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.
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.
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.