Is the Parking Industry Racist?


Is the Parking Industry Racist?

I have been thinking about the maelstrom in which we find ourselves. Is everything truly about race. Is every action we take meant to reflect white privilege and white supremacy? Certainly that is so if you believe the media and the cancel culture.

In the past few days I have come across a couple of blogs and an article that hint at possible racism in parking. I have been reluctant to blog about it because I felt that it was adding fuel to an already roaring fire. I have been reconsidering that position.

Michael Connor at Kimley Horn has written a thoughtful piece about residential parking permit programs and how they may be construed, even obliquely, as racist and red lining. My immediate reaction was to spike it. Do we really need more articles about race, particularly in the parking industry, for goodness sake? Michael’s piece starts like this:

In theory, parking is color blind and unbiased. A parking space doesn’t know the color of your skin, your economic status, or any other personal features that may relate to you. It doesn’t care if you are a doctor, lawyer, administrative assistant, or customer at a restaurant—all it asks is that you pay the appropriate fee and/or follow the posted restriction. But is parking as equal as we think? Are there elements within the parking industry and in the parking experience that are inherently biased toward one group or another?

Tony Jordan’s group, the Parking Reform Network, up in Portland is positing the idea that parking minimums may be inherently racist. To some extent they make low cost housing more difficult to build and unattainable to the poorer sectors of our society. You can see where that is going.

I’m not ambivalent. I have very strong feelings about this entire subject. I won’t get into them in detail now. I do, however, believe there are at least two sides to the discussion. And it needs to be had.

Michael agrees we need this discussion. Who knows how it will come out? Maybe we will shine some sunlight into some dark corners of our profession. Or, maybe we will find that rules we make could use some ‘adjustment’ because they are inherently unfair to everyone.
Unfortunately the July Issue of was nearly in print when I received Michael’s article, so I’m not able to get it in. But with August, I hope to begin an ongoing discussion. His article is fair and open, and I will invite Tony to also be a part of it. I invite anyone else to join in. Let’s talk.

If anything good can come out of this mess, perhaps a little understanding and empathy will be part of it.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

One Response

  1. The topic ” Is Parking racist” seems to show the huge difference between US and the UK and Europe. I would be interested to understand why or if anyone actually would think in this way.
    The parking sector is so huge, that for instance, whilst offering permits cheaper in one residential zone to another, may make one believe the thought of race played a part, actually most authorities, care about their residents over commuting visitors and thats just one reason to have for instance cheap residential parking, regardless of race and charge anyone else more.

    With regards enforcement, the extremes we have often heard are “you gave me a ticket, because of my colour, perceived race, height, size, the vehicle I am driving” The difficulty with that statement in 2020 is that thousands of penalty charge notices (as called by some) are issued around the world, from unattended camera’s, that are rear facing, so its not generally acceptable for a choice to be available based on anything other than the offence. Whilst carrying out enforcement outside a school, the priority has to be that of the kids.

    Its quite possible for parts of the parking industry, being so global, to make the question true, but i would be interested to see how the question pans out. It could be be the perfect opportunity for us all to continue to design out, the issue of any ambiguity based not just on race, but just being imperfect humans on any average day of the week. StaySafe

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