Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Parking in Back: Pros and Cons

This store has severed its connections with the sidewalk, yet its massive, free parking lot is in the back.
Google Maps Street View

Listen to planners talk long enough and you'll hear about requiring parking in the back of a building instead of in front, in the typical strip mall format.

Pros: Parking in back can create a more interesting pedestrian area, with buildings that go right up to the sidewalk and things to look at in the windows. It could also mean fewer curb cuts (places where cars cross a sidewalk into a parking lot) to disrupt walking. This can make an area look better and encourage walking.

Cons: The biggest con is that the amount of parking remains the same, therefore, it sprawls out the city just as much (hence the biggest barrier to walking remains), and if it's free, which it probably is in suburbia, it is paid for by all customers, instead of just drivers. Another con is that buildings sometimes orient their entrances to the parking lot only, so that there's no meaningful connection to the street after all (see the photo, tsk tsk Trader Joes). Finally, if the business are open late (like bars and clubs), their customers will wander into the parking lot late at night and make noise for the people who live nearby. Stores may also complain that their customers can't see the parking from the street.

For me the question isn't front or back. I want parking to be on the street, not off the street, I want drivers to pay for it, and if it is off the street, I want it to be in a land-saving format like a parking garage.

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