Research misread in debate over car-free housing
In the continuing debate over no-parking housing in Boston, Stanley Spiegel’s Oct. 11 letter cites my research at Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy but draws precisely the wrong conclusion from our work (“Even with nearby transit options, car keys will be jingling”). The research found that in half of neighborhoods newly served by transit, car ownership rises and in 40 percent transit use actually falls. But the report concludes that this occurs because the new housing near transit was built with too much parking, thus attracting residents who want to keep their cars after moving to the city.
Less parking is the key to successfully populating neighborhoods in Boston with more residents willing to lead car-free or limited-car-use lifestyles. To attract residents willing to forgo car ownership, Boston needs to allow car-free housing but also forbid residents of such housing from getting on-street parking permits. An even better policy would require all rental apartments and condos to charge separately for parking. Such unbundling of parking costs would allow residents to see the real cost of keeping cars in the city and reduce housing costs for those who choose to forgo parking.
Boston will never be a car-free city, but it could easily be one where more than half of households manage without owning a car and two-worker households manage with just one. The city’s greatest challenge is not traffic but lack of affordable housing. Giving occupants the ability to opt out of paying for parking if they don’t own a car would preserve transportation choices for those who want or need a car while lowering housing costs.