Just What We Needed Dept: Underwater Parking Spaces

Public Domain. City of Amsterdam via Boston Globe

They built them in Amsterdam; why not in Boston?

Construction is progressing fast on the Albert Cuyp parking garage in Amsterdam. It’s a 600-car and 60-bike parking garage being installed under an existing canal. When it is done, according to the architects, “at street level, 300 parking lots will be removed, allowing more space to be created for pedestrians, cyclists and landscaping”. It’s in a city where 57 percent of the population cycles daily, with 43 percent commuting to work by bike. The garage is costing more than US$ 40,500,000 and the people who park in it are going to pay the full cost of the $67,000 per space in permit fees.

Meanwhile in Boston, Matt Rocheleau of the Boston Globe looks longingly at this garage and wonders if Boston should do the same thing.

In a city like Boston, where the most parking-starved areas are surrounded by water, the payoff could be significant: helping to reduce the pollution and traffic caused by drivers circling the block hunting for spot, making parking more affordable, and freeing up more street-level space for other uses.
top view of construction

City of Amsterdam via Boston Globe/Public Domain

Unfortunately, what everyone says about urban cycling is also true about parking: Boston isn’t Amsterdam. Most of the parking spots in the Albert Cuyp garage are for area residents who own cars and are now parking them on the streets; the great majority of Amsterdammers walk, cycle or take transit to work or to shop. The underwater garage in Boston would be full of commuters.

As a previous article by Dante Ramos, another columnist in the Boston Globe, noted, building more parking creates induced demand. If you build it (and more roads), more cars will come.

The danger here is induced demand — the possibility that providing more roads just leads to bigger traffic jams. Transportation planners fret about this scenario all the time. But the driving-industrial complex lurches forward anyway.

If you want to do something about the parking problems in Boston, the best thing would probably be to invest in Amsterdam-style bike infrastructure, not Amsterdam-style underwater parking.