JUST SAYIN’--One of the old standbys of the Car Cult zealots is the cry that we can’t put in bike lanes, or wider sidewalks, or Complete streets treatments, if they will remove so much as a single curbside parking spot for cars. Likewise, calls for denser development, especially if accompanied by reduced parking requirements, inspire the usual bug-eyed rage and teeth-baring barks of, “Where will all the cars park?”
Yet, it happens that most parts of most cities have far too much parking, and that parking helps create traffic congestion (through induced demand, especially when it’s offered at below-market pricing, or even free). It also hurts development, making it too expensive for locally-owned businesses to establish themselves and enhance the health, wealth, and happiness of our communities—something corporate malls and bigbox stores simply cannot do (and don’t even want to).
The Pigeon’s own Josef Bray-Ali wrote an important article on this very matter a few years ago, which was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Alas, there it resides behind a paywall; but it’s been excerpted in another article posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council here.
The NIMBYs, of course, want nothing more than fully-subsidized parking everywhere they might want to go—rather the attitude a three-year-old holds towards candy. The rest of us are to pay for the sequestration of that land from more productive use, as well as the costs—financial, social, environmental, and medical—that the resulting sprawl imposes on us all.
In regards to commercial establishments, the cry for more parking! is particularly focused: Black Friday—the day after tomorrow, counting from our publication date—is the day when all the parking lots and structures in America fill to overflowing with cars, “proving” that we need those gigantic asphalt wastelands to be reserved from any other use the other 364 days of the year.
The problem with that rationale is that is is so rarely true: most parking lots and structures, even at the most gargantuan of consumerist swamps, America’s declining malls, simply…don’t fill up.
And so, in response to the untested assumption underlying the NIMBY’s Black Friday battle cry, Strong Towns has for several years organized the Black Friday Parking event.
This is what you do to join in:
1) On Black Friday, go to a mall at peak shopping hour.
2) Wander the parking lot, smartphone or camera in hand.
3) When you see swathes of empty parking space—and odds are that you will—snap a picture.
4) Post said picture to social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking and (preferably) location info.
That’s all it takes. A little dose of reality to help take the edge off the great American delusion about cars and parking.
(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are centered on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)
Vol 13 Issue 96
Pub: Nov 26, 2015