Parking Ain't Free | Parking Minimums
Last time you heard from us was three months ago and we were neck deep in research for what we promised ourselves would be a light and breezy 10-minute video about parking in America. Definitely under 12 minutes. ABSOLUTELY NOT OVER 15 MINUTES.
So, naturally, that turned into this 31-minute video about parking.
Yet somehow, we still have more to say about parking. We still have research that got cut from the episode. And, yes, we still want to send out a newsletter. This newsletter. Quite possibly:
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Now, there is one perfect song that should absolutely be in our episode, but legally? We couldn’t use it. But we can link to it. We can link to it a lot. Yes, we can even link to this one. Consider hitting play in another tab while you read this.
Now you are, as they say, immersed.
An Episode That’s Longer Than the Album Jolene
At 31 minutes, this episode is a full 6 minutes longer than Dolly Parton’s album Jolene. And remember, not only is Jolene one of the great albums of its era, it was also Dolly’s THIRTEENTH solo album in SEVEN years, a period which also included ELEVEN albums with her former partner Porter Wagoner. And speaking of audio (yes, good one):
We started a podcast!
It’s called The Climate Denier’s Playbook, and it’s hosted by Rollie and Nicole Conlan, a writer on The Daily Show (and also for Climate Town). Together, they examine such climate misinformation favorites as: you owe your life to oil & gas or that climate change is caused by the sun’s natural cycles. Listen up!
An Ode to Donald Shoup
For decades, there was pretty much only one major name in US parking minimum criticism: Donald C. Shoup AKA Shoup Dogg (we didn’t make up that name, that’s the actual URL of his website).
Shoup has been a professor at the vivacious UCLA since 1974, more specifically the Luskin School of Public Affairs, and what the hell, more specifically the Department of Urban Planning. And it was around the start of his time at UCLA that he first got really pissed off about parking.
Yes, even more specifically, Shoup read a parking study, inspired by a man named Rex Link.
Rex Link is the man’s name.
Basically, two USC students published a study detailing a situation where county government workers were offered free parking while federal workers were forced to pay. That study found that the vast majority of county workers drove to work alone, while the majority of federal workers carpooled, took public transit, or even walked. WALKED!!!
And that changed Shoup’s life forever.
For the next few decades, Shoup wrote a ton of articles and papers about parking issues, including Problems with Parking Requirements in Zoning Ordinances, all the way back in 1978, which has vaulted to #3 on our list of Favorite PDFs. At the time, there were very few academics focused on parking (“people thought I was nuts”), but Shoup persisted, and after 30 years, he gave us his masterpiece in 2005:
The High Cost of Free Parking
It’s an 800 page breakdown of parking issues in the US that’s both thorough and surprisingly entertaining – and it seems fair to call it the foundational text of the current parking reform movement in the US. You can even read a copy yourself right here for free. Rollie’s dad even gave it a look.
The High Cost of Free Parking (and the rest of Shoup’s work) inspired a generation of advocates (Shoupistas), including Strong Towns, whose videos and work we referenced throughout our episode, and Henry Grabar, who wrote the recently released Paved Paradise, which we also referenced a bunch.
Shoup’s a good man, we’re thankful for his career of advocacy work, and here’s a little, hopeful clip of him at the end of a Vox video.
Chart Town: But a Moment With the I.T.E.
Wow, we bet you didn’t think we’d throw a full on chart in the middle of this newsletter, huh?
Well, as long as we’re all looking at it together, this chart was created by the Institute of Transportation Engineers, a group that publishes a ridiculously expensive manual that a ton of towns and cities use to decide how much parking to require. Naturally, you’d expect that manual would be pretty well-researched, right?
Well, allow me to draw your attention to that lonely little pirate’s treasure map X in the upper right corner. Alas, there is no treasure there, just a single data point. Cold and hungry, this single data point tells the tale of around 350 cars that parked at some point in time at one movie theater with 9 screens.
Uh yeah that’s gonna be exactly 38.89 parking spaces per movie screen for every movie theater in the entire country. Send it, Joni!
The Power Broker and His Precious Automobiles
There was a time when the NYC subway system was the centerpiece of the city. But that time was before the reign of Robert Moses, the “master builder” of NYC, and a man who fucking loved cars.
"When Robert Moses came to power in New York in 1934, the city's mass transportation system was probably the best in the world. When he left power in 1968 it was quite possibly the worst."
That charming quote is from the 1974, 1,300-page book entitled The Power Broker by Robert Caro, which you’re welcome to read to get the full rundown, entitling you to one (1) exciting month of bringing it up to your friends. But just to name a few accomplishments:
He developed Jones Beach and the highway that went right to it, fully equipped with overpasses designed to be low enough that buses for regular people couldn’t get there. Awesome!
He led the building of a series of highways straight through existing neighborhoods, including the Cross-Bronx expressway, which the current mayor now calls “a scar carved through the heart of the Bronx” that brought “elevated asthma rates and other inequitable health outcomes”. In total, he’s estimated to have displaced 500,000 residents in his tenure.
Despite denial of approval from the Bureau of International Expositions (a real, powerful organization), Moses pushed ahead with his leading of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair in Queens – it turned out to be such a disappointing event that famed architecture professor Vincent Scully wrote a Time Magazine article entitled If This is Architecture, God Help Us.
And he also pushed to build public pools only in predominantly white neighborhoods - and when he had to build one in racially mixed Harlem, he hired only white lifeguards and refused to heat the pool.
But he was a cool guy, right?
Right! Moses himself never learned to drive, so he instead had round-the-clock, city-funded chauffeurs. In his bid for power, he at one time held TWELVE city positions concurrently. And he gave us this incredibly depressing quote:
Subway ridership peaked in the late 1940s, which is: a long time ago. This map of the potential future of the subway never came to be, but somehow this map of highways made by Moses has been pretty much fully realized.
But at least we had Jane Jacobs.
She was also a resident of the West Village, one of the neighborhoods targeted for Moses’s lower Manhattan obsession: a 10-lane highway called the Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX), connecting two bridges from Brooklyn with the Hudson tunnel to New Jersey. If you’re not super familiar with NYC, this probably doesn’t sound that crazy, but if you’ve spent as much time doing shitty improv shows in Williamsburg basements and Lower East Side dive bars as we have, it would have been a nightmare.
But, for once, Moses met his match.
Jane Jacobs. She was his match.
Having just witnessed a minor victory saving Washington Square Park from an impending road, Jacobs established the Committee to Save the West Village. She rallied her neighbors around the cause, and even got Bob Dylan to come over to her house and write a song called Listen, Robert Moses.
After some years of back and forth, as these guys turned into these guys, the final showdown arrived. The state hastily scheduled a meeting for public opinion, seemingly hoping no one would show up – but Jacobs and her legion of supporters did (show up). She took the mic and gave a speech so powerful that she got arrested for being too rude.
Her arrest finally brought widespread attention to the issue, the Mayor withdrew support for the project, and LOMEX was:
So if you’re ever strolling through Washington Square Park, or catching a flick at the Angelika, or even catching a flick at the IFC Center, please mutter “thank you, Jane” under your breath. And why not catch a flick at the Film Forum after? That’s a nice day, moviegoer.
Number Town: Cement Can Reeeeally Emit
Goddamn 8 is such a cool looking number – so it really sucks to have to use it in a negative way here.
But cement production is a massive CO2 emitter, and also particularly difficult to decarbonize. And apparently: if cement were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world behind the US and China?
Honestly, that’s the kind of movie pitch that’s probably floating around Hollywood right now. Sovereign Cement: Back to the Stone Age. No writers, no actors, just that sexy cement oozing all over its own countryland for 134 minutes. And you know the Sovereign Nation of Cement would be putting up NUMBERS at the Olympics. Not swimming, obviously, but maybe like … wrestling?
So while we’re tallying up the problems with excessive parking, why not add cement emissions to the mix? You know you wanna.
Map Town: the Parking Lot Where We Shot the Video
We spent exactly one day shooting on this expanse of pavement, and honestly it was one day too long. Here’s a satellite photo of it and my god they have a lot of parking here.
If you’re at Costco, and you want to go to Wendy’s: it’s a 30 minute walk. Through the same contiguous run of parking. We even considered doing the whole episode as one big walk from end to end where Rollie slowly loses his mind like in John Wick 3, but we decided against it.
P.S. we will spoil movies and we don’t do spoiler alerts! If you have not seen John Wick 3 yet, that's on you, brother!
Lightning Round (Enjoy It While It Lasts)
That’s one beautiful SimCity. The original designer of SimCity revealed, in an interview with the Atlantic, the game was originally just going to model real cities, but there were so many parking lots that it would have been more like SimParkingLot – he didn’t actually say SimParkingLot himself, but he did laugh and say “exactly” when the reporter said it, which is the highest form of agreement.
If you laugh and say “exactly”? Buddy, you better hope it’s not in reference to a criminal act, because if you laugh/exactly a crime? In the United States? Life. Maybe even two or three consecutive sentences. DO NOT DO IT!
This shit actually works??? It turns out, after decades of criticism, the tides have finally started to turn on parking minimums. City after town after city has repealed their parking minimum laws either entirely, or at least partially (typically in downtown areas).
Did we hear a “prove it” from the crowd? Who said that? My god, you must be seven feet tall. How old are you? 15?? You “want more information or you’ll braid [our] corny asses like a stack of pretzels”? Well, fortunately for us, we have this nice looking parking minimum law reform map from Parking Reform Network – in fact, there are so many dots representing parking minimum changes that it’s pretty much completely useless as a map. But in this case, that’s actually good.
Official Rollie (no prize). Every other newsletter (one) has had an Official Rollie (no prize). Last episode it was to report a part of this relatively boring video that you think is funny.
Out of thousands of readers, there was but one Official Rollie (no prize) from our last newsletter: Meg Wilson. It seems that becoming an Official Rollie (no prize) is quite hard, which has done wonders for one of the egos here at Climate Town. Please help us set this straight.
This edition asks you to reply to this newsletter with a link to a sound effect that you believe should be part of a future Climate Town video. Something like this or this. If Rollie likes it, you could be declared an Official Rollie (no prize).
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Art by: Kelsey Bravender
Edited by: Caroline Schaper
Legal support from: The Civil Liberties Defense Center
Executive produced by: Rollie Williams, Ben Boult, Nicole Conlan, and Matt Nelsen