Black Friday Parking

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Our friends at Strong Towns are doing a great job documenting the excesses of minimum parking requirements today. As they point out, the amount of parking demanded by local governments is often identified against the “worst case” scenario presented by Black Friday.

Cities seemingly disregard any notion that businesses may not find it in their interests to devote valuable space and limited resources to providing parking spots that will only be used once or twice a year (or never). Ostensibly the greater apostasy — from a regulatory standpoint — would be for a driver to show up in their automobile this Friday and not be able to quickly find a place to park. To avoid that horror, we will set aside all of our “pro-businesses” inklings and roll out the red tape of parking minimums.

The Twin City Plaza, which straddles the border between Cambridge and Somerville along McGrath Highway, provides an example of just how these calculations can undermine good planning.

Empty parking spaces on Black Friday

Empty parking spaces on Black Friday

Probably 200 of these parking spaces not used today and are never needed. Yet the developers were required to set aside enough space in the lot to build them. That’s 6,000 square feet of some of the most valuable land in the country. With East Cambridge condos selling at upwards of $400 per square foot, we’re talking about millions of dollars in wasted real estate.

And that’s just to accommodate this supposed worst-case scenario. The Twin City plaza is in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood and within walking distance of Lechmere. Building housing instead of parking would put even more people in close proximity to this retail center. And it could help deflate the premium Cantabrigians pay to live, work, and shop without needing a vehicle.

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