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Curbside parking in the suburbs was seen as déclassé

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Author: Brian

Benjamin Ross in Dead End includes this interesting tidbit about restricting street parking in suburbs:

As is common in zoning matters, status motivations lie hidden behind the stated rationales for parking minimums. Large-lot subdivisions where curb space is plentiful are rarely exempted. Indeed, early off-street parking rules, which mandated one space per house, could shrink the supply of parking. A one-car garage furnishes one space, but that space goes to waste when the owner is away from home. Its driveway eliminates a curb space that was usable twenty-four hours a day.

Curbside parking was disfavored because it was déclassé, suggestive of old neighborhoods with no garages and cars lining the roads. A 1969 planning text says that homeowners often object to on-street parking “from the purely aesthetic standpoint.” Aesthetics, here, is best understood as a euphemism. Parking is still allowed on driveways, and any given car is no better-looking there than on the street. But one’s own BMW in the driveway is entirely different from someone else’s Toyota at the curb. (p. 51)

Three quick thoughts:

1. Social class and status underlies a lot of activity in the American suburbs (as well as in other settings). Few people would admit such a thing but there is little reason to move cars to driveways outside of status.

2. Many communities, including my own, have restrictions on parking overnight on the street. What good reason is there for this?

3. Parking on the street actually could make streets safer. New Urbanists argue that having cars parked on both sides of the road makes drivers more cautious and attentive, leading to fewer accidents. Take parked cars away and throw in extra-wide streets like there are in many suburban neighborhoods and drivers will go a lot faster.

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