Parking Garage: Gateway to the Future
by Shannon Sanders McDonald
As we face up to the needs of climate protection over the next few years, we'll see that the decades-long trend of steadily increasing automobile vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the U.S. will be reversed for decades to come.
Contemplating a nation, and ultimately a world, with declining total VMT, it's increasingly clear that henceforth, most construction of new auto infrastructure almost any new lane-miles of highway, for instance represents soon-stranded investment, at best.
The parking garage may be an outstanding exception. As U.S. communities transition toward the more mixed-use, closer-in, denser development patterns that will support our restless lifestyles with less driving, "structured parking" can help finesse the fact that most of us will still be using cars for many years to come.
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And as the U.S. market will rightly demand density with real design quality to live well, while living closer together the parking garages that can help make good density possible need to be good architecture in their own right. We hope these examples provide some inspiration. Editors
The costs of sprawl are reaching the breaking point. As the search for affordable land and housing pushes development farther and farther into the countryside, massive infrastructure costs — for roads, sewers, utilities, and schools — inevitably follow.
Moreover, the costs of unfettered outward expansion falls most heavily on those who can least afford it: households with incomes under $27,176 spend 25.3 to 40.2 percent of their after-tax incomes on transportation; among households with household income above $44,462, the corresponding figures are 13.1 to 18.2 percent. And in Europe, six percent of the household income is spent on transportation; in the United States, the figure is 19 percent.
Thus, much of the future depends on curbing sprawl, while preserving — and even expanding — choice: using existing infrastructure efficiently, increasing density, providing as many travel options as possible, decreasing automobile dependency, improving the distribution of jobs and housing, maintaining housing affordability, and protecting the environment. Inevitably, the parking structure will play a key role in such efforts.
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This article is excerpted from The Parking Garage by Shannon Sanders McDonald, copyright © 2007, with permission of the publisher, the Urban Land Institute.