Back in November of 2013, President Obama issued an executive order on climate preparedness. Because executive orders circumvent Congress within certain limits, they allow the president to implement action to address climate change and other issues. A few weeks ago I asked some of our authors to create their own executive orders to improve our handling of the environment. In this installment, we turn to the built environment.
Parking and Climate Change?
by Richard Willson, author of Parking Reform Made Easy Sometimes we just don’t connect the dots as we should. Transportation planners are working to improve transit services as a way of reducing vehicle miles travelled (VMT). These efforts can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative plans for rail and bus improvements are emerging across the country, and transit system proponents often seek funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). But at the same time, minimum parking requirements are buried in the details of local zoning ordinances. These parking requirements mandate that developers build a certain supply of parking when building a new project or reusing an existing building. Often, they treat each building as an isolated, self-sufficient parking island that must have enough supply to meet the very peak of parking use, even if that is only a few days per year. The result is that there are now more than three parking spaces for every vehicle in the United States. Logical opportunities to share parking resources and develop alternative travel modes are unrealized. The consequences of this parking oversupply – sprawl, auto-oriented urban design, underpriced parking, challenging transit and walking connections – are rarely connected to the potential success of transit development. If President Obama issues a climate change executive order, it should direct the FTA to condition the funding of new transit systems on the local reform of minimum parking requirements so that well-intention transit programs are not undermined. Minimum parking requirements and transit development programs are like oil and water – they just don’t mix.