This is part 1 of a Sightline series on parking requirements. Read parts 2, 3, and 4.

Alan Durning

have not owned a car in seven years, but I do own a garage. It’s pictured above. In fact, I am legally required to own an off-street parking space; that’s written in the land-use code for my city, Seattle, as for virtually every city. The driveway that leads to my garage, meanwhile, eliminates almost exactly one parking space from my street. Parking in front of a driveway is illegal, and a regular curb cut is almost exactly the size of a parking space, as illustrated below.

Alan Durning

The net effect — one mandatory off-street parking space plus one car-less household — is a one-space reduction of parking supply on my block. Repeat: My obligatory driveway and garage deprive the universe of one on-street slot. This is ironic, but it’s only the tip of the irony iceberg where car-storage is concerned.

If I did own a car to keep in my garage, the net effect would no longer be a net reduction. It would be zero. My driveway subtracts one on-street space; my garage adds it back. Think about that for a while. The 4.6 million single-family houses in cities across the Northwest, and tens of millions more across the U.S., are each required to have at least one off-street parking space. Yet many of these city rules add no net parking spaces to their cities’ supplies. Worse, if you’ve ever narrowly escaped a car backing out of a garage, or almost backed into someone while you were driving, you can quickly grasp the fact that all these millions of mandated off-street parking spaces turn sidewalks into danger zones, especially for children and the disabled.