Ramisa Fariha" />
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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Houston’s demand for parking is a serious problem

Jose Gonzalez-Campello/The Cougar

If you live in Houston, one of your biggest struggles is likely parking. It can leave you spending anxious minutes cruising around your destination looking for a parking space and be a serious drain on your wallet. But even more than just being annoying, demand for parking also contributes to the housing crisis.

America is driven by cars, with a majority of the population owning at least one vehicle. As roads have become clogged, demand has remained steadfast for easily accessible parking spaces that are also located close to popular places.

The imbalance between a high number of cars and not enough space led to the creation of parking minimums. The new system mandated a minimum quantity of parking spaces per building dependent on size and general use.

Parking minimums first began in 1923 in Columbus Ohio, and eventually extended to all types of property. These minimums ended up becoming intricately woven into urban planning, drifting from a conscious choice into a rightful agency. 

The increasing quantity of land allotted to Houston parking has ended up leaving little space for affordable housing near its metropolitan area.

This in turn has fostered suburban sprawl, decreased population density and increased dependency on cars, as city inhabitants are frequently unable to comfortably walk or bike to necessary destinations. 

Aside from the looming housing crisis, parking minimums have brought about venomous environmental costs as green spaces have decreased and carbon emissions increased. As the city exists under a blanket of asphalt, Houstonians have slowly abandoned more environmentally friendly options like walking or biking.

For solutions, Americans should consider the approach of many European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, who pride themselves on prioritizing pedestrian friendly roads.

The common theme in these countries of limiting and/or banning car access in certain areas promotes a culture of choosing people over businesses, rather than the other way around. But even in America, some cities have taken a different path.

In Fayetteville, Arkansas, thanks to zero parking minimums, once abandoned buildings have been “quickly  purchased, redeveloped, and put into use right now,” according to city planner Quin Thompson.

The quick development of these once vacant areas highlights the availability of potential buyers who may back out considering the excess costs from minimums.

However one views it, parking minimums are a defective method of bridging the gap between people and businesses. The favoring and dependency of cars on the road poses serious harms to society, decreases inclusion and accessibility, and contributes to the loss of a natural environment from the overflow of slab. 

Parking minimums promote a dispersive environment, placing business owners and residents alike further from one another, and overall decrease a sense of connection between neighbors.

Higher costs and an uncertain pedestrian experience characterize the current urban infrastructure of Houston, and with parking minimums intact, a more comfortable future is highly unlikely.  

Ramisa Fariha is a senior Economics major who can be reached at [email protected]

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