In an op-ed a few months back I alluded to the coming diatribe against parking lots. As a form of land use, parking lots make no sense to me. Conversely, most parking garages are eye-sores. I understand that underground parking is expensive and laborious to construct.
There are some wonderful advances in “parking lot technology,” (in addition to the use of manure and other attempts to make roads more environmentally friendly) but they really mask the greater issue. Vast tracks of land have been paved over and turned into storage for cars. In Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins put the car in perspective. The amount of time we sit in cars is minute compared the resources we spend on them. While I can’t find the exact number, the average was somewhere around 4% of our time is spent commuting in cars. Think about the money, energy, and materials that go into cars. Leasing or purchasing a car on an installment plan can cost several hundreds per month. This doesn’t include insurance, upkeep, fuel, parking, or any other associated costs.
This brings me to the parking lot. We have now dedicated plots of land to store our cars while we work, shop, and go about our day. I realize that we have to keep them somewhere, but go on Google Earth and look at your local mega-mart. I’ve embedded the aerial (satellite) view of a certain large retailer below. Even in the map view, the parking lot is distinguishable by being a dark gray, pretty fitting I suppose.
What if that land were turned over for growing food? Even a portion of it? What if people who are unemployed were given the opportunity to tend the land and sell the bounty? I’m just throwing some ideas out there, but it is truly staggering to see the amount of land dedicated to parking lots. In fact, when I first clicked on the satellite option in Google Maps, I said “Holy Sh” well, you can imagine. Check it out for yourself below.
The amount of space that the lot(s) take up is unreal. In downtown, where space is at premium, there are more parking garages, but also an occasional lot that has trees offering shade and breaking up the vast expanses of pavement. That would be an improvement.
Next week’s post will follow a similar line of thought so check back on the parking lots’ more space friendly relative the parking garage.