Garages are Not for Cars

I came across an interesting statistic the other day.  A public radio Marketplace episode cited 2/3rds of all garages aren’t used to store cars.  Searching the web for more details I found it’s estimated that 70-80% of Seattle’s garages are used only for non-car storage, and a 2001 UCLA study found that “Only 25 percent of garages could be used to store cars because they were so packed with stuff.”  This was a small but detailed study, and I’d love to find better data.

This brings up a few land use points:

1. Why are we requiring new residential homes to build parking?  Not only does this make housing significantly more expensive, we’re likely wasting most of this money.

2. I wonder how elastic street parking is.  My guess is very elastic.  Our streets are all lined with cars parked for free on the street.  How many of these cars would be moved into garages if parking was difficult or expensive enough?

3. Man we have an addiction to stuff.  I’ve stayed with people in Indonesia and India that had very little, yet seemed very happy.  What is it about our culture that requires so much clothes, toys, and knicknacks.




Comments

  1. David L says

    I never understand the garages packed with junk, with the car parked outside on the street. Garages are great places to store cars! Putting your car in a garage is the single best thing you can do (other than required maintenance) to keep it in excellent shape and cut down on repair expense. WIth a garage you never have to worry about whether there is convenient parking, and you stay dry. Meanwhile, most of the stuff in almost everyone’s garage just sits there and accumulates dust. If you’re not using it regularly, sell it or give it away.

    I know a few people who actually use their garage in an organized fashion as some other kind of space, such as a workshop for a home-based business. That’s different. But people with cars who use their garage as a giant junk room baffle me.

      • Lack Thereof says

        Model T’s aren’t as small as you think. A modern day Toyota Camry – the de facto standard issue American family sedan – is only about a foot wider and 5 feet longer, and with a Camry you don’t need to leave room for someone to stand in front and crank the engine.

        Additionally, the T was far from the only car plying Seattle’s streets and garages in the prewar era. Most of it’s competitors were larger. An early Packard or Pierce-Arrow would have been as big or bigger than the modern Camry.

        People just need to learn to maneuver their vehicles as well as their great-grandparents did.

    • Mike Orr says

      I’ve seen contradictory reports on that. Some people say the old one-car garages are too short for modern cars; others say they fit just fine. It must be that old garages are widely different sies.

      • Eric says

        Modern cars also vary pretty widely in size. A Toyota Yaris or a Mini Cooper are only about a foot longer than the Model T, a Honda Civic is almost four feet longer, while the Ford Crown Victoria was closer to seven feet longer.

    • John in Olympia says

      Our current home, built in 1960, so “mid-century modern” era, has an attached 2 car garage, which is part of why we bought it. That space has been converted to a multipurpose play space for adults where my wife sews, makes dolls, studies astrology, and I do wood and metal-working. All in all we are constantly fine-tuning our manual “chops” beyond just our thumbs on a keyboard. We play in a marimba band and practice on 7 instruments stored in a neighbor’s garage. Her car is a some-time visitor to the space. All in all, our garage experiences add to our appreciation of manual skills and increase our appreciation that a big part of culture is using, developing and appreciate the capacity for beauty and utility the human hand can create in sync with the human mind and heart. And oh, by the way that’s where our two bikes live as well.

  2. Dave says

    ” I’ve stayed with people in Indonesia and India that had very little, yet seemed very happy.”

    Yes, poverty is cute when you’re a tourist. Did you run that theory on ‘stuff’ past some hobos downtown?

    • Matt Gangemi says

      Do you honestly believe stuff = happiness? Bringing this back to our country, I had a great time in the college dorms, and at the time owned about as much as would fit in three milk crates.

      I’m guessing the hobos downtown would much prefer a warm bed and a bowl of soup to snowshoes and a riding lawn mower.

      • Dave says

        Do you honestly think people living in 3rd world poverty don’t want so-called ‘stuff’? I mean, I know it’s cute you played tourist once, but there’s nothing noble about poverty.

      • Matt Gangemi says

        Sure they want stuff. But they’re happy without it. I wanted stuff while I was in college, but was happy without it. Why do we all want all of this stuff if we can be happy without it?

      • Mike Orr says

        Dave, your quote is, “they seemed happy”. Some of the people who say that are not smug tourists, they’re researchers who have spent years looking at whether those people are happy, or they’re people with ties to the country or even to that family so they’ve seen over many years that they are in fact happy.

        Of course, “happiness” is a vague term. But we can measure it by optimistic outlook, lack of stress, good family relationships, and willingness to participate in community projects because you’re “building a society” and think your work will make the future better. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet people are relatively happy, and the government has explicitly defined the happiness index as a national goal (like how rising GDP is a national goal for us). Maybe the US should also define happiness as a national goal, then we wouldn’t have some of the crazy policies we do. New Zealand is a middle-class country, not as rich as the US, yet New Zealanders are the most satisfied with their life and their country’s direction than anybody else on earth.

        Happiness is an attitude. It’s partly related to economic situation, but also to genetics, upbringing, and choice.

      • Dave says

        “we can be happy without it”

        Define stuff? Refrigerator, oven, microwave, dish washer…all pretty handy. Computer, printer, wifi? Bet you have those. Car/scooter? Go to a 3rd world country where those aren’t wanted. TV, stereo? Maybe 3rd worlders don’t want access to culture, film and news? Toys for children? pretty necessary as learning tools. Furniture? I’d rather not sit on the floor. fan/AC/heat? Ditto, especially in the tropics.

        It’s cute you roughed it in college and went backpacking in Asia but my 25 years of actually living and traveling in 3rd world countries taught me there was nothing cute about poverty, and hose smiles were for visitors.

      • djw says

        There’s a whole field of happiness research on the relationship between happiness, wealth and consumption. A couple of findings relative to this discussion:

        Being in truly severe poverty; uncertain of say, home and food, makes people unhappy. Beyond that, the link between happiness and wealth isn’t that strong.

        For societies of roughly ‘middle income’ and greater (basically, countries at least as rich as, say, Brazil, Panama, Serbia, Kazahkstan, etc), greater wealth and income does have a moderate positive correlation with greater happiness, but only up to enough to make you solidly above average in that category. Anything above ~150% of the median level of wealth has no correlation with greater happiness. (Obviously Indonesia is too poor to fall in this category, but it’s still an interesting and instructive finding, I think).

        Insofar as consumption correlates with greater happiness, it is experiential consumption–travel, eating out, etc. Acquisition of “stuff” has no positive correlation with greater happiness, and has occasionally been shown to have a correlation with higher levels of anxiety. So Matt’s point about “stuff” has significant empirical support.

        These are all broad trends for large populations, so it doesn’t make sense to use them to arrive at conclusions about particular individual people, but still.

      • Nathanael says

        Dave, the comment about “stuff” was in relation to piles of junk packed in garages!

        I mean, I have neatly organized shelving in my garage full of stuff I use regularly. But that’s not typical.

        A lot of people’s garages are sort of “aging rooms” for stuff which people aren’t quite ready to throw out because it “might be useful later”. I think that’s actually a useful thing to be able to do, but it doesn’t necessarily increase happiness.

      • Dave says

        “http://news.yahoo.com/latin-americans-rank-happiest-people-planet-223234118.html”

        If they’re so happy in Latin America, why do so many risk life and limb to come here and be ‘miserable’?

    • Mark Dublin says

      Based on personal experience with both money and a lot of objects to store, I really don’t think that anyone using the garage to store old tools, books, clothes, and letters is an example of material greed. Problem is generally too much affection for times past and their inhabitants.

      But another conclusion of mine from long observation is that money and major purchases are very much the same as food: too much is as lethal as not enough. With both food and money, what divides gluttony from a healthy appetite is the amount of positive work toward which the consumption is directed.

      As for national traits, I really don’t think the people of this country are the most acquisitive on Earth. People from places like the former Soviet Union tell me that people in the US are much nicer and more generous than they were used to back home. Governmentally, Communism bred gangsters, and socially, it bred greed.

      But early in life, return from several years in Africa left me with distinct impression that as soon as you hit US shores, somebody is immediately screaming at you to buy something. With expensive electronic lungs.

      Exactly as with firearms, the ill-effects don’t result from people’s natural inclinations, but from organized professional multi-trillion dollar propaganda campaigns to deliberately frighten people into thinking that their lives are worthless, and also in danger, if they don’t buy something right now.

      My most reliable implement for the defense of my liberty, the protection of my property, and the salvation of my soul is the “Off” switch on my TV and my radio.

      Mark Dublin

      • East Coast Cynic says

        “My most reliable implement for the defense of my liberty, the protection of my property, and the salvation of my soul is the “Off” switch on my TV and my radio.”

        Solitude works for me.

    • Andy says

      Are we really arguing the usefulness and happiness gain by having a room full of crap you never see or use?

      I don’t see how that is good for anyone.

    • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

      Okay, I agree. Too much stuff. Let’s get rid of the unnecessary stuff, starting with Matt Gangemi’s computer.

      • Anandakos says

        Maggie,

        Dude, you live in a lily-white enclave with a railroad yard for a moat against “those people” (except for the questionables in the Discovery Park housing you like to complain about).

        Part of the defect that some of “those people” have is that they don’t have six-figure incomes. Some of them are immigrants. Some got caught in the housing fever five years ago and lost their life savings in foreclosure. Some just didn’t have the foresight to pick smart parents like you did. Shame on them.

        We all know you don’t like transit. Point taken. You don’t want buses in Magnolia because they breach the moat. Point taken.

        You don’t really want to live in Seattle, except for the view of the Olympics, I’d guess. Too many of “those people” you have to bump up against when you cross the moat.

        Tell you what. I used to live in Houston and they actually have whole little cities inside Houston. They all have their lily-white governments and most importantly, their lily-white police department to keep “those people” in check.

        The summers suck there, but the winters suck here. The winters there are very nice. And there is the Edwards Plateau to which you can escape in the summer for some non-humid roasting. Mediterranean.

        You should check it out.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        Ah yes, the invitation to leave because I disagree with my betters. I’ll pass, if for no other reason than to be inconvenient.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        By the way, we defeated the Discovery Park housing. The “mixed use” stuff has been diverted to Ballard, and to 15th Avenue W. Pretty hard to stick too much of it in Magnolia when the residents have no way to get back from their day jobs on 3rd Avenue, wouldn’t you say? But Rapid Ride is perfect for 15th Ave. and Ballard.

      • Nathanael says

        “I’ll pass, if for no other reason than to be inconvenient.”

        It’s kind of sad that you don’t have any other reason. And anti-social.

      • Geoff says

        I *love* it when people pull the “if you disagree feel free to leave” card. So very Seattle.

  3. Jory says

    I think people consider garages part of their living space. Why would you take away your living space, by parking a car inside?

    • David L says

      Why would you live in an unheated, unfinished room that usually has a concrete floor? People don’t use their garages as living space, they use them as space to throw junk rather than getting rid of it.

      • Dave says

        ” they use them as space to throw junk rather than getting rid of it.”

        What business is it of yours how I use single family house’s my garage?

      • Matt Gangemi says

        I don’t think you understand. The issue is whether we should be forcing people to build garages. Nobody’s telling you what to do with your garage.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        That’s exactly what you’re doing. Not only are you trying to tell people what to do with their garages, but you’re trying to lecture everyone who doesn’t want to live the way you think they ought to. Don’t you ever once get tired of telling other people what they are supposed to do? And can you truly be surprised when, as a consequence of your earnest efforts, people react with the hostility and disdain that you and every other nanny in Seattle so richly deserves?

      • Seattleite says

        Reading comprehension isn’t your forte is it Maggy?

        How do you get “force you to live my way” from “shouldn’t be forced to live your way”? They are pretty much the exact opposite.

      • David L says

        Truly brilliant. So unless you get to legally require everyone in the city to live your way, that means I’m telling you what to do?

  4. AP says

    I suspect that the 70-80% includes a lot of garages that were turned into extra rooms. When we were house hunting ten years back we saw dozens of near-Eastside houses with dining rooms or bedrooms that used to be attached garages. I’m not saying people don’t have too much stuff but I think a bunch of these garages became living space.

    We bought a house with a nice open carport that protects the cars from the weather but doesn’t invite the suburban stockpile. (“Suburban” here includes most of Seattle’s neighborhoods.) Storage is definitely an issue, as is space for working on projects, but we manages. I don’t think I could live in a neighborhood filled with three car garages and mall-running SUVs.

    • Mike Orr says

      The size of houses has significantly increased since the 1950s. How much of that is excessive, and how much is a reaction to previous “overcrowding”, is a matter of judgment. But people with older houses have been filling in their garages and back yards at the same time that people have been buying newer houses, so it’s probably the same trend.

  5. says

    Matt, I’ve reread your post a couple of times, and am having troubling understanding your point. Could you please, in one sentence, tell me what you are trying to say in the above post?

    • says

      If Matt is unable to do it, can someone else do it? I need help here understanding this post. The mark of any good blog post is that it can be summed-up in one clear, succinct sentence. Can one of your commenters please boil this post down for me and tell me, in one sentence, what his message is?

      • Lack Thereof says

        Ok, here’s the nut of it, from what I can tell.

        Zoning regulations are requiring developers to build something (off-street parking spaces, typically built in the form of garages), which are not being used for their intended purpose, and thus drive up the cost of new construction without accomplishing the intended goal (reducing the utilization of on-street parking).

        There’s plenty of other angles to it, but that’s what I can fit in one sentence. He is likely advocating the loosening of parking minimums for new construction, based on underutilization of existing off-street parking stock.

      • Lack Thereof says

        He’s also adding that the secondary use of this required off-street parking, i.e. storage space, is not sufficient grounds to continue the off-street parking requirements.

        I would volunteer that if you consider this secondary storage space use valuable enough that the zoning should continue to require it, there are better ways to do it then mandating off-street parking. For instance, loosening restrictions on lot coverage or FAR, or mandating a certain percentage of square footage to be in unfinished basements or other storage structures.

        I would personally say eliminate the requirement and let people build/buy the square footage they want, rather than mandating that something functionally serving as a large storage unit must be built with every new home.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        Here’s what he’s saying: “I don’t approve of the way you live, and I want to force my preferences on you.”

      • Dave says

        ““Magnolia” should be banned.”

        Wow, such open-minded people. Someone disagrees with you and you want them banned. If that doesn’t explain the modern, liberal urbanist, nothing does.

    • says

      Maybe I was asking too much of someone who doesn’t know how to spell college. Okay, if no one is going to help me, I’ll try to summarize this post myself. I think what Matt is trying to say with this post is Americans are materialistic.

      STB, if you’re going to do a top ten posts of 2012, I’d like to nominate this post. It’s absolutely brilliant!

      • David L says

        What Matt is trying to say is that requiring parking by code is silly when most people use that parking space to store junk rather than to park.

  6. Dan Carey says

    A number of years ago I lived in a suburban apartment complex that had a parking problem- not enough spaces leading people to park in firelanes, etc. That stopped when they assigned spaces, and if you had a garage, that counted as a space. As for me, my car is the most expensive thing I own, so I park it in my garage.

      • John Bailo says

        A person does not own the street in front of his house. All on street parking in Seattle should require paying a parking fee.

      • aw says

        It only makes sense to charge for on-street parking if there is a shortage. Another consideration is if the cost of collection exceeds the revenue generated.

    • John Bailo says

      I keep thinking that large apartment complexes would be the ideal places for those hourly rent a car services or even the new online sharing systems. So you could optimize a single car over 5 or 6 apartment households who only need it once a week for shopping, etc.

      • Matt Gangemi says

        It’s common for universities to have a small car rental lot, working under this same principle. I imagine once car sharing services become more popular, you’ll see them at large apartment complexes.

      • Mike Orr says

        That’s a good idea. It would probably be popular with the tech crowd. All it takes is one owner and a few tenants who want to subscribe, and it would expand one by one. And if it’s “their” car, they could maybe schedule it among themselves so that it’s available when each one most needs it.

    • Norman says

      “A person does not own the street in front of his house. All on street parking in Seattle should require paying a parking fee.”

      People paid for the streets they live on. Why should they pay to use them, since they already paid to build and maintain them?

      Or, who do you think paid for the street in front of your home? People living in Idaho, maybe? Or, the homeless? Or, streets just magically appear, and nobody paid for them?

      • John Bailo says

        Do you think I should be able to stop in the center land of I5, park and take a nap for 6 hours because I “own” that part of the highway? No one is entitled to hogging a public resource even if it is in front of their house. For example here at Somerset Apartments in Kent, my parking is all done on the private land of my apartment complex and I age two spaces as part of my lease.

        However, in Seattle you are parking on streets that could be better used as laneage.

      • Butch says

        And remember you are responsible for maintaining and cleaning (of snow, leaves, etc.) that unowned space in front of your house. If they pay me for this maintenance and liability then maybe we can start the discussion about paying for parking.

      • Lack Thereof says

        I believe Butch is a bit off. You’re generally required to maintain the sidewalk and planting strip. SPU kindly requests that you voluntarily keep the storm drains clear (they do come around and clear them out on a regular, if infrequent schedule), and SDOT doesn’t require non-plowed streets to be cleared of snow by anyone.

        If I’m wrong please cite what my obligations are re: the right of way.

      • Glenn says

        Those of us who live in areas with zoned parking, pay to park there and those who don’t have the annual sticker and park longer than 2 hours may be ticketed, further adding to “paid parking” income from residential neighborhoods. I don’t need to hear the argument that all parking should be free, or that I pay too little for my parking. I don’t set the fees.

        I’d love to have a garage and in fact in February I’m moving to a home that had a garage finished into a den. I spent all last week making it into a garage again. Perhaps I’ll park my car in it sometimes but it’s more likely that I will use it as a shop for the foreseeable future. And if the city decides that I should pay to park in the street in that area, I will make a value decision at that time.

      • Nathanael says

        Butch, the very old-fashioned system under which local landowners are supposed to clear snow and leaves from, and repair, sidewalks — this system is not working in most of the country.

        I agree with you that it should be abolished, and instead local landowners should simply pay taxes and have city employees clean snow and leaves from, and repair, sidewalks.

  7. Kevin R says

    I definitely agree about the stuff addiction but one point on the parking – garages do not equal all the off street parking spots. There are a lot of folks who park in their driveways which provide off-street but not covered parking. Also, the code requirement is not for a garage space but for an off-street parking space.

    • Matt Gangemi says

      True, but only marginally useful. The only housing with enough space to waste for non-garaged parking is single family homes on full sized lots, and Seattle isn’t building many more of those. The next step up in density, townhouses, use garages because there’s nowhere else to put parking. Imagine how much nicer those 4-packs would look if you removed the parking requirement.

      Also consider backyard cottages. Currently, if you convert your garage to a living space you have to provide a new parking spot. But if you really needed a parking spot, I’m not sure you would have converted your garage to a living space. Of course, if you convert your garage to store old junk you aren’t required to add a new parking spot.

  8. Frank Chiachiere says

    Older garages were designed for smaller cars. Newer garages, especially in the standard Seattle “6-pack” townhouse, are likewise too small. The only way to park a car in many of these units is to execute a 17-point turn in a Smart Car.

    The requirement that town homes have off street parking is designed to ameliorate neighborhood complaints. In reality, it does very little to get cars off the streets, since many of the garages are completely useless for actually parking normal sized cars.

    • David L says

      People need to learn where the edges of their car are and stop fearing driving in crowded spaces. It’s really not that hard. A few years ago I used to own a Seattle townhouse. It was part of a group of 8 that had a single driveway leading to single-car garages. My neighbors constantly whined just like your post above does. I had a large car and had no trouble whatsoever parking it in my garage, and to look at it, my garage would have been one of the “harder” ones to get into.

  9. Norman says

    “1. Why are we requiring new residential homes to build parking? Not only does this make housing significantly more expensive, we’re likely wasting most of this money.”

    The people who own the garages pay for them. If they want to use them to store things, that is their business. It does not cost you anything for someone else to have a garage, no matter what they use it for. Storage is not a waste of money. People pay a lot of money to rent storage around town. Haven’t you seen all the huge storage buidings in this city that rent space just to store stuff?

    • Matt Gangemi says

      “It does not cost you anything for someone else to have a garage” Obviously. But forcing them to build a garage does cost them money.

      • David L says

        Because every house has to be bigger (counting the garage space), which both directly makes the houses more expensive and leads to bigger lot sizes, driving up land prices.

        Without the garage requirement, we could build smaller houses, and likely downzone a bit without hurting neighborhood character, in neighborhoods where a significant number of people can go car-free. (And this is a separate point from my post above, but even without a downzone people would be more free to use their lot space for what they want, if they don’t want to use it to store cars.)

  10. Norman says

    “2. I wonder how elastic street parking is. My guess is very elastic. Our streets are all lined with cars parked for free on the street. How many of these cars would be moved into garages if parking was difficult or expensive enough?”

    Why shouldn’t cars park on the street for free? The people who live on the streets paid for the streets, so they should be able to use them to drive or to park on (as long as they don’t park illegally).

    • Matt Gangemi says

      With that argument, why would you force people to build garages? They already paid for that street space.

    • David L says

      No, everyone in the city paid for the streets. There is no reason a specific homeowner has special rights to the piece of street that happens to be in front of his house. The street should be used in the best interest of the entire city. Sometimes that’s for on-street parking. Other times it’s for active lanes. For example, the fact that on-street parking is allowed along N 45th St in Wallingford is just mind-boggling, given how badly the congestion in that corridor hurts the entire city. (And if parking were taken away there, we’d also be perfectly justified in destroying those bus bulbs you hate so much.)

      • East Coast Cynic says

        The side streets in Whiteyford (a bigger Magnolia?) are pretty clogged with cars. They have to allow pressure release along N 45th to prevent parking chaos on their side streets.

    • asdf says

      When I went home shopping about 3 years ago, I had an interesting situation. I had a car at the time, but was planning on getting rid of it in the near future, after I had moved all my stuff from the prior apartment. So I needed a parking arrangement where I could store my car in the short term, but adapt the space to other uses in the long term.

      So, all the condos that parking spaces out in the open I rejected because you can’t keep anything there except a car that someone couldn’t just walk off with. A private garage could have been best, but that would have required buying a single family home, which required more money than I was willing to spend and I didn’t need all that space, nor did I want to go through the effort of maintaining a lawn.

      In the end, I settled on a condominium with a shared parking arrangement in a secured garage that only residents of the building could access, which makes my parking space a good location to store my bikes and biking equipment. It’s also versatile enough in that the space can quickly be converted back to car storage when the need arises. For example, my housekeeper parks her car there once a month while she cleans my apartment and I also park a Zipcar there overnight a few times a year.

      So, in the end, given that we have residential parking requirements, I consider garages a good thing in that they allow any resident, including non-car-owners to make good use of the space. Whereas open parking requires non-car-owners to pay for something in their monthly rent or mortgage that they barely use.

  11. John Bailo says

    Remember that “empty Seattle” video. How about a carfree (or a car reduced) one where all the side streets are free of parked cars.

    • Lightning says

      Story: Shortly after moving into my house (in Ballard) I came back late one night and thought I would be considerate on my alley neighbors and not park in the garage. Came out the next morning to a couple of smashed in windows. That was in 1985. Have parked the car in the garage every night since.

  12. SMP Belltown says

    One thing about the garage -> storage conversions…

    A basic house with garage may seem almost spacious for a newlywed couple, and have plenty of room for two people and a baby. But once a couple of kids come along (and start growing up), that house might start to feel a little crowded even if the family isn’t addicted to collecting ‘unnecessary’ stuff.

    Maybe a garage conversion to storage space… or rec room… or guest room is a pretty natural development for a house in a family neighborhood setting.

    • Matt Gangemi says

      I’m not arguing against garages. I’m arguing against forcing people to build garages. If people want to have more storage space, many would build more room in their house, rather than an expensive seperate structure connected to the street often requiring a curb cut.

  13. Norman says

    For people concerned with “safe streets”, and who want lower speed limits on residential streets, parked cars on the curb are a good “traffic calming” device. Especially on narrow streets with cars parked on both sides, cars have to travel very slowly because on many of those streets 2 cars can not pass each other going different directions.

    So, parked cars on streets probably cause much lower traffic speed on many narrow residential streets. Some people probably consider that a benefit.

    • Matt Gangemi says

      I’m also a fan of street parking as a way of slowing down traffic and separating it from pedestrians. But with all of this street parking available why are we requiring more garages?

    • asdf says

      As a pedestrian, I sometimes find street parking a nuisance in that it obstructs your view of traffic when you want to cross the street. Without parked cars in the way, I can walk down a sidewalk while continuously looking both ways and, as soon as I see a big enough opening, hop across, which means even on streets with fairly busy traffic, I can get across them without having to wait.

      When there’s parking, however, this procedure can no longer be done safely because the parked cars obstruct your view so you can’t see if somebody’s coming until you’re already out in the middle of the street.

      • jon says

        as a pedestrian, street parking is great as it provides protection of the sidewalk and turns high speed thouroughfares into slower main streets

      • Lack Thereof says

        When parked cars ignore the 30′ rule around intersections, or park across crosswalks, that is where the conflicts arise.

    • Eric says

      Norman, no one is arguing that there aren’t people who have storage needs beyond what their home provides. A garage can be a fine option for these people, as can a storage unit across town.

      However, not everyone fits that description. Why should a person who doesn’t own a car be required to install a paved driveway on their property that leads to a car storage unit that they have no intention of using for car storage?

      • asdf says

        Even if you personally don’t own a car, having a garage that can be used for car storage still enhances the value of your house – if you ever sell the place, the next owner probably will have a car, as 85% of Seattle households own at least one car.

        I still don’t think it should be required by government, but from a personal economic standpoint, the driveway should be thought of as an investment in your house.

        Plus, it is still possible for even a non-car-owner to make some use out of that driveway. For example, you can install a basketball hoop and use the driveway to shoot baskets. The parking will also occasionally be useful if you have guests over or if contractors ever need to do work on your house.

      • Eric says

        My house predates parking requirements. It doesn’t have a driveway or a garage. Instead it has a larger back yard with an apple tree. Since there’s enough street parking on my block, I’m not sure that cutting down the apple tree and replacing half the back yard with a garage would actually increase my house’s value more than the cost of building the thing.

      • djw says

        Even if you personally don’t own a car, having a garage that can be used for car storage still enhances the value of your house

        So would an additional bedroom. Or nice little landscaped outdoor area. I don’t see any particular reason to think the driveway/garage use of $$ and space is necessarily a greater investment than all the others those resources could be devoted to.

      • asdf says

        The concern is that as long as everybody else has a car, even if you don’t, a house will be awfully difficult to sell if there’s no place to park a car. As long as there’s plenty of street parking, you get the value of having parking available without actually having any on your property. But if you live in a neighborhood where there isn’t street parking available (or it’s nearly always completely taken), you greatly reduce the pool of potential buyers if the lack of parking leads car owners to look elsewhere. Unless of course, your neighborhood is somewhere where the few car-free people in the city will all be trying to live.

      • Nathanael says

        asdf…. makes sense. And leads us back to the subject of this blog. If there’s good enough public transportation, then it’s easy enough to sell a house without a parking space….

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        I don’t want “good enough public transportation” for people to give up their cars. And I vote.

      • David L says

        Strange, Magnolia. You endlessly whine about a “war on cars” and then you reject all steps that might allow the city to move more residents without further increasing car congestion.

        There’s already a city that does things your way. It’s called Los Angeles, and people think it’s normal there to sit in traffic for 90 minutes. Perhaps you should check it out.

      • djw says

        The concern is that as long as everybody else has a car, even if you don’t, a house will be awfully difficult to sell if there’s no place to park a car.

        Nonsense. There are many things that enhance value, and garages are just one of them. As long as on-street parking is free and widely available, as it is in virtually all single family housing neighborhoods, a garage is inessential to car ownership.

        I’m currently staying with a friend on a block in a trendy neighborhood in which pretty much everyone has a car, and almost no-one has a garage. I couldn’t afford a run down, undistinguished 1000 square footer on this block in a million years, despite the lack of garages.

  14. W. K. Lis says

    There was a time that basement or attic space was used for storage. Today, that basement or attic has been turned into living space, meaning that storage was pushed into the garage. Now even the garage is being turned into living space, meaning that off-site storage facilities now have to be used for storage.

      • aw says

        Attics are pretty horrible places too. Usually not insulated so stifling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. Often the access would be a steep narrow staircase or worse, a ladder.

        The garage is much easier access with a big overhead door. It also is very convenient for that way of dealing with all the junk, the garage sale.

  15. says

    This post brings up an interesting dichotomy: Garages vs. Parking Spaces.

    Our zoning codes require “parking spaces,” a requirement that is met in many apartments with an open parking spot, either in an underground garage or outdoors. It can be risky or awkward to use these spaces for storage or hobbies.

    Yet most homeowners who have garages, choose to prioritize storage/hobbies over car parking. Perhaps many apartment dwellers would also prefer secured storage space over a parking spot. Yet the code requires one and not the other.

    • David L says

      A very good way of thinking about it. My mom lives in a condo building that has 1 1/2 floors dedicated to garage space (the 1 space/unit required in the area by code). A substantial number of the owners fill their parking space up with unsightly junk rather than putting a car in it. Everyone there would probably be happier if those owners could use an enclosed storage unit rather than a parking spot.

    • Nathanael says

      Perhaps every house and every apartment should be required to have a “lumber room”, as the British call it. A funny idea for zoning. I think it’s probably a bad idea, but it’s something to think about.

  16. Ramp says

    Fiat Abarth Turbo: Will fit in any Seattle garage built since 1904. Look it up.

    And, for John Bailo: It will fit in any garage ever built in Kent.

    And for Sam and Norman: It will probably fit in your liquor cabinet(s).

  17. Cinesea says

    Can anyone tell me WHY Seattle is building parking spots on the new Mercer Street in both directions? As if traffic isn’t bad enough, now we are going to have to wait for the damn parallel parkers, causing traffic to be even worse than it is now…I think this is absolutely the worse decision ever by SDOT. And there have been many bad decisions…

    • says

      The project goal is to create an attractive/useful urban environment for all users, not simply an I-5 car sewer. On-street parking allows drivers to access retail/services for short-term errands. If it takes you too long to get to I-5 on Mercer, and consider other transportation options. I keep hoping the collective mind will figure that out, but congestion tolling on the Mercer on-ramp might be required in order to focus the minds.

      • Cinesea says

        I rarely use Mercer personally as I am able to take the bus to/from work. But, I have a few co-workers who need to use Mercer and how do you explain to them that with millions of dollars spent on this project, we are catering to a few people who will park their cars on this road and block traffic? There are plenty of parking spaces on other streets–is there really a lack of parking in this area?–so why did Mercer have to have on-street parking, too? If anything, let a private company build a parking garage near there for people. Plus, why should there be any on-street parking since SLUT and bus routes populate the area? I would say, get rid of the parking area and build bigger sidewalks, or plant some wonderful trees, anything to NOT have on-street parking along Mercer.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        Cinessa, they did it that way as part of the ongoing war on the automobile. Now, they realize they won’t win that war. After all, there has been no change in the percentage of Seattle residents living in households with cars. But they still fight the war.

        One tactic is to re-engineer the streets of the city to promote gridlock, in the hope of forcing people into collective transportation. Another tactic is to jack up government fees on cars: higher gas taxes, higher vehicle taxes, you name it. A third tactic is to reduce street maintenance.

        In the end, they know they’ll lose their war, but at least they’ll make you pay, and make your life as bad as they can. And this will make them happy.

      • Geoff says

        I’m curious, for those who commute on I-5 and use Mercer street for freeway access, what are their transit alternatives?

    • jon says

      parking is a buffer between traveling autos and the sidewalk to protect pedestrians. without parking it would be a highway solely focused on throughput. street parking is essential to making mercer an address for office and retail otherwise the buildings ans businesses in them will turn their backs on this new street and the construction of the new street will then have been a waste of money by destroying the high value inner city land to make travel to the low value outskirts easier.

      • I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

        Right. And in every other area of the city, they urbanists want to remove parking spaces. Hey, whatever works in the ongoing war on the automobile!

    • Nathanael says

      Is this going to be short-term parking (useful for drop-off, pick-up, errands, deliveries, etc) and handicapped parking… or is it going to be general-purpose long-term parking?

  18. Allison says

    My husband, two small children and I live in a small to med sized townhouse with a small 1 car garage in a walkable area of Redmond. Our pervious home in Portland had an attic but not a garage. We have one car (a requirement of and absolute necessity of my job). The car stays in the driveway. So what is in my garage? Yes, there’s junk, but there are also 4 bicycles as well as the trash cans we are required to keep in there. Oh and a bike trailer that doubles as a stroller. We make as many trips on foot, bike, or transit as we can. This is part of why I think it is unlikely that our car will ever live in the garage.

  19. jon says

    Something should also be said about all the garages not being used for cars is that the curb cuts are still there to access the garage so they are removing public street parking space while the curb cut access isnt even being used. I would expect motor vehicle owners to be up in arms about this loss of parking.

  20. Charles says

    What is ironic about this examination of “stuff” is that our economy is driven by the creation, manufacture, distribution and sales of “stuff”. Jobs and income derive from “stuff”.

    The call to live more simply has to be coupled with a re-examination of our economic system. How we make a living or survive will have to change in a resource constrained future.

  21. Matthew Johnson says

    I don’t think I’ve parked Black Betty in a garage more than half a dozen times in the 10 years we’ve been together.

  22. I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

    My, my, my. So now the Seattle Transit Blog would like it if we’d all live like Indonesian and Indian villagers. Not that I’m exactly surprised.

  23. I'm Magnolia and I Don't Care says

    Of course, the Seattle Transit Blog never mentions the most salient statistic on this subject, which is that more Seattle households have three cars than have no cars. Or that just as many people in Seattle lived in a household with a car in 2010 as in 2000. This in spite of McGinn’s attempt earlier in 2012 to lie about the numbers.

    Fact is: People here are no more willing or interested in using transit or the Holy Bicycle than they’ve ever been. It must be really frustrating for the Seattle Transit Blog to see free people ignore their directives about how to live and what to want!

    • East Coast Cynic says

      I’d love to use transit as often as possible. But unless we have 24/7 transit that one can use at night coming home from checking out music or visiting friends as well as rail or subways to get to far flung edges of the county and beyond, its extremely difficult to get along without a car as a default option.

      • asdf says

        Depends how far you have to go. Ballard is much closer to capitol hill in distance than West Seattle, so the fare would be considerably less. And if you’ve got multiple people to split the cost with, or are able to take a bus at least partway, the cost goes down further.

        And a new late-night transit option was just created that’s cheaper still, as a 20 minute drive on Car2Go can be purchased for as little as $10. Unfortunately, not good if you’re in West Seattle, though.

    • Matthew Johnson says

      Hmm… You say ‘just as many people’ but did you mean ‘same percentage’ b/c if the number of people remained constant while our population grew by 56,000 during that same period, it seems we did have a pretty significant shift.

      • Dave says

        “while our population grew by 56,000 during that same period”

        So none of those new people have cars? I’m one of those new people, single family home (me bad!), two cars, a motorcycle, 4 bicycles, a couple of scooters and maybe a trike somewhere under the pile in the garage.

      • Seattleite says

        Like Not Fan you seem to have problems with basic reading comprehension.

        Try reading the post again, slowly this time and see if you get Matthew’s point.

  24. says

    I think the most common issue is that you need a place for your workbench. Typically, that’s in the garage. I consider myself to be a Do-it-yourself fix-it man for home repairs and other issues. You need some space for working with your tools and it’s hard to find a good alternative location. I suppose it depends on your square-footage and what you have to work with. I’m all for making the garage a more efficient place, so I’m always on the look for a better way to stay organized.

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