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  1. #1
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    500 million empty parking spaces

    From the latest Carfree Times:
    500 Million Empty Parking Spaces

    There are at least 500 million empty parking spaces in the USA at any given moment. America's 250 million cars and trucks are big contributors to climate change, but little research had been done regarding the impact of parking spaces.
    Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, said:

    I think it's a surprisingly unknown quantity. [Parking] is the single biggest land use in any city. It's kind of like dark matter in the universe, we know it's there, but we don't have any idea how much there is.
    Engineers at the University of California at Berkeley recently published the first full estimate of parking spaces in the USA. They found that the energy use and materials associated with creating hundreds of millions of parking spaces has a significant environmental impact. Until now, the only available measure had been the number of metered parking spaces, which number was about 100 million. It was obvious that there were a great many more spaces, but the number was unknown. The glaring gap in the data convinced the team to attempt the first ever nation-wide count of parking spaces.
    The new count includes street-side parking, building code requirements, parking garages, lots at big-box stores, and parking spaces at work and home. It turns out that there are probably 800 million parking spaces in the USA, or about three official parking spaces for every car on the road. (There had been a long-cited figure of eight spaces per car, but there did not seem to be a reliable source for this figure, and it was probably simply pulled out of thin air by somebody and then quoted by writers desperate for some sort of figure.)

    It appears that the parking infrastructure actually occupies more space than roads, which comes as no great surprise to anyone who has considered the matter.

    Once the parking estimate was completed, the researchers calculated the energy requirements and emissions from asphalt and other materials needed to build and maintain parking infrastructure. "We've traditionally thought about the environmental impact of parking as being limited to the heat island effect," said study author Mikhail Chester. "The amount of parking has a rather drastic impact on the energy and emission contributions from vehicles."

    500 Million Empty Parking Spaces
    There are at least 500 million empty parking spaces in the USA at any given moment. America's 250 million cars and trucks are big contributors to climate change, but little research had been done regarding the impact of parking spaces.
    Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, said:

    I think it's a surprisingly unknown quantity. [Parking] is the single biggest land use in any city. It's kind of like dark matter in the universe, we know it's there, but we don't have any idea how much there is.
    Engineers at the University of California at Berkeley recently published the first full estimate of parking spaces in the USA. They found that the energy use and materials associated with creating hundreds of millions of parking spaces has a significant environmental impact. Until now, the only available measure had been the number of metered parking spaces, which number was about 100 million. It was obvious that there were a great many more spaces, but the number was unknown. The glaring gap in the data convinced the team to attempt the first ever nation-wide count of parking spaces.
    The new count includes street-side parking, building code requirements, parking garages, lots at big-box stores, and parking spaces at work and home. It turns out that there are probably 800 million parking spaces in the USA, or about three official parking spaces for every car on the road. (There had been a long-cited figure of eight spaces per car, but there did not seem to be a reliable source for this figure, and it was probably simply pulled out of thin air by somebody and then quoted by writers desperate for some sort of figure.)

    It appears that the parking infrastructure actually occupies more space than roads, which comes as no great surprise to anyone who has considered the matter.

    Once the parking estimate was completed, the researchers calculated the energy requirements and emissions from asphalt and other materials needed to build and maintain parking infrastructure. "We've traditionally thought about the environmental impact of parking as being limited to the heat island effect," said study author Mikhail Chester. "The amount of parking has a rather drastic impact on the energy and emission contributions from vehicles."
    More on the environmental impact of parking lots:
    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/de...-demonstrates/


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    Just think within 25 years that number may hit 1 billion in the U.S. That doesn't even include the growth in China and India.

  3. #3
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    At least it's better than having 500 million full parking spaces.

    The thing to do now is increase the number of empty ones without increasing the overall number.
    History is the future

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    This isn't anything we haven't known for a while. In fact, the numbers might be a bit low. I have read elsewhere that urban planners frequently put the desirable rationof cars to parking spots at 4 to 1, while this articles states it may be as high as 8 to 1.

    There are currently more than 250 cars in the US with a population just over 300 million. That's almost 1 car per person.

    Obviously, if we were able to attack the stupidity of having an average of more than one car per driver, the situation would be greatly improved. I mean the spaces wouldn't go away overnight, but over time they would start to disappear. I'm guessing one of the first signs of this would be an increase in the number of bike lanes But also those hideous suburban malls would start to in-fill, although probably at first with more Applebee's restaurants.

    To my mind, we need to confront the real problem, which is that people won't or can't move anywhere without a car. Beat that fact and I think you've solved this problem and a number of others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    From the latest Carfree Times:

    More on the environmental impact of parking lots:
    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/de...-demonstrates/
    You quoted and article that said what you were going to screem about

    "Once the parking estimate was completed, the researchers calculated the energy requirements and emissions from asphalt and other materials needed to build and maintain parking infrastructure. "We've traditionally thought about the environmental impact of parking as being limited to the heat island effect," said study author Mikhail Chester. "The amount of parking has a rather drastic impact on the energy and emission contributions from vehicles."

    And yet it is hard to find a parking space in may down towns.

  6. #6
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    the heat island effect
    If you want a real heat island come to Ireland where private banks borrowed and lent reclessly, went bust and then ran to the tax payers to bail them out. Most are now nationalised. Turns out capitalists really like socialism when it suits them.

    Presently, I'm trying reduce my tax profile by cycling as much as possible.
    History is the future

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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    the heat island effect
    If you want a real heat island come to Ireland where private banks borrowed and lent reclessly, went bust and then ran to the tax payers to bail them out. Most are now nationalised. Turns out capitalists really like socialism when it suits them.

    Presently, I'm trying reduce my tax profile by cycling as much as possible.
    Like we didn't do the same?

  8. #8
    Hi, folks sdold's Avatar
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    I think I'm part of the "Problem" you guys are talking about. I have two cars, a Subaru for nearly everything, and a big old Ford truck for hauling stuff, that I rarely use. I'm trying to imagine myself changing my lifestyle in a way that wouldn't require both of these cars, and I don't think I would. The only environmentally-friendly way I'd change anything about my driving would be to drive an electric car, or something with really high mileage. I'm all for that, I think smaller is better for just getting around and I'd do it to save money as well as help the environment. But I'd never move to a city if I could help it :-P
    Last edited by sdold; 12-25-10 at 06:57 PM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    I think I'm part of the "Problem" you guys are talking about. I have two cars, a Subaru for nearly everything, and a big old Ford truck for hauling stuff, that I rarely use. I'm trying to imagine myself changing my lifestyle in a way that wouldn't require both of these cars, and I don't think I would. The only environmentally-friendly way I'd change anything about my driving would be to drive an electric car, or something with really high mileage. I'm all for that, I think smaller is better for just getting around and I'd do it to save money as well as help the environment. But I'd never move to a city if I could help it :-P

    Don't feel bad...we have 4 registered drivers on the property and 7 registered vehicles not including the 2 farm trucks. I also wonder if the registrations also involves commercial vehicles. I know for example my company owns at least 9 trucks, and everybody that is assigned one also has at least one personal vehicle, so right there you have doubled up.

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  10. #10
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    Sounds like some inflated statistics to me. How many of those cars are running? How many of those cars are dealership owned? How many of those cars are government owned? How many are junk/salvage titles? How many are held for foreign dealership distribution?

    I do agree that there is a detestable amount of wasted concrete for parking lots that sit empty most or all of the time.

  11. #11
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    This isn't anything we haven't known for a while. In fact, the numbers might be a bit low. I have read elsewhere that urban planners frequently put the desirable rationof cars to parking spots at 4 to 1, while this articles states it may be as high as 8 to 1.

    There are currently more than 250 cars in the US with a population just over 300 million. That's almost 1 car per person.

    Obviously, if we were able to attack the stupidity of having an average of more than one car per driver, the situation would be greatly improved. I mean the spaces wouldn't go away overnight, but over time they would start to disappear. I'm guessing one of the first signs of this would be an increase in the number of bike lanes But also those hideous suburban malls would start to in-fill, although probably at first with more Applebee's restaurants.

    To my mind, we need to confront the real problem, which is that people won't or can't move anywhere without a car. Beat that fact and I think you've solved this problem and a number of others.
    I like the way Donald Shoup turns the problem upside down. If we didn't have as many parking spaces, and people actually had to pay the real cost of parking each time they stepped out of their cars, would we not soon have fewer cars?

    One reason many people are carfree in crowded areaas like Manhattan is because the cost of parking 24 hours a day is prohibitive. If Joe Blow had to pay $6 to park at the mall, and the bus there cost $3, he might be more inclined to take the bus. If he had to pay a tax on his parking spaces at home (to cover the environmental costs), he might be more inclined to not own a car at all.


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  12. #12
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Donald Shoup's book, The high cost of free parking

    American drivers park for free on nearly ninety-nine percent of their car trips, and cities require developers to provide ample off-street parking for every new building. The resulting cost? Today we see sprawling cities that are better suited to cars than people and a nationwide fleet of motor vehicles that consume one-eighth of the world's total oil production. Donald Shoup contends in The High Cost of Free Parking that parking is sorely misunderstood and mismanaged by planners, architects, and politicians. He proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking so that Americans can stop paying for free parking's hidden costs.

  13. #13
    Digging in the pain cave. midschool22's Avatar
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    I ride bmx flatland. Every time I look across the street and see an empty lot, I smile. Another car free session.

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    I think what the article missed was the opportunity cost each of these parking spots. In a city like Manhattan, each spot would be worth tens of thousands. It would have been much more helpful if the writer gave us an estimate of much property taxes we are losing providing each spot. I suspect that figure would be in the hundreds of billions each year.

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    I couldn't tell for sure, but from the article it looked like the authors were grossly undercounting the number of parking spaces. It seemed they were using the number of spaces required by code for residential, which is far fewer than the number of cars that can actually be parked at a house, and not counting "unmarked" roadside spaces, particularly those on rural highways but also on residential suburban streets. I think the old 8 to 1 estimate may actually be closer to the mark. I once measured out a suburban development and found that 45% of the land was for cars. And that was in the then self-described "Bike Capital of the World", Davis, CA. (A title it willingly gave up in the '80s as the residents of the city gave up on cycling.)

    That said, if we would just tighten up the free parking problem in our cities we would probably get rid of an awful lot of traffic as the locals began to skip the added cost by not driving everywhere they go and the folks living in outlying areas start paying a bit of their own way.

  16. #16
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I think what the article missed was the opportunity cost each of these parking spots. In a city like Manhattan, each spot would be worth tens of thousands. It would have been much more helpful if the writer gave us an estimate of much property taxes we are losing providing each spot. I suspect that figure would be in the hundreds of billions each year.
    Again, if we tie things back to "true costs." However, I've noted that accounting practices sometimes verge on voodoo... ask anyone about E&Y and Lehman Brothers

    But, in larger cities, the cost of providing so many parking places is more blatantly obvious. As for cities outside the largest, perhaps it's just a matter of people consistently stating the obvious.

  17. #17
    Hi, folks sdold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I like the way Donald Shoup turns the problem upside down. If we didn't have as many parking spaces, and people actually had to pay the real cost of parking each time they stepped out of their cars, would we not soon have fewer cars?
    But this "real cost of parking" idea seems convoluted. It's the cost of driving, not the cost of parking, that's the problem. I can park all day long in front of my house or in front of a business and it doesn't cost any more than if my car wasn't there, of if it was just a piece of dirt. That's like adding in the cost of a dental plan to calculate your total annual food cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    One reason many people are carfree in crowded areaas like Manhattan is because the cost of parking 24 hours a day is prohibitive. If Joe Blow had to pay $6 to park at the mall, and the bus there cost $3, he might be more inclined to take the bus. If he had to pay a tax on his parking spaces at home (to cover the environmental costs), he might be more inclined to not own a car at all.
    If I lived someplace like that, I'd live much closer to my work and most likely be car-free too, but like millions of others I choose to live away from the city.

    I love static analysis. Sure, enact government-mandated parking fees at the mall, and watch as the business dries up and the area becomes blighted as people turn even more to on-line purchases.

    The answer for most of us is cars that use very little fuel, that's just the way it is.
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  18. #18
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    Sure, enact government-mandated parking fees at the mall...
    Not sure how we arrived at this conclusion. I think the argument is that these parking fees are already built in. You are currently paying for them when you have to travel 20 miles to your favorite shopping plaza. And as energy costs go up, so do these fees.

    And, not only that, but as your friendly mall merchants start to realize their costs, your costs will increase markedly. This is what happens in more densely populated areas.

    The government has nothing or at least very little to do with any of this....

  19. #19
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    How else are the Wall street cronies going to count their cash if free parking is eliminated?

    http://classic.cnbc.com/id/38722872/

  20. #20
    Hi, folks sdold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I think the argument is that these parking fees are already built in. You are currently paying for them when you have to travel 20 miles to your favorite shopping plaza.
    These aren't parking fees, they're the cost of driving. It's a per-mile cost based on a combination of fixed costs (like reg and insurance) and operating costs (like gas and tires). If I drove by the mall to see what was playing at the movies, and drove back home, I'd still be paying this "fee". To somehow tie it to the number of parking spaces in America is really goofy logic.
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  21. #21
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    But this "real cost of parking" idea seems convoluted. It's the cost of driving, not the cost of parking, that's the problem. I can park all day long in front of my house or in front of a business and it doesn't cost any more than if my car wasn't there, of if it was just a piece of dirt.
    The street in front of your house or that business was probably made a little wider than needed for the flow of cars and trucks, so that it could accomodate parking without inhibiting traffic, so part of the cost of building that street is the cost of accommodating you parking. So it would be fair for you to pay a nominal charge everytime you park there.

    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    If I drove by the mall to see what was playing at the movies, and drove back home, I'd still be paying this "fee". To somehow tie it to the number of parking spaces in America is really goofy logic.
    The people who built the mall spent money creating the parking lot and they continue to spend money managing and maintaining it. That cost is recovered through a slight markup on the goods and services sold in the mall. If I get to the mall by bike or public transit, I should get a discount on my purchases, because I'm giving some other shopper "my" parking spot.
    Last edited by cooker; 12-27-10 at 01:15 PM.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    These aren't parking fees, they're the cost of driving. It's a per-mile cost based on a combination of fixed costs (like reg and insurance) and operating costs (like gas and tires). If I drove by the mall to see what was playing at the movies, and drove back home, I'd still be paying this "fee". To somehow tie it to the number of parking spaces in America is really goofy logic.
    You probably know a lot more about economics than I do, so you're probably correct. But, besides what gerv mentioned, I think there might be another factor: it adds value to the act of driving.

    At one extreme, if there were no parking spots in the whole world, it wouldn't be worthwhile to drive and people would stop. At the other extreme (where we are now), there is parking available nearly everywhere people want to park--even at the mall on Black Friday. This makes the act of driving easier and more convenient, and therefore more valuable.

    So lots of free parking is certainly giving value to drivers. The question becomes: Are they in some way paying for this extra value, or are they getting a free ride? (so to speak)


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  23. #23
    Bike addict, dreamer AdamDZ's Avatar
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    Scarcity of parking in Manhattan is legendary, yet people insist on driving to Manhattan, circling the streets for hours to find a spot or paying extortionist prices for private parking.

  24. #24
    Hi, folks sdold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    So lots of free parking is certainly giving value to drivers. The question becomes: Are they in some way paying for this extra value, or are they getting a free ride? (so to speak)
    Presumably businesses have parking lots to attract more customers and bring in more profits. I apologize if I've misunderstood, but it sounds like you might be looking at parking lots as something that benefits only the drivers, and not those who walk/ride in, and therefore the walkers/riders are somehow subsidizing the cost of the parking spaces. But it doesn't work that way; the business builds parking spaces, more business comes in, the business does better, and just being in business benefits both groups of customers and the business owners. It's a win-win-win all the way around. Simplistically-speaking, when a business builds a parking space, it doesn't mean that prices go up, it means that profits do. The walker/rider doesn't lose anything and the business owner and driver-customer benefit from the business relationship.

    Do non-motorists indirectly pay for the parking lots? Yes. But if the parking lot wasn't there and the business wasn't getting as many customers, the non-motorist customer wouldn't be indirectly paying for a parking lot, but items might cost more because the business might not be as profitable. Does that make sense?

    Adam: Maybe it would be cheaper to hire someone to drive your car around town all day than to pay for a parking space :-)
    Last edited by sdold; 12-27-10 at 06:50 PM.
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  25. #25
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdold View Post
    Presumably businesses have parking lots to attract more customers and bring in more profits. I apologize if I've misunderstood, but it sounds like you might be looking at parking lots as something that benefits only the drivers, and not those who walk/ride in, and therefore the walkers/riders are somehow subsidizing the cost of the parking spaces. But it doesn't work that way; the business builds parking spaces, more business comes in, the business does better, and just being in business benefits both groups of customers and the business owners. It's a win-win-win all the way around. When a business builds a parking space, it doesn't mean that prices go up, it means that profits do. The walker/rider doesn't lose anything and the business owner and driver-customer benefit from the business relationship.

    Do non-motorists indirectly pay for the parking lots? Yes. But if the parking lot wasn't there and the business wasn't getting as many customers, the non-motorist customer wouldn't be indirectly paying for a parking lot, but items might cost more because the business might not be as profitable. Does that make sense?
    It makes sense if there is no downside to acres of parking lots covering American soil, much of it formerly prime farmland, or of unfettered driving; but the public generally builds the roads accessing the mall, and the parking lot may not be taxed at the same rate as the retail space and all of us end up breathing the exhaust fumes, so the parking lot may be benefitting the businesses, and even the customers (a little bit) at the expense of society at large.
    Last edited by cooker; 12-27-10 at 10:58 PM.

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