From Lot to Shining Lot
America the Beautiful is home to sprawling stretches of natural beauty, but it’s also home to some not-so-beautiful sights: miles and miles of parking lots.
In total, the US has 2 billion parking spots. That’s enough concrete to pave some 5,000 square miles, or roughly the size of Connecticut. For the most part, these parkings spaces are the result of century-old legislation requiring a certain number of spots per building.
Mandatory parking minimums have played a significant role in shaping the composition of American cities as we know them today. Developers are legally required to budget large amounts of space for parking while building, which turns shopping malls and other complexes into sprawling seas of asphalt and ultimately makes them less walkable.
This has helped shape an America that’s built for cars, not for people. As a result, faced with an overwhelming presence of automotive-oriented infrastructure, a considerable number of individuals have forsaken walking in favor of driving.
The impact of this on cities in particular is raising concerns on local, state, and federal levels.
The Anti-Parking Movement
Many major metros are undergoing dramatic changes post-pandemic as remote workers flee city centers for cheaper parts of the country. This is inspiring government officials to reinvent the way they use space, largely by eliminating parking requirements. 11 US cities have already done so. California also ended parking minimums for construction near public transit on a state level.
Reducing the number of parking spaces in cities allows developers more room for housing. Fewer parking lots should also make cities more walkable and decrease reliance on cars, which could lead to reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reduced traffic congestion. By encouraging walking, cities can alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the strain on transportation infrastructure, which can result in smoother traffic flow and shorter commute times for those who do need to drive.
On the flip side, reducing the number of parking spots could make existing paid lots more expensive. And redesigning cities to be more walkable requires substantial investment and infrastructure modifications. This may include widening sidewalks, creating pedestrian-friendly spaces, and implementing traffic calming measures. Funding and implementing these changes could be challenging and time-consuming.
Either way, if this trend continues to gain steam, we might soon see cities where ride-sharing, public transportation, or walking are the main modes of transportation, rather than driving.
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