Thoughts from an End User … July 2024


Thoughts from an End User … July 2024

Even Walkable Cities Need Parking

Every time I circle a parking lot three times looking for a parking space, I dream of living in a walkable city. In my dream, a walkable city is one of those rarest of things, a place where I can get out of my car and experience the joy of walking on sun-dappled sidewalks, visiting quaint shops, and saying hello to neighbors I haven
t seen in a while. Also in my dream, I have a manageable number of bags to carry, and my car is close enough that I can easily drop off my acquisitions and continue shopping. This is a pipe dream. This fantasy, however, has informed my views on what I would like in a walkable city in regard to parking. 


In concept, a walkable city is designed to accommodate pedestrians rather than vehicles. In the United States, most cities and neighborhoods constructed since the mid-20th century were designed with vehicles in mind, rather than pedestrians. However, a growing movement has arisen among planners, neighborhood activists, and others seeking to reconfigure portions of cities and towns to make them more pedestrian-friendly. 


A goal of such plans is to eradicate the need for parking in these reconfigured areas by providing public transit and locating residences within walking distance of shops. Whether or not you agree that this is a noteworthy goal, we are nowhere near achieving it, and cities looking to become more walkable need to consider vehicle traffic. 


Although not intimately familiar with the nuances of the parking business, I am an end user and so can provide some thoughts as to what other end users would like to see regarding parking and commercial areas that are designed to be more walkable. 


Most importantly, providing little-to-no parking is a disastrous idea. If I must fight for the opportunity to park my car, I will simply shop elsewhere.  


These parking spaces could be underground garages, which maximize above-ground space, or they could be surface or garage parking located behind the businesses, allowing for the bucolic storefronts that appeal to customers. However these spaces are designed, they need to be easily accessible. Creating parking spaces far away from businesses only leads to frustration and encourages people to cheat the rules and illegally park.  


Mixed-use areas like The Domain in Austin, Texas, have above-ground parking garages spread throughout the development. Strategically located, the garages are close enough to enable visitors to drop off bags in their vehicles, as necessary, but tucked away so that the storefronts are not affected. This mixed-use development has minimal on-street parking, because everyone knows that sufficient parking is available in the nearby garages. Shopping at The Domain is a pleasure because it gets you out of your car and allows you to visit other shops you may not have expected to visit because they are on your way to your original destination. Its a win-win for businesses and shoppers alike.  


Another idea is to designate a place for ride-share pickups. Vehicles should not block traffic or cause potential hazards by stopping in the middle of a block or a corner to pick up someone. These areas can have designated places like cell phone lots at airports. Designated areas for ride-sharing services are safer and reduce congestion. It is also easier for the drivers of these ride-sharing companies, because they will know exactly where to pick up or drop off their clients.  


None of this will work without enforcement of the rules. To encourage drivers to use garages, strict enforcement of parking maximums is needed and fees for on-street parking could be considered.  If no on-street parking is available, violations must not be tolerated. No exceptions, no grace period.  


Though stricter enforcement may require more personnel at first, the need for these personnel would decrease once everyone saw that the rules were enforced.  


Walkable cities do not need to be a pipe dream. City planners all over the globe are creating or transitioning cities to meet this goal. Although many cities in the United States lack the infrastructure to easily transition to a walkable city, such a transition is a good goal. Accounting for the current habits of end users, making parking accessible but hidden, providing areas for ride-share companies, and enforcing the parking regulations will go a long way toward promoting adoption of walkable cities. 


MONIQUE UHLENHAKER is a content writer, editor, and mother. Although not in the parking industry, she considers herself to be parking adjacentfor almost twenty-five years. She can be reached at 

Article contributed by:
Monique Uhlenhaker, Parking Today Contributor
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