Parking Madness

Sample Photo NOT taken on Black Friday

One of the old standbys of the Car Cult zealots is the cry that we can’t put in bike lanes, or wider sidewalks, or Complete streets treatments, if they will remove so much as a single curbside parking spot for cars. Likewise, calls for denser development, especially if accompanied by reduced parking requirements, inspire the usual bug-eyed rage and teeth-baring barks of, “Where will all the cars park?”

Yet, it happens that most parts of most cities have far too much parking, and that parking helps create traffic congestion (through induced demand, especially when it’s offered at below-market pricing, or even free). It also hurts development, making it too expensive for locally-owned businesses to establish themselves and enhance the health, wealth, and happiness of our communities—something corporate malls and bigbox stores simply cannot do (and don’t even want to).

The Pigeon’s own Josef Bray-Ali wrote an important article on this very matter a few years ago, which was published in the Los Angeles Business Journal. Alas, there it reside behind a paywall; but it’s been excerpted in another article posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council here

The NIMBYs, of course, want nothing more than fully-subsidized parking everywhere they might want to go—rather the attitude a three-year-old holds towards candy. The rest of us are to pay for the sequestration of that land from more productive use, as well as the costs—financial, social, environmental, and medical—that the resulting sprawl imposes on us all.

In regards to commercial establishments, the cry for more parking! is particularly focused: Black Friday—the day after tomorrow, counting from our publication date—is the day when all the parking lots and structures in America fill to overflowing with cars, “proving” that we need those gigantic asphalt wastelands to be reserved from any other use the other 364 days of the year.

The problem with that rationale is that is is so rarely true: most parking lots and structures, even at the most gargantuan of consumerist swamps, America’s declining malls, simply…don’t fill up.

And so, in response to the untested assumption underlying the NIMBY’s Black Friday battle cry, Strong Towns has for several years organized the Black Friday Parking event.

This is what you do to join in:

1) On Black Friday, go to a mall at peak shopping hour.

2) Wander the parking lot, smartphone or camera in hand.

3) When you see swathes of empty parking space—and odds are that you will—snap a picture.

4) Post said picture ot social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking and (preferably) location info.

That’s all it takes. A little dose of reality to help take the edge off the great American delusion about cars and parking.

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  1. Parabanger
    Posted November 26, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    If there isn’t a free parking spot within 100 ft where they’re going, people in LA cry ‘there is no parking around here’. There might be swathes of empty spaces a block down, but the angry LA motorist won’t see them. If all those ‘Customer Parking Only’ lots were converted to pay-for lots for everybody, both lot owners and parking patrons would benefit.

  2. Bob Davis
    Posted December 18, 2015 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    I just saw this post, so this comment is “old news”, but on so-called Black Friday, I had some errands to run in the Arcadia-Monrovia area, and I wanted to check up on the Gold Line project. After looking over the Metro yard in Monrovia, I went by the Duarte WalMart and the parking lot really was full (I don’t like WalMart stores anyway, and wild horses or the 20-mule team from Death Valley couldn’t drag me in there at this time of year.) Going back home through Arcadia, there were cars backed up onto Huntington Drive heading into the Santa Anita mall. So we do have parking lots filling up, but usually only at this time of year.

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