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Posts Tagged ‘PARK(ing) Day’

There’s simply not a travel destination in the world where the most memorable feature is plenty of free parking.  A vast expanse of pavement is usually not where you want to be, rather it’s an unfortunate and forgettable layover separating you from your real destination.  Indeed, increasingly, the lack of parking or very expensive parking are considered a reliable indicator that you’re in a great urban place. There’s a “walkability index” calculation available for neighborhoods across the country. Parkability is not an actual thing.

So again this year, with the generous good humor of the City of Coeur d’Alene, KEA will be participating in the annual global Park(ing) Day event calling for a reclamation of parking places for the benefit of people and parks.  We will reclaim a few downtown spaces on Friday to make our point.

PARK(ing) Day at Art Spirit Gallery 2010 - photo by KEA BlackberryCam

Admittedly, downtown Coeur d’Alene is probably the most walkable and appealing destination in our entire region. But it’s not because of parking.  In fact, much of the plan for renovating McEuen Park is motivated by removing a dreadful mistake of a parking lot from what is an extraordinary lakeside location.  We’re not exactly fans of the replacement parking plans — we think the replacement parking is still oversupplied, expensive, and incorrectly located — but the controversy itself is perhaps a good sign.  The more we really think about the costs, the more likely we’ll free ourselves from the burden of cheap parking.

 

 

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We’re having a great deal of fun today in Coeur d’Alene. It’s our first-ever PARK(ing) Day. Thank you to our volunteers, our suppliers, our sponsors, our contributors, our artists. And a secret special thank you goes to the City of Coeur d’Alene for being such a good sport about it. We’re posting pictures all day over at the facebook page.

PARK(ing) Day at Art Spirit Gallery - photo by KEA BlackberryCam

But what exactly is the point of all this? Basically, that inexpensive parking is not really all that inexpensive. There are significant costs throughout our car culture, but today we focus particularly on costs associated with our insistence on being able to park our cars wherever we want.

From a purely environmental perspective, vast expanses of asphalt are problematic for a number of reasons, but most critically problematic because of stormwater runoff. Rather than water slowly infiltrating back into the soils, stormwater runs off into our streams and rivers and lakes, quickly, warmly, and filled with pollutants.

Artificially inexpensive parking is indirectly problematic because it encourages us to use our cars in ways that are inefficient and unnecessary. We’ll drive further and more often because the leapfrog of parking lots makes walking less efficient, and because even well-designed mass transit can’t compete.

PARK(ing) Day at Java on Sherman - photo by KEA BlackberryCam

But collectively we’re wasting a lot of money. Bottom line numbers from the well-researched book “The High Cost of Free Parking” indicate that the “free parking subsidy” cost Americans a collective $127 billion in 2002.  Most free parking spaces have land values worth far more than the cars parked on them.  In Coeur d’Alene, this is particularly acute along the valuable lakefront.

Not everyone is onboard. When one of our PARK(ing) Day locations was setting up this morning, a detractor driving a huge truck commented, “I own a business down here, where am I supposed to park?” just before pulling out of his free on-street parking spot. Notwithstanding a business model that has the owner taking up his customers’ parking, this is a frequent complaint among those accustomed to the parking subsidy.

What we’re saying today is that we need to rethink our parking. And we’re pleased to be part of a global effort to do so.

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