Yes, really.

I gave my keynote speech at the Arizona State University (ASU) conference yesterday morning, and it was only my second favorite talk I attended. Which one beat it out? A panel on mandated parking. All 3 of the speakers made cogent, passionate, fact-filled arguments against parking mandates. The moderator who asked questions was Stephen Silvinski of the Pacific Legal Foundation, who did an excellent job of asking the right questions. The three presenters were Yassami Ansari, vice mayor of Phoenix; Tony Jordan, co-founder of the Parking Reform Network; and David King, an associate professor at ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

How could this have been interesting? And why would it matter? Stephen Silvinski got answers by asking each how he or she came to be involved in this issue. That’s when I got really interested. David King led by telling how he had had a friend in Minneapolis who wanted to start a coffee house in an old mansion that people could walk to. It would have had a capacity of 13 seats. The city planners looked at their formula and decided that to get permission, his friend would have to provide 7 parking spaces. That would mean demolishing the old mansion next door. The coffee house never was built.

So David started looking into it and he came across a book by UCLA professor Donald Shoup titled The High Cost of Free Parking. That led him to a Ph.D. program at UCLA and ultimately to an academic position at ASU. The other two told how they got involved. What was clear in each case was a fair degree of passion for the cause and an understanding of how absurd mandated parking is. David King put it well: “The [government] planners pretend that they have this amazing expertise.” Ansari pointed out that when developers looked at a new project and consider the required parking spaces, the projects didn’t “pencil out.” That is, they weren’t worth it.

Someone in the audience asked why there’s still such belief in mandated parking. Tony Jordan suggested that one reason is that people can use the mandated parking requirement as a bargaining chip to get other things they desire in return for a variance.

King stated that one reason temperatures have been so high at night in Arizona during the last few summers is that the asphalt for increased parking soaks up heat during the day and releases it at night.

Here’s a map showing where some degree of parking reform has occurred in the United States.