Laws that mandate unnecessarily large parking lots may be reducing local economic vitality. At The American Conservative, Jon Coppage discusses an experiment undertaken by Strong Towns, a blog dedicated to smart urban planning. U.S. states often have minimum-parking laws that require entities like malls to build a certain number of parking spots. Strong Towns wanted to test whether mall parking lots really needed all the spaces they are told to build, and so it collected pictures of their parking lots during the busiest time of a mall’s year: black Friday. Here’s what they discovered:
In many cases, the Strong Towns monitors found lots half-empty—or worse. Any failures at peak demand only serve to emphasize how woefully disconnected our zoning and town planning often is from the real demands of good policy, however. For even if every lot were ideally full on peak days, that would leave acres of empty, nearly unusable space for the other 362 (or so) days of the year […]
This comfort comes at a steep cost, however, as asphalt does not pay taxes…All that empty asphalt can be seen as an imposed desert, whereby the government is intentionally yet needlessly forgoing revenues that will have to be extracted from its citizens by other means.
As cars become less necessary for conducting the business of everyday life—telecommuting, online shopping reduce driving—we’re likely to see these gigantic parking lots that already exist become even more underused and new parking lots become even more inappropriate. Minimum-parking requirements that are holdovers from an more car-dependent age should be altered to reflect new realities, and the spaces that would be saved from more suitable requirements could be put to more economically productive uses. Read the whole thing; it’s an interesting look at a little-noticed problem.