What is the purpose of city streets? You might think that streets are just for moving people and goods, but this is not entirely true. In fact, about one third of the space (more or less depending on street type) is used for storage of private vehicles and other stuff, a.k.a. parking. To get a feeling for how this looks, we mocked up five different street sections using the Streetmix web site. Through traffic lanes and clear walking area on sidewalks count as “movement,” everything else in the right-of-way counts as “storage”.
The public right of way is clearly a valuable and versatile resource. Today, it’s dominated by motor vehicle uses, though this wasn’t always the case. But just how valuable is that right-of-way? I was curious to see if we could come up with some numbers by mapping the value of taxlots in the city of Portland. On typical residential streets the adjacent land is worth $10-$30/sf. The value is higher on commercial streets and soars to well over $100/sf in dense central city neighborhoods.
Pay parking in Portland. Meters show up in blue, permit areas are in yellow. [view large map]
- better control over parking availability and reduced traffic congestion.
- options to provide local incentives for low- or zero-emissions vehicles.
- a way to get non-resident commuters to help pay for their use of city streets.
As a city grows and evolves, the demands on the public right of way increase. We need to use it more effectively to meet our livability and mobility goals. By considering the value of the land, and the actual cost of free parking, we can quantify the trade offs of continuing with the status quo. I believe this approach would help cities move toward a more a more collaborative and informed discussion about the future of our streets.