My Parking Problem

You may have noticed that parking irks me.  And while I’d find it quite enjoyable to rant a while about the many ways in which excessive, poorly-designed parking wrecks a city, someone has done a much more thorough and eloquent job of that already this week.

The KunstlerCast is a podcast featuring author James Howard Kunstler that’s billed as a weekly discussion about “the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl.” This week’s episode is devoted to parking issues. Listen to it here. It’s a pretty good primer on why parking lots deserve a generous helping of scorn.

One of the best points was raised by show host, Duncan Crary: when you build massive surface parking lots around box stores, the stores are so distant from one another people won’t walk between them and drive instead. You wind up with a situation where you have to double or triple your parking allotment because every shopper needs multiple spots just to get from store to store.

That pretty succinctly sums up the problem with places like the Grasslands shopping development in the Harbour Landing suburb or the boxstore hell out on Vic East.

And, for those who count themselves among the pro-parking militants mentioned in this week’s episode, have a gander at this awesome Google map done up by Regina Urban Ecology editor and dog blogger, Laura Pfeifer. It shows that over 25 per cent of Regina’s downtown is covered by parking lots (and note how she mercifully doesn’t include on-street parking). How can anyone look at that and say the downtown doesn’t adequately cover their parking needs? And yet, I still hear from time to time people complain about how there’s nowhere to park downtown.

While I’m on the subject, I have to point out that while I like Regina’s downtown a lot, there’s one thing that really pisses me off: that parking garage on Cornwall street that’s in the picture accompanying this post. Who the hell is responsible for that eyesore? (Actually, I’ve a pretty good idea who the culprit is.) Way to enhance the city. It looks like it was built from plaster of paris, staples and chicken wire. And it makes me think of this Kunstler quote:

We put up all these terrible buildings and people should be ashamed that they allowed their community to do this. And the developers themselves should be ashamed that they were the ones who invested capital in putting up something that disgraced the town. And the members of the planning board and the mayor and the council members need to feel ashamed about the terrible choices that they’ve made.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

4 thoughts on “My Parking Problem”

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
    When people complain that there isn’t enough parking downtown, they’re really complaining that there isn’t enough FREE parking, near the places they want to go.
    I visited Calgary’s Chinook Centre a few years ago, a shopping mall a little bigger than Cornwall Centre, and noticed something that blew me away: they had a huge underground parking garage, where parking was, get this, FREE. It’s almost as if someone realized, “hey we can get more people to come spend their money here if we don’t charge for parking”. DUH.
    I’m all for having more parkades downtown because the surface lots are too many, too small, and are taking up space where buildings should be. And parking there should be free. Hell, the parking on the street should be free too. Not free for two hours either, but just plain free. People hate paying for parking, and really hate plugging a meter or moving their car every couple of hours. That’s the kind of shit that drives people to Box Store Hell. There are many things that piss me off about the various Box Store Hells in the city. The whole point of a Box Store is to be disconnected and distant from other stores, with the hope being that if you have to leave the building and/or go get in your car to get to the next store with similar stuff, you’ll choose to buy at their store instead of someone else’s. The huge parking lots are for parking, sure, but they’re also insulation from other stores. I find it really ironic that box stores started to happen at a time when the world was supposedly becoming more eco-conscious … we talk about the environment all the time but weren’t we better off when all the stores were connected to each other in a big shopping mall where you could walk from store to store instead of driving your car to the next store? Seriously WTF?!?!

  2. As a member of the city’s only incorporated car share, I’m happy to be part of the solution to Regina’s parking problem. I invite everyone reading to come to the Regina Car Share AGM on this Sunday to learn more about car sharing, and how it will reduce parking demands.

  3. anon: I think your commenting aim’s a bit off there.

    Saskboy: I’m not a Regina Car Share member (yet) but I’m a big fan of the concept. Car sharing, seems to me, is the future of motoring. Hope the AGM goes well.

    JS: WTF, indeed. I have to admit though that I’m of two minds on the pay-for-parking concept. I think the rationale behind pricing parking is that it’s a tool cities can use to reduce the number of cars entering high traffic areas. In theory, that should encourage public transit use.

    Unfortunately, the reasoning breaks down when we have, as you point out, reams of free parking out in Vic East and elsewhere along with all the services and stores that aren’t downtown anymore. So pricing parking is a serious disincentive.

    I think one solution is to have downtown parking and transit prices linked by some formula so that transit will be the more affordable option. Staff are researching this option as part of their comprehensive parking review.

    I think another one would be to require some kind of pay-for-parking scheme out where the boxstores are. Or, better yet, dramatically boost property taxes on undeveloped land or land that’s paved over for surface parking. If we make surface parking uneconomical, we’ll have less of it —— using taxation that way — as a tool to get what you want out of developers — is exactly what taxation should be used for.

    Unfortunately, city hall doesn’t see it that way as evidenced by their reversal of a provision in the downtown plan that would have changed property taxes to do exactly that.

    I think the pressure from the development community to stop something like this will be just too strong for the foreseeable future.

    Plus, if barren land is taxed more, chain boxstores will, I suspect, simply abandon their buildings and move shop to somewhere six inches outside the city limits.

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