Covering our cities with parking lots just don’t make much sense. The amount of land area that it takes to move people by car is much greater than bikes or buses (here’s a great visual representation). Some might argue that more parking spaces are important for the economy of a city, but the more parking space there are (and less bike and bus infrastructure) the less people there are stopping at stores, eating at restaurants, and exploring the city. So when cities build giant parking lots to attract more people downtown, it often backfires.
The Pensacola Parking Syndrome is a term of the trade used to describe a city that tears down its old buildings to create parking spaces to entice more people downtown, until people no longer want to go there because it has become an empty lot. Cities should let the free market handle the construction of new parking spaces. People who buy or rent new homes can pay extra if they want someplace to park a car. Municipalities can instead cap the maximum number of lots or the ratio of spaces to dwellings and offices.
So what else can cities do? Kimmelman says that big cities, especially New York, should do away with zoning codes that require housing and retail units to have a certain number of parking spaces based on the square footage of the property. But in general, as cars won’t go away anytime soon, cities need to rethink how parking spaces are incorporated into the urban environment.We ought to take these lots more seriously, architecturally. Many architects and urban planners don’t. Beyond greener designs and the occasional celebrity-architect garage, we need to think more about these lots as public spaces, as part of the infrastructure of our streets and sidewalks, places for various activities that may change and evolve, because not all good architecture is permanent. Hundreds of lots already are taken over by farmers’ markets, street-hockey games, teenage partiers and church services. We need to recognize and encourage diversity.
The debate is on the table: More quality of life for the pedestrian with the further promotion of alternative means of transport such as cycling, more pedestrian areas in the center of the city and take drastic measures like collect tolls to access vehicle the city center or continue to see the current chaos: Traffic congestion in the streets, cars over the pavements and precarious mass transit service.
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