Paul McMorrow | Boston Globe

Boston has made huge steps in recent years in reforming its relationship with the automobile. Downtown Boston’s thirst for parking once drove a host of unworthy regional initiatives, from the construction of massive above-ground parking structures in the city’s core to the destruction that preceded a failed series of urban highway arteries. Lately, though, Boston has succeeded in putting cars in their place. The city is encouraging developers to tear down hulking urban renewal-era garages, slashing parking quotas for new developments, and embracing car- and bike-sharing.

If the suburbs and smaller cities surrounding Boston are going to have the space they need to grow, they too need to rethink the way they encounter cars. But for the majority of these suburbs and cities, Boston’s new approach to cars has its limits. It’s not realistic to expect places like Winchester, Natick, and Lowell to model their parking policies on downtown Boston.

If these outlying localities are smart, they’ll take inspiration from Boston’s downtown. But for execution, they should be looking to New York’s Long Island.

Long Island’s entanglement with the automobile is notorious. It also doesn’t feel all that different from the reality that many Boston suburbs face. Both regions enjoy rail transit, but have let cars define their development patterns. In both places, a vibrant future depends on attracting and retaining young families, and that means making the suburbs feel more like cities. It means creating denser, amenity-rich town centers, and finding room to grow upward, instead of sprawling outward. {….}