Is parking unjust?

Thursday, June 29, 2017
by Cameron Shelley

John Metcalfe of CityLab points out an interesting video shot on a street in New York City recently.  The video is a time-lapse recording of activity at a City Bike dock featuring rentable bicycles and curbside parking across the street.  Voilà!

Remote video URL

The point, says videogrpaher Luke Ohlson, is that the bike dock is much busier than the car parking. 

The Citi Bike dock and the parking spots take up roughly the same area with much different results.  In just over an hour, there are nearly 200 bike trips taken compared to 11 car trips.

He also points out that, although parking occupies 150,000 acres of New York City, most citizens do not drive cars.

In our Design & Society class (STV 202), we discuss the concept of spatial justice as a way of assessing urban design.  In this case, the question to ask would be: Does the allocation of space to parking in NYC give people affected by it their due? 

Ohlman clearly thinks not.  In terms of trips, allocation of space to parking goes disproportionately to drivers.  Numerically, pedestrians and cyclists deserve a larger share of the urban space.

One reply might be that parking provides more economic advantage.  People who park, shop.  People who ride bikes do not.  This claim has been a common argument against bike lanes in Toronto, although it is open to challenge, as Chris Hume points out

Cars facilitate trips from people who live too far for walking or biking.

Also, trucks and service vehicles need parking too and are crucial to the economic function of cities.  Of course, this may be more true of commercial than residential areas.

So, is the allocation of parking in New York skewed towards cars?  Or, does it simply reflect the centrality of auto-mobility to the lifeblood of the city?