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Why Rush Hour Parking Restrictions Don’t Work

For the love of God just let the people park.

While walking  from the Canton Promenade to Starbucks, it took me 5 minutes to cross Boston Street.  My bad – I was jaywalking. And sure, I could have walked half a mile to the nearest crosswalk at O’donnell or Hudson, but my pride got in the way.  Also, when you’re at the Canton Starbucks, those crosswalks look really really far away (they’re actually about 1600 feet apart).  I’ve seen 80 year old men with canes cross mid-block on Boston, so I thought, if they could do it, so can I.  There are two issues here.

  1. Boston Street probably needs a mid block crosswalk somewhere between O’donnell and Hudson Street. With all that retail, a grocery store, and a Starbucks (my sweet sweet love), there are plenty of people who live in the condos on the other side of Boston, or who exit the Promenade, and say “Damn, those crosswalks are far. I’ll make a run for it.”
  2. I was trying to cross at 5pm. This means eastbound traffic flies because two lanes are open instead of one due to peak hour parking restrictions.

Opening that one lane of traffic maybe saves 1 or 2 minutes of travel time if you’re in a car.  So awesome.  What peak hour parking restrictions also do is encourage highway-like speeds on neighborhood streets, discourage business patronage, and make life a pain in the ass for nearby residents who don’t have sufficient parking. Not to mention the fact that all it takes is one illegally parked vehicle to throw the whole scheme into chaos. I’ll also throw in the kitchen sink and say it makes biking during peak hours more difficult.  I’d rather get doored than get hit from the back by a speeding car. And finally, let’s throw in the bathtub and say that peak hour restrictions preclude the installation of bump outs, the fashionable street adornment which make pedestrian crossings safer and streets greener.

“But Mark” you say, “you’re supposed to discourage driving. We should make parking more difficult.”.  In certain situations, I disagree. I am against engineering decisions that provide benefits to vehicular traffic at the expense of other modes and neighborhood livability, and this is a great example. And especially in this economy, businesses need all the customers they can get, even if they arrive by Hummer.  Though Howard Street wasn’t hurt by light rail, it wasn’t helped by a lack of auto access. I would be remiss if I didn’t state my opinion that peak hour parking restrictions hurt businesses on Charles Street as well.

And just like one way streets, peak hour parking restrictions seem to be for the benefit of drivers who want to get the hell out of Baltimore as fast as possible after they get out of work. Why should we sacrifice livable streets, commercial vitality and quality of life for our residents just for the sake of shaving a couple minutes off  someones exodus to the suburbs? What’s the hurry, drivers?  Park your car and stay awhile.

Greater Greater Washington has an excellent article describing Chicago’s effort to eliminate peak hour parking restrictions on 225 of their busiest blocks.

**Update: Check out a run down of research done on the benefits of on-street parking at Planetizen.

  • Thomas Gonzales

    I definitely agree on your last note. I got home from a work-related day trip to D.C. last night around 7pm, and I was happy to see many people were out around Penn Station, but also took notice of just how many people were zooming up Charles Street to get “the hell out of Baltimore as fast as possible.”

    It was especially distressing to me because one of the things that most struck me when I moved to Baltimore is how empty the streets are (especially in Mt. Vernon/Midtown, where I live). Most of the problem seems to be just that everyone’s in their car all the time whenever they need to go almost anywhere. Back in the snowstorm in March it was marvelous to see that there actually were thousands of other people living in my neighborhood, despite rarely having seen them in the street before. I don’t think the primary purpose of all streets leading to and from downtown should be to encourage an exodus.

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  • Dukiebiddle

    “I’d rather get doored than get hit from the back by a speeding car.”

    Worry less about being struck from back by a speeding car… that’s a very rare occurrence. I hope to never get doored… common occurrence and can be fatal. Luckily, dooring is probably the easiest road hazard to avoid, by simply never riding in the door zone.

    With all that said, I agree with the brunt of your argument. Bump out those crosswalks. Creating more permanent parking is an attractive carrot to community residents who are resistant to safer infrastructure improvements (It’s hilarious to me how hostile that community is to perfectly safe street level light rail tracks, but seem to have no problem at all with 6 lanes of fast moving rush hour traffic). Also, creating more parking in one spot can temper hostility against the removal of other nearby parking to make way bike lanes.

  • Nate Evans

    Removing peak hour restrictions will also create space for a full bike lane instead of sharrows under cars

  • Mark

    you can also make the argument that lifting parking restrictions can reduce developer’s minimum off-street parking requirements. bus stops and ped access to buses is also much easier with full time parking lanes.

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  • Jessica

    My son and I spent the evening watching people cross mid-block at Starbucks yesterday. I thought about the need for a mid-block crossing; something the City will never approve. I also overheard someone say “once the red line comes, we will never be able to do that”. It seems that people imagine a wall being built down the center of Boston Street.

  • SomeDude

    “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – JFK

  • Dukiebiddle

    Especially amusing because the light rail tracks will make very effective pedestrian islands for the full 10 minute gap between trains.

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  • Roger

    Why not just replace the parking lane with a bike-lane?

  • Colm Moore

    This doesn’t always work if you aren’t tall enough to see over parked vehicles. And that can be anyone when its a parked SUV or van. :(

    Dublin (Ireland) does an amount of rush hour parking restrictions, but the space is then usually reserved for bus lanes (which bikes and taxis can also use) or cycle lanes.

    Tram-dominated streets, do indeed tend to become pedestrain havens. The eat-west street here:,-95.677068&sspn=32.527387,56.513672&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Dublin,+County+Fingal,+Ireland&ll=53.347458,-6.266118&spn=0.001495,0.003449&t=k&z=18 has trams and only local traffic, the north-south street is often traffic congested.

    One option for Boston Street might be to create pedestrian refuges. and

    What is the spped limit on Boston Street?

  • WEBER22Harriet

    I would like to propose not to hold back until you get enough amount of money to buy all you need! You can take the mortgage loans or sba loan and feel fine

  • the Success Ladder

    This is a very interesting point of view. Your blog is refreshing, but I wish one could find more content, though. I am looking forward to reading more from you. Keep up the good work. thanks.

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  • John at BWI Parking

    I like the idea of bike lane instead of parking lane.

  • BWI Park and Fly

    The BWI hourly parking rate is relatively lower at $4 per hour (maximum $22 per

    day) compared to those in Dulles or Philadelphia International, for example. For

    that price, it’s also the most convenient, located right in front of the main

    airport terminal. Still, if you’re looking at parking beyond 2 hours, this is not

    a cheap option.

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