The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Parking Lots 'Eat' U.S. Cities


Frank Jacobs writes at Big Think:

It’s hard to think of a pithier one to describe the parking pandemic blighting America’s city centers — except perhaps the title of a Bloomberg article on the same topic: “Parking has eaten America’s cities”.

That article cites a 2018 study of the space and money devoted to parking in five American cities. In that year, both Seattle and Des Moines had 1.6 million parking spaces. New York City had 1.85 million, and Philadelphia 2.2 million. Tiny Jackson, Wyoming had 100,000 parking spaces, roughly one for each inhabitant.

Seattle had 30 parking spaces per acre, roughly five times the number of residential units. In Des Moines, the parking-to-housing ratio per acre was around 20 to 1. Only New York had more housing units than parking spaces per acre. That worked out to 0.6 parking spaces per household (but then again, only 45% of New York households own a car).

On average, about one-fifth of all land in city centers is dedicated to parking. But what’s the actual harm being done by all that parking space? For one, city centers that are more “parkable” become less walkable. In other words, fewer things are casually accessible.

Even if you’re no fan of walking, perhaps you like a roof over your head. However, the abundance of parking spaces, often mandated for new developments by city governments, has left a lot less space for anything else, making housing in city centers scarcer and more expensive.

Looking at these maps - it’s shocking to see how much space is dedicated to cars. No wonder we have an affordable housing crisis in urban centers. Not to mention an utter lack of character and community. This is could all be easily solved if we ban personal cars in city centers and force people to park on an outrim and use public transportation to get in and out of cities.

The above images is from Arlington, Texas. What is really interesting is parking mapped in New York City:


Why the discrepancy? Apparently the high real-estate prices have deemed parking lots to expensive.

And the results are obvious to anyone who has visited NYC. Excellent transportation systems, walkable city and a vibrant city center. Still doesn’t address the affordable housing issue - in the case of NYC its primarily zoning and tax policy issue. But thats a topic for an another post.