Tuesday, October 02, 2007

paradise paved

Since I moved back to Chicago from New Hampshire over 10 years ago, I’ve had a change of heart on the subject of parking and its costs to society and the environment. Increasing reliance on private vehicles doesn't just create traffic congestion, road rage, obesity and air pollution. Increasing the availability of parking to accommodate all these vehicles creates more impermeable surfaces, which reduces the earth's ability to absorb rainwater, increasing flooding and sending more pollution (oil from roadways and other pollution) directly into our lakes and rivers instead of letting nature filter much of it out in soil. This Slate article makes a lot of other related points. Your $0.02?


Thomas Westgard said...

That's a fascinating article. Amazing that an article about parking could be described as "fascinating."

At the bottom of the Salon.Com article, there's a link to an article about bicycles, too.

The North Coast said...

The massive amount of land and pavement given to "free" parking constitutes a massive subsidy for auto ownership that goes completely unaccounted for in most studies of the public cost of auto ownership vs. the cost of public transportation.

Another item that isn't discussed, because it is so accepted, is the extra mileage in roads, utility lines and cables, and pipes that auto-centric sprawl necessitates. Everyone knows that the Chicago area,for example, consumes 45% more land than 60 years ago even thought the population of the area has grown only 5%, but have we calculated how many hundreds of times as many miles in pavement, cable, electrical line, and water and sewer pipe that translates to?

Worse, the cost of auto-centric sprawl is borne by all taxpayers, whether they contribute to it and benefit from it or not. It's also becoming obvious that no one really benefits from it except the subdivision developers and mall builders and highway contractors, for we have never had so many people spending so much time on the road every day due to 2-hour commutes to and from jobs.

We can't afford it any more, for a fact, if ever we really could. It's rather obvious that even the cost of interstate maintenance is becoming an intolerable burden, as evidenced by the condition of thousands of bridges and overpasses across the country.

At some point, probably at about $6 a gallon or so, the cost of all that "free" parking will become intolerable, as will the cost of 40 -mile commutes and the continued maintenance of our massive auto infrastructure and the sprawl infrastructure that it helped generate.

Trouble is, we have no alternative to it in place. We have no Plan B for the 90% of the U.S. population whose lives are dictated by cars and their necessities.

Fargo said...

Our country has boxed itself in way to much in terms of car dependence. We have a long long way to go before we reach the more sustainable European model of bicycle-, pedestrian- and public transit-oriented daily living.