Photo: Flickr, CC
But you can never find one when you need it...
According to a new regional survey, 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.
Photo: Flickr, CC
You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure
Don't get me wrong, a certain number of parkings is necessary. But the problem is that for the longest time, nobody really had a plan. Most cities have no idea how many parkings they have (the city of San Francisco is one of the first to start counting its parkings), so they are very hard to intelligently manage, and it's difficult to jsutify removing a few to add a bike lane or a bus lane, even if these would bring more benefits to the locals.
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. (source)
Designing Better & Greener Cities
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 things that you need would be close to your home.
More on the Impact of Parkings
Parking Spaces Outnumber Cars 3 to 1, Cause Environmental Problems
The Hidden Costs of Free Parking
More Green(er) Transportation
LEAF Pre-Orders Exceed Production Capacity Months Before Launch
Pavement to Parks Wants to Give the Street Back to the People! (Video)
A Kick-Ass Bike to Work Day 2010 in San Francisco (Video)