Transportation consultant Jeffrey Tumlin figures that you’ve got to be colorful when you’re talking about the intractable problems of urban parking infrastructure. As such, he describes what he does this way: “Our business operates like a methadone clinic to get cities off their parking addictions,” he says. “And each addict goes through a different route.”
“Somebody who’s screaming about ‘parking needs to be free!’ I can sit down with them for 20 minutes and get them to understand,” he says. “But it takes a full 20 minutes. And in a world where everything has to be distilled into 15-second sound bites, it’s really hard to convince people on a large scale.”Tumlin, a principle with transportation planning consultancyNelson/Nygaard in San Francisco, has worked with cities on the East and West Coast to build more transit-oriented development and fewer parking garage behemoths. And befitting his addiction analogy, he has a lot of painful things to say to people in these places. He thinks handicapped drivers shouldn’t necessarily get free parking, and that some beloved residential parking permit programs must go. He believes that poor people are willing to pay more for parking than we think, that more expensive parking can actually make customers happier, and that a row of pricey credit-card-operated parking meters can in fact make for more successful commercial districts.