When you provide parking, you make providing parking necessary. When you don’t, you make it unnecessary. This is on a large scale of course. If you’re putting a fast food place on a commercial strip with Wal-Marts and K-Marts and Advance Auto Parts, you need to provide parking because your choice to not provide parking does not alter the paradigm enough, does not have sufficient marginal impact, to make parking unnecessary.
Conversely, if you put that same stand alone fast food shack in the middle of Manhattan with a parking lagoon, you would not have enough of an impact on density and walkability to make parking a necessity.
Still, on the grand scale, parking makes parking a necessity, lack of parking makes parking superfluous.
The corollary to this is that any urban place which is a pleasure to walk in, is miserable to drive in; and any city easy to get around by car with plenty of free parking is not worth taking a stroll in.
People stuck in the mindset of the cargo-cult to suburbia are incapable of understanding this, so I will (Mickey) “Spillane”.
(The following is true) I live in a city. I have no set place to park my car. “Birds have nests, foxes have holes, and yet I have no place to store my motor vehicle”. Once I have found a place to park my vehicle (sometimes for weeks at a time!) I get around on foot. Distances become important. Two blocks is noticeably a shorter distance to walk than 2 miles. Parking lagoons create deserts in the city. Patches of asphalt which must be traversed, but which provide no amenity. Even residences, in place of these deserts, would provide more people who provide more customers to retail shops which are more likely to prosper as increased density makes walking more productive to the greater numbers of people who now find motor vehicles less convenient as the parking is gone, but less necessary because there is more within walking distance. See?
Surface parking creates the distances between uses which in turn destroys density which together make car usage a necessity.
It doesn’t even end there. Those businesses which can exist in place of parking lagoon deserts employ the very same people who live in the neighborhood who now do not even need a car to get to work.
If you have an urban core that functions in this way it begins to impact the behavior of non-residents as they will use public transport, if available, to enter the walkable city if, having once arrived in the city a car is more nuisance than it’s worth.
Again, positive feedback loops like this only begin to function at a certain critical mass at the extreme end, but simply understanding the relationship between the creation of parking and the need for parking can encourage cities to reduce parking requirements for new or infill construction to promote walkability.
Doing this can help make our communities more sustainable and efficient: 100 linear feet of street and sidewalk and water and sewer is cheaper to maintain than 500 feet of the same, and if those 100 feet can provide for the same people and businesses as the 500 feet then fewer resources need to be extracted in taxes from the residents and the businesses in those 100 linear feet.