An op-ed in the New York Times by Eran Ben-Joseph calls for the transformation of ugly surface parking lots.
It’s estimated that there are three nonresidential parking spaces for every car in the United States. That adds up to almost 800 million parking spaces, covering about 4,360 square miles — an area larger than Puerto Rico. In some cities, like Orlando and Los Angeles, parking lots are estimated to cover at least one-third of the land area, making them one of the most salient landscape features of the built world.
Such coverage comes with environmental costs. The large, impervious surfaces of parking lots increase storm-water runoff, which damages watersheds. The exposed pavement increases the heat-island effect, by which urban regions are made warmer than surrounding rural areas. Since cars are immobile 95 percent of the time, you could plausibly argue that a Prius and a Hummer have much the same environmental impact: both occupy the same 9-by-18-foot rectangle of paved space.
His ideas for designing parking lots as more useful space (solar panels, permeable surface material, rows of trees) are intriguing. But who pays for that? The externalities of providing massive amounts of storage space for cars are not directly paid by car users. Those costs are hidden in the prices of goods and services, in taxes and in the degradation of our environment. We all pay, whether we use a car or not.
Dropping Kids Off In Rush Hour Traffic
For five mornings between 6:50 a.m. and 7:20 a.m. Local 6 documented students being dropped off in the middle of traffic on Turkey Lake Road between Paw and Hollywood.
Students at Dr. Phillips High School are being dropped off in traffic every day, so drivers can avoid waiting in line on campus, and the school principal is trying to do something about it.
Principal Eugene Trochinski said the practice has been going on for years along Turkey Lake Road, and both Orlando police and Orange County school administrators agree the practice is placing hundreds of local students at risk.
Trochinski says he has been trying to get parents to stop the rush-hour practice, issuing a safety alert in the February school newsletter advising parents not to allow students to “disembark” on the road.
There’s a second video showing how the school plans to move drop-off traffic through its queue faster so parents will stop dumping their kids into 7 lanes of rush hour traffic.
Both stories strike me as an adventure in missing the point. We’re just not willing to acknowledge anything close to the core problem. I wonder what it will take.