Despite its ridiculously biased opening sentence (“Fairfax County residents will have a harder time finding a free parking space in some neighborhoods if transportation planners get their way”), the Washington Post actually has a relatively informative article on potential new parking maximums in Fairfax County, Virginia. Essentially they want to do what a lot of smart growth-enthralled planners want to do: replace their parking minimums with maximums.
Under current ordinances, new townhouses must have at least 2.75 parking spaces per dwelling. Under the draft recommendations, parking would be limited to 1.75 spaces per dwelling in a townhouse development less than a quarter-mile from a Metro station or 2.5 spaces per dwelling if the townhouse were located one-fourth of a mile to a half-mile from the station. Parking at commercial developments would be reduced from 2.6 parking spaces per 125,000 square feet of space to 2.1 if less than a quarter-mile from the Metro and to two spaces less than a half-mile away.
Ignoring that last sentence, which I’ll get back to in a minute, this is pretty much the standard planner’s bias – move directly from parking minimums to parking maximums, without, oh, I don’t know, maybe just eliminating the centrally-planned parking regulations altogether?? This is one of the reasons that it’s very hard for libertarians and conservatives to get onboard with recent planning trends: the planners go from car-forcing to car-forbidding, skipping over entirely the obvious intermediate step of just letting people choose for themselves how car- or transit-oriented they want their lives to be.
There was also this interesting fact:
Yet the number of jurisdictions in the United States that impose parking maximums on developers is still perhaps fewer than 50, Rathbone said.
For all the anti-smart growth rhetoric we hear about the planners coming to take away our parking, only fifty measly jurisdictions have maximums, compared to, by my conservative estimate, 95% which have parking minimums.
But finally, I think the article doesn’t do a great job distinguishing between the arguments against parking minimums and the arguments in favor of parking maximums. They cite Shoup and imply that he would be in favor of the plan, despite the fact that, to my knowledge, he does not support parking maximums – this only fuels the false claims of people like Randal O’Toole. Similarly, in that last sentence (part of which I think must be an error – why would the county allow 2.1 spaces close to stations but only 2 farther away from them?), they state the previous numbers and the proposed new numbers as if they are the same metric, even though there’s a big difference between not allowing less than one number and not allowing more than another number.
While I’m against both mandating and limiting parking, I have to reluctantly admit that, if I were forced to make the choice (as it looks like Fairfax County will be), I would take the parking maximums – I feel like they would be less restrictive to developers. (Randal O’Toole has claimed in the past that parking minimums rarely even matter since developers would build parking even in their absence, so I assume he’d make the opposite choice if he had to.) It’s a shame that anybody has to make that choice, but them’s the breaks – you can have one kind of statism or another, but you can’t do away with it entirely.