actually disagree with this! I do oppose free street parking solely because of how it co-opts public resources and property for private use! It's not about the cars for me. I like cars and driving! I'd also be happy to pay if the City of Boston started charging me for my resident parking permit, because I realize that I choose to street park my car and fair is fair. Even a nominal fee (like the price of one parking ticket per car per year) would be a start, just like Somerville and Cambridge and other peers charge.

If bike parking took up as much real estate and resources as car parking does I'd also oppose giving it away to select individuals. Or if there was a proposal to give street parking spots for free to private individuals to erect private man caves or storage sheds or whatever I'd oppose that too.

Street parking is very rival and very excludable; it is strictly a "private good" in economics terms. It's also expensive to build and maintain, and its continued existence has a large opportunity cost borne by the public. There's a lively private market that reflects this and puts a price on urban parking (people pay like $50 a day to park on my block while I park there year-round for free). It makes no sense for the City to devote the amount of resources they do to buldiing and maintaining this inherently private good, and then to just give it away to some individuals (but not all) for free.

Public space should be open for public use. We shouldn't hand over public value to a select number of individuals who jump through a bunch of expensive hoops in order to be allowed to use expensive public resources while excluding others from using them.
 

Brattle Loop

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It makes no sense for the City to devote the amount of resources they do to buldiing and maintaining this inherently private good, and then to just give it away to some individuals (but not all) for free.
I don't know whether it makes economic sense, I'm not an economist, but it sure as hell makes political sense. We live in a society that is, even here, very car-centric, whether we like it or not. People get so up-in-arms whenever parking spaces (free or otherwise) get taken away because it makes life (usually marginally) more difficult for everyone who relies on a car. It imposes a cost when a lack of parking precludes the ability to have and use a car. Plenty of people are perfectly fine with this (I don't drive and have spent the best part of the past fifteen years commuting solely via the T), plenty of people aren't. Not everyone can go without a car.

There's something of a difference, I think, between free public parking, metered public parking, and resident permit parking. Free public parking is the most objectionable, because it encourages people who could afford to pay for parking to park in spaces that could otherwise be used for those less able to, or that might not need to be there at all. Metered parking brings revenue for what is effectively temporary private rental of a public space. It's still essentially a regressive tax but it also provides the benefit of enabling access (especially to places in transit droughts) to businesses and services while returning at least some of the cost to the government in question. And in a car-centric society there's going to be economic cost if no one can patronize a business either because there's no parking or because it costs too much to park there. Resident parking, whether free or not, is a public service to residents that reflects the fact that lots of people need a car and therefore need a place to put it. My sister lives in Jamaica Plain, and a lot of the places around her don't have driveways or garages; it's not going to go over well if the government's policy is, sorry, if you want to live in this place you can't have a car because there's literally no place to park it (until someone comes along and builds a private garage to gouge locals, anyway).

Public space should be open for public use. We shouldn't hand over public value to a select number of individuals who jump through a bunch of expensive hoops in order to be allowed to use expensive public resources while excluding others from using them.
We hand over public value to select individuals all the time. And either I don't understand or just don't agree, but how is this not "public space open for public use"? It's public parking (resident parking being a specific section of the public). We, the state, collectively hand over millions upon millions of dollars to the MBTA; figures are a little hard to come by but even the HRT lines the fares only cover something like 60% of the cost of running them, which represents an enormous subsidy in the form of taxpayer dollars going specifically to select individuals in the form of transit riders. It's not a direct equivalent, especially because (street) parking is a far more limited resource.

I mean, if all you're trying to argue is that you think that free parking is inherently problematic and wrong, then I suppose I understand. I don't agree, because it is a definitional public good in that it's provided by the government for general use. (I live in a suburb with ample parking and a bit of sprawl. Half the businesses downtown would go out of business if the city parking lots got shut down - hell, quite possibly if they even charged - because access would be bloody impossible without somewhere to park.) Even resident-permit parking is a public good for residents who a.) need a car and b.) may not be able to afford privatized parking. It's perfectly fine not to like that that public good is provided, but I can't say I agree that it's not a public good at all.
 

JumboBuc

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I don't know whether it makes economic sense, I'm not an economist, but it sure as hell makes political sense. We live in a society that is, even here, very car-centric, whether we like it or not. People get so up-in-arms whenever parking spaces (free or otherwise) get taken away because it makes life (usually marginally) more difficult for everyone who relies on a car. It imposes a cost when a lack of parking precludes the ability to have and use a car. Plenty of people are perfectly fine with this (I don't drive and have spent the best part of the past fifteen years commuting solely via the T), plenty of people aren't. Not everyone can go without a car.

There's something of a difference, I think, between free public parking, metered public parking, and resident permit parking. Free public parking is the most objectionable, because it encourages people who could afford to pay for parking to park in spaces that could otherwise be used for those less able to, or that might not need to be there at all. Metered parking brings revenue for what is effectively temporary private rental of a public space. It's still essentially a regressive tax but it also provides the benefit of enabling access (especially to places in transit droughts) to businesses and services while returning at least some of the cost to the government in question. And in a car-centric society there's going to be economic cost if no one can patronize a business either because there's no parking or because it costs too much to park there. Resident parking, whether free or not, is a public service to residents that reflects the fact that lots of people need a car and therefore need a place to put it. My sister lives in Jamaica Plain, and a lot of the places around her don't have driveways or garages; it's not going to go over well if the government's policy is, sorry, if you want to live in this place you can't have a car because there's literally no place to park it (until someone comes along and builds a private garage to gouge locals, anyway).

We hand over public value to select individuals all the time. And either I don't understand or just don't agree, but how is this not "public space open for public use"? It's public parking (resident parking being a specific section of the public). We, the state, collectively hand over millions upon millions of dollars to the MBTA; figures are a little hard to come by but even the HRT lines the fares only cover something like 60% of the cost of running them, which represents an enormous subsidy in the form of taxpayer dollars going specifically to select individuals in the form of transit riders. It's not a direct equivalent, especially because (street) parking is a far more limited resource.

I mean, if all you're trying to argue is that you think that free parking is inherently problematic and wrong, then I suppose I understand. I don't agree, because it is a definitional public good in that it's provided by the government for general use. (I live in a suburb with ample parking and a bit of sprawl. Half the businesses downtown would go out of business if the city parking lots got shut down - hell, quite possibly if they even charged - because access would be bloody impossible without somewhere to park.) Even resident-permit parking is a public good for residents who a.) need a car and b.) may not be able to afford privatized parking. It's perfectly fine not to like that that public good is provided, but I can't say I agree that it's not a public good at all.
A few thoughts:
  • I think part of our lack of understanding here comes from the fact that the economic definition of a "public good" is very different from the general / colloquial definitions. No need to go into an econ lesson here, but at a high level a "public good" in economics is non-rival and non-excludable, while a "public good" in common conversation is just a good paid for by the public. These are very different concepts. So in economics, clean air and national security are examples of public goods while street parking is not a public good, even if government provides all of those things.
  • A major beef of mine with free resident parking is that it isn't free for all residents! It's only free for residents with their own private licensed and registered and insured automobile. For years I lived in The Fenway without owning my own car, and I was severly restricted in my ability to park rentals or friends' or family members cars in my neighborhood whenever I did drive or had visitors. Then I bought my own car, and was given a permit for free from the City to park my car basically anywhere I wanted. That's messed up and unequal. If some residents (i.e., car owners) get free use of street parking spots than all residents should too. It's not fair to gate-keep this highly valuable resource in this manner so that one neighbor has access and another is legally frozen out.
  • My problem isn't with street parking at all, it's with street parking where the price is significantly less than the cost. (In economic terms, "price" and "cost" are entirely different concepts.) And this is especially unjust when some people within a population get access to that low price, but others have to pay full cost. In effect, this is a situation where those that don't have access subsidize those that do.
  • The title of this thread isn't "Should street parking exist?" it is "Is parking too cheap?". I'm totally okay with street parking at the high level, but it's absolutely in urban environments often "too cheap."
  • You say that "We hand over public value to select individuals all the time," but I really can't think of an obvious example (especially at the municipal level) where public property is put to private use (for free!) to the extent of Boston resident street parking. The T example you cite doesn't make a lot of sense: the T is a public agency equally open for use by all the public. There's no "gate keeper" here that restricts the T so that Person A is allowed to use it but Person B isn't.
At a basic level, your issues with free parking appear to be about incentives to drive and reducing auto use, while mine are more about equitable and economically efficient allocation of resources. That's fine. There's no need for us to see this in the same way.
I wrote my earlier post in response to your language like "Now, obviously, that's because around here we..." which implied that everyone on this site has the same underlying reasoning and beliefs. I was pointing out that this is not the case! ArchBoston agrees on lots of things, but often our more nuanced views on policies and priorites are indeed fairly diverse, and it's important to not gloss over that.

(And just for the record, I also "commute solely via the T" or by foot or bike and have for my entire career.)
 

Brattle Loop

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  • I think part of our lack of understanding here comes from the fact that the economic definition of a "public good" is very different from the general / colloquial definitions. No need to go into an econ lesson here, but at a high level a "public good" in economics is non-rival and non-excludable, while a "public good" in common conversation is just a good paid for by the public. These are very different concepts. So in economics, clean air and national security are examples of public goods while street parking is not a public good, even if government provides all of those things.
Fair enough. Definitional differences will lead to different conclusions, and I was definitely not thinking in strict economic terms since that's not my area of expertise.

  • A major beef of mine with free resident parking is that it isn't free for all residents! It's only free for residents with their own private licensed and registered and insured automobile. For years I lived in The Fenway without owning my own car, and I was severly restricted in my ability to park rentals or friends' or family members cars in my neighborhood whenever I did drive or had visitors. Then I bought my own car, and was given a permit for free from the City to park my car basically anywhere I wanted. That's messed up and unequal. If some residents (i.e., car owners) get free use of street parking spots than all residents should too. It's not fair to gate-keep this highly valuable resource in this manner so that one neighbor has access and another is legally frozen out.
That is way messed up. I suppose it's easier for practical enforcement purposes than having some kind of interchangeable token (like one of those placards, or a transponder) that's proper to the individual resident (and therefore a symbol, if you will, of their 'right' to use the public resource) rather than having it specific to the car. (The car isn't a resident, after all.) To me that's a result of sloppy execution on the part of the government that would benefit from changes designed to bring the practice more in line with the ideal. That's a very legitimate gripe about a really, really stupid practice that doesn't need to be done anywhere near so badly.

  • You say that "We hand over public value to select individuals all the time," but I really can't think of an obvious example (especially at the municipal level) where public property is put to private use (for free!) to the extent of Boston resident street parking. The T example you cite doesn't make a lot of sense: the T is a public agency equally open for use by all the public. There's no "gate keeper" here that restricts the T so that Person A is allowed to use it but Person B isn't.
Might be another clash of definitions, but by definition pretty much anyone who doesn't use the T is subsidizing anyone who does. It doesn't have the same gatekeeping nature as resident parking, which is why it's a lousy example, but there's a simple explanation for that. I didn't realize (now I get it) that you were referring to similar situations when I made that comment, so I was just giving a general example of how public value (in the form of money) was given selectively, but I think that wasn't what you were really getting at and I did not comprehend that at the time. I think you're correct that there isn't much in the way of other examples of such widespread giving over of public property to private use on the scale of parking like that. Best municipal example I can think of might be block parties, which is unquestionably involving free (at least where I live) use of public property for a "private" purpose, for a given definition of private anyway. (It's not private in that it requires the general consent of the neighbors, but it undeniably excludes at least the driving public from the use of the road.)

I wrote my earlier post in response to your language like "Now, obviously, that's because around here we..." which implied that everyone on this site has the same underlying reasoning and beliefs. I was pointing out that this is not the case! ArchBoston agrees on lots of things, but often our more nuanced views on policies and priorites are indeed fairly diverse, and it's important to not gloss over that.
Absolutely fair. I have an occasionally-annoying tendency to over-generalize, probably comes from a desire not to seem like I'm unnecessarily blunt or singling people out to attack. That said, and while not in any way disagreeing with anything you've said, when I do that I'm usually thinking "ArchBoston compared to the general public", in that while we have a significant degree of diversity of opinion (and that's a good thing) I also think that there's a number of areas where we are more likely to have a general consensus than the public, or where the "average view" here (if you did content analysis to systematically quantify posts) would be different than the "average view" of the general public. I certainly don't mean to imply either that we all agree on everything or, worse, that anyone who holds differing views is somehow wrong, and I'll freely concede that my "aB versus non-aB" viewpoint in making comments like that inadvertently did lead me to implicitly discount the diversity of opinion here. I do apologize for that, and honestly thank you for pointing it out.
 

shmessy

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It's an amenity and public good that is functionally not all that dissimilar from, say, the MBTA providing bike cages (private storage of a different form of rubber-tired vehicle) on their public property, or, maybe an even better example, Cambridge's on-street bike racks (some of which ate parking spaces) which are, if I recall correctly free private storage on public property.

Saying that street parking is private storage on public property is true in a technical sense, but if it's meant to be an argument against the practice it's not an effective one. Permitting the use of public property for various private properties is a normal prerogative of governments, we all know this. I don't see anyone here complaining about cities like Cambridge allowing the private storage of bicycles on the public streets. Now, obviously, that's because around here we tend to look much more kindly at bikes and look for ways to reduce auto usage, and reducing the availability of street parking is beneficial to that end. But that's the point, the end we're looking for is to reduce use of one kind of transportation and increase use of others, which is a matter of prioritization and policy. We're not cutting parking because we don't like people storing private vehicles on the public way, we're doing it because we want people to drive less and would be perfectly happy to redirect some or all of that public road to storage (and use) of preferred forms of transportation just like Cambridge did with their bike racks.
Is this storage of bikes ON the streets and does it clog traffic?? Or is it off the street and does not clog traffic?

What are the comparable costs in terms of lost time of travel to the storage of bikes off the streets versus the storage of cars/trucks on the streets?

Just From a purely non-political point of view - the storage of larger cars and trucks on streets vs smaller bikes off streets is not even a contest when it comes to economic costs to a city in terms of efficiency of movement/transportation. We are taking billions of dollars per year in terms of lost productivity from traffic, real estate opportunity, sidewalk commerce, etc. You’ve noted several times in your posts you’re not an economist and admit you’re not looking at this from an economic viewpoint, but economics and urban system efficiency is at the very core of this discussion.
 
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Brattle Loop

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Is this storage of bikes ON the streets and does it clog traffic?? Or is it off the street and does not clog traffic?

What are the comparable costs in terms of lost time of travel to the storage of bikes off the streets versus the storage of cars/trucks on the streets?
Answer to the first question, wherever one of these racks got put it basically took up what used to be a parking space. So subtract one parking space and that's where the bike rack goes. It doesn't clog anything up beyond reducing the parking supply slightly (and I can't remember if they stay out over the winter or not).
 

shmessy

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Answer to the first question, wherever one of these racks got put it basically took up what used to be a parking space. So subtract one parking space and that's where the bike rack goes. It doesn't clog anything up beyond reducing the parking supply slightly (and I can't remember if they stay out over the winter or not).
I have no idea what you are talking about. The vast majority of Hubway and Blue Bikes racks are on the sidewalk and do not clog streets. There are no private bike racks in the streets - they are on sidewalks.

The vast majority of those bike racks (as opposed to on street parking of cars/trucks) are not plaque buildup on our arteries which slow transportation and hurt the economy. It is what it is.
 
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Brattle Loop

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I have no idea what you are talking about. The vast majority of Hubway and Blue Bikes racks are on the sidewalk and do not clog streets. There are no private bike racks in the streets - they are on sidewalks.

The vast majority of those bike racks (as opposed to on street parking of cars/trucks) are not plaque buildup on our arteries which slow transportation and hurt the economy. It is what it is.
I have no idea what any of this means. I'll freely admit I don't really know what you were asking in the post I previously responded to.

This is what I was talking about in Cambridge, it's a bike rack in what would otherwise be a parking space. I assume this is something the city did, I didn't say (or mean to imply) that the racks were themselves private.

I don't know what that last sentence is supposed to mean other than possibly general opposition to street parking? (If so, I've not heard the idea of street parking hurting the economy before, are there studies of this? That'd be a fascinating read.)
 

shmessy

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I have no idea what any of this means. I'll freely admit I don't really know what you were asking in the post I previously responded to.

This is what I was talking about in Cambridge, it's a bike rack in what would otherwise be a parking space. I assume this is something the city did, I didn't say (or mean to imply) that the racks were themselves private.

I don't know what that last sentence is supposed to mean other than possibly general opposition to street parking? (If so, I've not heard the idea of street parking hurting the economy before, are there studies of this? That'd be a fascinating read.)
That one bike rack is a distinct minority - - the vast majority are OFF-STREET.

And it doesn't take a detailed study to come to the obvious conclusion that on-street parking clogs up traffic and decreases transportation efficiency throughout a dense city. Are there medical journal reports necessary these days to prove to the unconvinced that plaque buildup in arteries are a detriment to vascular and cardio health? It's an obvious physical/spatial analogy. Put the two lanes (each parking side of a street back in play for traffic flow, instead of private vehicular storage), and you will see far more efficient traffic flow.
 

Brattle Loop

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That one bike rack is a distinct minority - - the vast majority are OFF-STREET.
That much is certainly true. It was, however, an example in response to a question posed by a previous poster about non-car examples of using the public street for storage of private vehicles.

And it doesn't take a detailed study to come to the obvious conclusion that on-street parking clogs up traffic and decreases transportation efficiency throughout a dense city. Are there medical journal reports necessary these days to prove to the unconvinced that plaque buildup in arteries are a detriment to vascular and cardio health? It's an obvious physical/spatial analogy. Put the two lanes (each parking side of a street back in play for traffic flow, instead of private vehicular storage), and you will see far more efficient traffic flow.
It does take a detailed study - or at the very least more than a medical analogy - to support a conclusion that street parking should be banned or reduced. Your argument presupposes that the streets need all available space for moving traffic, but cite no evidence to support that. There have been numerous discussions of studies in other threads about the induced demand problem, where adding (or, in this case, effectively adding) lanes causes more traffic to use up the available space. Now, I'm sure there are arterial roads where the level of demand is such that if you added lanes by taking street parking you'd still get a net benefit in terms of efficient traffic flow by taking cars off of less-efficient alternative routes. But you'll also likely see the induced demand effect increase traffic on roads in this situation until they reach at best an equilibrium and at worst become actually more system-inefficient (because human decisionmaking is imperfect and the 'easiest' route is often preferred to what is technically the most efficient). The analogy to the circulatory system fails somewhat because the traffic supply is more variable than the blood supply. More cars can just come to the new lanes from elsewhere.

All of which is separate from the fact that efficiency of traffic flow is not the only purpose of the roads, though it is the primary one. The people who drive places need places to park. While it may not be an efficient use of the road in terms of traffic flow, it's a rational calculation for transportation planners and the politicians who oversee them to provide for places to park for the people who need to park. So the plaque analogy is problematic again, because here street parking, while clogging up "lanes", is serving a useful purpose.
 

shmessy

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That much is certainly true. It was, however, an example in response to a question posed by a previous poster about non-car examples of using the public street for storage of private vehicles.



It does take a detailed study - or at the very least more than a medical analogy - to support a conclusion that street parking should be banned or reduced. Your argument presupposes that the streets need all available space for moving traffic, but cite no evidence to support that. There have been numerous discussions of studies in other threads about the induced demand problem, where adding (or, in this case, effectively adding) lanes causes more traffic to use up the available space. Now, I'm sure there are arterial roads where the level of demand is such that if you added lanes by taking street parking you'd still get a net benefit in terms of efficient traffic flow by taking cars off of less-efficient alternative routes. But you'll also likely see the induced demand effect increase traffic on roads in this situation until they reach at best an equilibrium and at worst become actually more system-inefficient (because human decisionmaking is imperfect and the 'easiest' route is often preferred to what is technically the most efficient). The analogy to the circulatory system fails somewhat because the traffic supply is more variable than the blood supply. More cars can just come to the new lanes from elsewhere.

All of which is separate from the fact that efficiency of traffic flow is not the only purpose of the roads, though it is the primary one. The people who drive places need places to park. While it may not be an efficient use of the road in terms of traffic flow, it's a rational calculation for transportation planners and the politicians who oversee them to provide for places to park for the people who need to park. So the plaque analogy is problematic again, because here street parking, while clogging up "lanes", is serving a useful purpose.
OK, we're getting nowhere at this point - - like a clogged artery.
 

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