Sunday, May 30, 2010

Favouring Private Transportation: Turning Cities into One Giant Parking Lot.

Did you know that many U.S. states have approximately 3.5 more parking spaces than cars?

Lindale Plaza, Cedar Rapids, USA.

Lindale Plaza Figure Ground Diagram, Cedar Rapids, USA.

According to a new regional survey from Treehugger, the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin together have 1,260 square kilometers of paved parking lots, or 5% of urban land use. That's about 2.5 parking spaces per car, but that's not even counting street parking, private parkings, and parking structures. If you add all of this together, you get about 3 to 3.5 parkings per car and a higher percentage of urban land use.

Ample parking spaces may seem like a good thing until you consider the negative effects of all that pavement. Previous research has shown that pavement makes cities hotter in the summer, increases run-off, decreases water reaching local aquifers and even warms up rainwater before it reaches streams -- to the detriment of aquatic wildlife.

Jacksonville CBD, USA.

Looking at these examples of cities in the US, you might think our CBDs use land far more efficiently than can be seen in these images, but in fact, Canberra's CBD is just as bad! And when you consider that only 7.9% of people in Canberra use public transport to work or study (ABS, 2006), the substantial amount of parking lots within the CBD is unfortunately warranted. In Sydney, 26.3% of people use public transport to work.

Canberra, ACT.

The concepts of New Urbanism tell us how to make cities that are more fun to live in and that are better for the environment. This would also means fewer parking lots, since more of the places you need to travel to would be close to your home. Future development should seek to revive the city planning of an era when cities were designed around human beings instead of automobiles. If we give surface parking lots back to the people and transform them into urban public spaces - we would not only encourage more people to use public transport to get into the CBD, it would ensure more sustainable cities, as well as a better environment to enjoy while on our lunch breaks!

1 comment:

  1. Kirsten you make a good point. The one area where I think your argument needs further thought is that people actually derive a lot of beneift from automobiles and through their decisions actually demonstrate how much value they place on using a car. The issue for me is would our use of cars be differernt if we faced a different price each time we used it. Sometimes the price will be low - an intersuburban trip other times it is very high - peak hour trips to work. The problem seems to me that our price for using a car doesn't vary enough to reflect changes in costs. It probably shows from this blog that I am an economist but I think most people are used to the prices of many of the goods we using regularly changing. Why not for cars?