Where is My Parking Spot?

health place May 23, 2024

Change is afoot.

Triggered partly by concern about housing unaffordability and a desire for greater walkability, municipalities across the United States are changing their zoning codes and approach to managing streets. For example, Austin has cut the minimum lot size for a single-family house by approximately 70% to 1,800 square feet from 5,750 square feet. It is the first change in this code in 80 years. The hope is to create additional housing supply. The change was not without controversy.

There is a battle brewing in New York City, too. Starting next month, the city is set to implement congestion pricing, where drivers are charged $15 to enter much of Manhattan below 60th Street. Proponents cite untenable street congestion levels from cars, buses, bikes, e-bikes, delivery trucks, pedestrians, and much more. It’s inconvenient and dangerous: last year had the greatest number of bike fatalities on record. It’s time to rethink a street grid that was created in 1811. The NY Times has created a weekly column, Street Wars, to chronicle the ideas and public debate.

With greater housing density and a rethinking of streets, there is the likelihood of another casualty: your parking spot.


 People express an interest in paying more for walkable communities, none more so than young generations (Source: NAR)


Desire for Walkability and Proximity

People of all ages, particularly young generations, desire to live in walkable places. According to the most recent National Association of Realtors (NAR), the vast majority of Gen Z and Millennials (92% and 85%, respectively) are willing to pay more to be in a place you could easily walk to parks, shops, and restaurants (places commonly referred to as “third places”). Even most of the Greatest and Silent generations see the appeal and are willing to pay more.

There is a particular benefit for older adults, especially when walkable communities become more affordable and driving becomes more difficult. At the recent zoning hearings in Austin, a retired elementary school teacher in her 70s shared with the council members that she spends more than 40% of her monthly fixed income on a small rental apartment. Changes to the zoning would allow her daughter to add an accessible dwelling unit (ADU) to her residence, enabling the mother to assume lower housing costs and benefit from proximity to family and other neighborhood amenities.


 These parking meters were designed to make dynamic pricing easy to implement (Photo by Komarov Egor πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ on Unsplash)


Implications for Parking & Cost of Car Ownership

One of the implications is that parking will likely become more difficult, and the cost of ownership will increase. According to the book Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, more cities are exploring eliminating parking requirements on new buildings and reducing free street parking. In NYC, for example, there are three million parking spots, 97% of which are free. With a growing number of cars, free parking for cars is a form of subsidization for vehicle owners. It may not adequately account for the opportunity costs of other users for those places.

As parking gets more expensive, so does the total cost of ownership, which has already been rising in recent years. The average total cost of ownership has skyrocketed 20% in the last year, largely fueled by increased car insurance. The annual cost of owning a new car has climbed to $12,182 in 2023, up from $10,728, according to estimates from AAA.


REI sells a steady stream of e-bikes designed for errands around town (Source: REI)


Considerable (E-)Bikeability

As people sort out alternatives aligned based on their needs and preferences, don’t underestimate the value of bikeability, especially e-bikeability. Biking has increased nationally with the advent of more bike lanes, especially protected bike lanes. E-bikes are especially important to consider as prices fall and adoption increases. E-bikes can more easily handle loads, like groceries, and are more comfortable to use in hot weather.

One of the benefits of bikeability is that it can improve proximity to amenities and services. You may find a place with only a moderate walk score but a high bikeability score and, in combination, such a location could be attractive. Plus, for a given existing home, walk scores tend not to change too much (it is hard to add new density of parks, restaurants, and shops), but as streets make more accommodations for bikes, bikeability scores are ikely to improve.


How Important is Walkability to You? May it Change in the Future?

Choosing a home involves compromises. Invariably, living in a walkable neighborhood costs more, primarily because greater demand than supply drives up property values and rents.

As you think about the best place for you now and in the future, are you more interested in walkability (& bikeability) or the convenience and affordability of driving? Your answer to this question will increasingly shape your set of most desirable places to live.


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