A quick survey of any big-box store will show you that Americans devote far too much real estate to the parking of their vehicles. But wait, argue businesses, we need that parking for our customers! Yet even today, on the biggest shopping day of the year, chances are the parking lots near you are nowhere near full. Take a look.
#BlackFridayParking is an annual opportunity for urban planners to see the unnecessary parking they’ve carved out of the landscape—space that could be devoted to parks, housing, or additional economy-fueling businesses. The idea is that photographing the half-empty lots all over the country will get cities to change their parking rules.
The real problem here is minimum parking requirements, antiquated policies about the number of spaces a developer must build or make available for a business. These rules are not only completely haphazard, varying widely city to city, they also end up widely overestimating parking needs. These acres of asphalt end up sitting empty most of the time, destroying the urban fabric and costing cities money. To celebrate the places which have amended these backwards policies, Strong Towns created a map of cities which have gotten rid of their parking minimums.
We’ve already seen how dead malls are being reclaimed for more civic-oriented purposes, and these parking lots are yet another form of zombie-like infrastructure in need of rebirth. Perhaps at one time those stores needed all those spaces (although I doubt it), but since you can buy pretty much anything on the internet now, there’s not really much of a reason to drive to a store and buy something there. Unless, of course, you like waiting in lines.
Follow the author at @awalkerinLA
Photo by Matthew Stones