Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Tale of (Parking in) Two Cities

What's the difference between 20th century suburban sprawl and 21st century urban renewal? In a word, parking. The last time we looked in on parking in Richardson, the city council was deliberating whether to allow a Burger King restaurant to whittle away Richardson's strict landscape buffering requirements in order to build a bigger parking lot. That's right, the business owner wants even more parking than what Richardson requires, which is already a lot. That's a sign that Richardson is still stuck in 20th century suburban sprawl.

After the jump, a city with a 21st century attitude towards parking

In December, Sacramento, California, will change its zoning requirements, cutting the number of parking spaces businesses are required to provide in new construction. This is designed to attract business. That's right, business owners are asking to be allowed to offer less parking. Businesses are learning that more parking is sometimes an expensive waste, something their customers don't need or want. Apartments and condos in the 21st century just don't need as much parking as apartments and condos in the 20th century did, at least not in cities that are promoting walkability and public transportation.

Richardson is in awkward adolescence. It was a suburban boomtown in the 20th century. Now, it is slowly developing signs of maturity, slowly becoming more urban. Its planning needs to catch up with the times. It needs to discourage QuikTrips and 7-Eleven gas stations and self-service warehouses in areas that are destined to become higher-density urban centers. It needs to encourage developers to seize the opportunities for transit-oriented development. The future lies with less parking, not more, no matter what the Burger King restaurants might lead you to believe today.

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