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To Curb Driving, Cities Cut Down on Car Parking

Despite downtown business fears, some urban centers embrace “mini-parks.”

Josie Garthwaite
For National Geographic News

Bit by bit, for the past 40 years, the city of Copenhagen has done something revolutionary: The Danish capital has reduced its parking supply. Cutting the total number of parking spaces by a small percentage each year stands in stark contrast to the more common pattern of cities adding more and more parking to accommodate private cars.

But in a few pockets around the world, momentum is growing behind efforts to bump out large parking lots, curbside parking, and garages in favor of services and infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation.

“There’s no demand for parking, per se,” said parking policy expert Rachel Weinberger, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. “There’s demand for access to a location.” If a private car is the only way to access a given restaurant, shopping center, workplace, or neighborhood, she argued, then “that translates to demand for parking.”

Cities around the world are recognizing that managing parking is an effective, if indirect, means of addressing concerns about energy and traffic congestion—indeed, climate change. In fact, according to research from the Paris-based firm Sareco, people choose their mode of transportation for urban trips based on the parking conditions at their origin and destination.

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