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  • Writer's pictureSteve Price

Rightsizing the automobile for local mobility

Neighborhood electric vehicles offer a better local transportation option in light of climate threats, but the design of streets would need to change.

Half of the work of urban design is deciding where to store cars. It’s a common lament of urban design professionals. In my community, controversy is brewing because Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and housing advocates want to build housing on a BART station’s surface parking lots. As usual NIMBYs are protesting, but other more reasonable people who live in nearby hillside homes are also protesting, worried that without BART parking they would face exhausting walks or bicycle rides uphill from the station at the end of train commutes.

Some hope for a structured parking garage that would preserve the existing parking capacity on less land, thus allowing room for some housing. But a garage that supports the weight of hundreds of cars is expensive, and a future of electric cars—which are heavier than gas-driven cars—could make garage construction even more pricey. Within a couple of blocks of the BART station enough on-street parking spaces are available to accommodate half of the parking demand, presuming a conventional understanding of the dimensions of a parking space. Yet a new kind of vehicle is gaining steam in other parts of the world that requires much less than a conventional 8-foot-by-20-foot parking space.

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