Imagine if every time you bought a gallon of milk, a law required you to pour the last third of it down the drain. It’d be pretty frustrating and completely pointless. Why throw away something that’s perfectly good and that you’ve already paid for?
But that’s exactly what we do when we tried to prevent or reduce street parking.
Take my parents neighborhood in Cedar Hills. Like many places, the neighborhood apparently has a law against parking overnight. Practically speaking that means a third of the time no one will be parked on the street. It also means that every home has to include enough parking for several cars.
However, the residents of Cedar Hills are already paying for the streets in the form of taxes and housing costs that include insane amounts of parking. As I write this, for example, there are five cars parked on my parents property and there’s still enough room to play basketball in the driveway. Each home literally includes a parking lot.
So in other words, the residents are paying for the streets but they aren’t allowed to actually use them. It’s like throwing away a third of the milk. Or, to use a more related metaphor, it’s like putting money into a parking meter but not being able to actually use the corresponding spot. It makes no sense.
Thankfully Provo doesn’t have these same silly laws. Unfortunately, however, my impression is that many residents would like to get them. Based on conversations I’ve had over the years I get the sense that many people feel like there’s something wrong with street parking. And I suppose there is if your agenda includes wasting as much money as possible.
In any case, our goal should be to maximize our investment in streets, which means getting as much use out of them as possible. One way to do that would be to add several more lanes for traffic — the streets are wide enough after all — though of course that would utterly destroy the neighborhoods themselves.
A better way to maximize our investment would be to add uses to the streets that would cut down on loud, dangerous traffic. One great way to do that would be to add housing.
But another, easier thing to add, is street parking. Parked cars typically make no noise and don’t hit anyone, and their presence tends to slow moving vehicles thereby improving safety. They also provide a safety barrier between moving vehicles and pedestrians.
In a coming post I’ll suggest one way to add street parking and create safer, quieter streets. But for now let’s all just try to get over the idea that parking on the street is somehow bad, or low class, or ugly. It’s not. Rather it just means that we’re trying to milk our investment for all it’s worth.