The 800 Million Parking Spaces In America Have Huge Environmental Impact

parking lot photo

There's No Such Thing As Free Parking

Earlier this year we quoted economist Tyler Cowen about the cost of free parking:

Many suburbanites take free parking for granted, whether it's in the lot of a big-box store or at home in the driveway. Yet the presence of so many parking spaces is an artifact of regulation and serves as a powerful subsidy to cars and car trips.

But how many spaces are there, and what is the environmental impact of them?

parking lot aerial view photo

Flickr Commons

Eric Betz of Knox News munched through the study, Parking infrastructure: energy, emissions, and automobile life-cycle environmental accounting by Mikhail Chester, Arpad Horvath and Samer Madanat.

They knew that there were about 250 million cars on the road, and started calculating:

The researchers' estimates included things like street side parking, building code requirements, parking garages, lots in megastores like Walmart and Target and then parking spots at work and home.

In one scenario, they came up with 800 million spaces, or about 3 for every car.

"There's actually a larger infrastructure for parking than for roadways," said Chester. "This speaks to the sort of hidden infrastructure components that are there to store our vehicles when they're not moving."

They then found that besides heat island effect, parking spaces increase sulfur dioxide and soot. Planetizen summarizes:

The analysis indicates that parking facilities represent 0.5% to 12% of total estimated lifecycle energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, and 24% to 81% other air pollutants, depending on vehicle type and scenario.

Needless to say I am going to raise the point that an electric car is no better than a gas guzzler when it comes to parking.

More on Parking:
There's No Such Thing As Free Parking
The Hidden Costs of Free Parking
Parking Lots to Parks: Designing Livable Cities
LEED or Not, Parking Garages Are Not Green
Can Great Design Redeem the Parking Garage?

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