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Free Parking Isn’t

People, Parking, and Cities[PDF] is an essay from the latest Access magazine, published by the University of California Transportation Center. It’s an insightful look at issues of parking, density, and the urban experience. To whet your interest:

THE POP CULTURE IMAGE of Los Angeles is an ocean of malls, cars, and exit ramps; of humorless tract homes and isolated individuals whose only solace is aimless driving on endless freeways. From Joan Didion to the Sierra Club, LA has been held up as a poster child of sprawl.

This is an arresting and romantic narrative, but also largely untrue. To the extent that anyone has a definition of sprawl, it usually revolves around the absence of density, and Los Angeles has since the 1980s been the densest urbanized area in the United States. This would make it the least sprawling city in America. Compared to other US cities, LA also does not have inordinately high rates of automobile ownership.