Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fairfax considers reducing parking requirements

Or as the Post headline reads, Urbanizing Fairfax considers expansion of parking limits. As Fairfax becomes a more urban place, residents will rely less on cars and more on public transportation, walking, and of course biking. As a result, we need to update requirements for parking in the more urban areas of the county.
Working to ease traffic jams in the steadily urbanizing suburb, the county's Transportation Department is drafting proposed rules that would limit parking in new developments near Metro lines. Such parking limits have already been adopted by the Board of Supervisors as part of the plan governing Tysons Corner's transformation into an urban hub.

But imposing maximums in other parts of Fairfax where transit-oriented development exists would represent a significant departure in a suburb where generations of planners drew up plans around the automobile.

"We often like to say that too much parking can be a traffic magnet," said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "If we're going to address traffic and make a walkable community in Fairfax, it's important to get the parking right."
Not everyone agrees, especially Supervisor Cook, who once said that a bicycle is not a transportation device. While limits on parking are in place in many communities including Montgomery County and Arlington County, Supervisor Cook doesn't think it's a good idea here:
"You're really talking about not allowing developers to build parking spaces? How can you limit the number of cars somebody owns?" Cook said.

He and other skeptics wonder what would happen to people who purchased a townhouse with limited parking but then switched jobs or encountered some other circumstance affecting their ability to commute to work by Metro.

"They can't take the Metro if it goes the wrong way," Cook said.
What most people don't think about is the hidden environmental and monetary costs of parking. The article goes on to quote Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, who says the
true costs of free parking are rolled into the cost of a house or office building. If anything, Shoup said, Fairfax has promoted cars for too long.

"If you look at it from the air, it looks like a parking lot," Shoup said.
What we need is more bike parking and more people on bikes, and the sooner we plan for it the better. As we've been saying all along, new residents want more transportation choices:
An analysis by real estate consulting firm Robert Charles Lesser & Co. found that, compared with the rest of the Washington metropolitan area, Fairfax attracted a smaller percentage of the fastest-growing segment of householders - those with one or two people per dwelling - in the past decade. Many of them prefer walkable communities, Schwartz said.

"The millennials, in particular, are sort of the Zipcar generation," Schwartz said.

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You are right on in your characterization of the headline writing. They're talking about reducing 2.75 spaces per townhouse to 1.75 (still nearly two spaces PER TOWNHOUSE), and then, only when within 1/4 mile of a Metro. Seems more than reasonable to me. We WANT development around Metro to encourage USE of the Metro, right?

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