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Less parking, more public transit

Across America, we have made parking an integral part of many of our cities, but at what cost? Learn more in our latest blog.

When driving downtown to go grocery shopping, visit a favorite restaurant or run some kind of errand, we commonly keep an eye out for the best place to park. Depending on where you’re going you might need to use a parking garage, parking lot or street parking and, hopefully, you can get a spot close to your destination. While having lots of parking spaces available is convenient, have you stopped to think about how much space is used to store personal vehicles?

The problem with parking in the U.S.

According to the the Parking Reform Network, core cities with urbanized areas with over 500 thousand people dedicated an average of 26% of their city centers to parking. And if we’re talking about averages, that means some cities have it much worse than that. Detroit, for example, uses 31% of central city space for parking. By just looking at a map, you can see that in some areas, that means there is more parking than anything else.

Across America, we have made parking an integral part of many of our cities, but at what cost? Space for parking determines the size, shape and cost of new buildings, traffic patterns and congestion in specific areas (we’re all trying to get to the best parking spots) and the viability of public transit. And that doesn’t even include the opportunity cost of parking. Parking spaces take up areas that could be used for more housing, parks and recreational areas, restaurants or stores. The need for parking has shaped our cities and even our homes—with driveways and garages taking up large pieces of real estate. In short, it limits both residential and commercial growth.

Of course, the root of the problem is that we have built our society upon car ownership. The unfortunate result: we build our cities around the cars we drive instead of focusing on the people who live there. We build so many parking areas to accommodate the ever-increasing number of vehicles we own. We’ve even passed parking minimum laws in some areas that require buildings to be built with copious amounts of parking that exceeds car ownership. As we continue to focus on parking, we make it inconvenient and sometimes impossible to get around town without owning a car, putting those families without the means to own and maintain one at a disadvantage.

A future with fewer parking lots

Fortunately, some cities across the U.S. are already starting to change their laws around parking. Last year, 11 cities ended their minimum parking mandates and California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that bars local governments from mandating parking spaces for new developments within a half-mile of transit stops. More cities have followed suit and some are even setting “parking maximums,” which limit the number of spots that can be built.

By reducing the amount of space devoted to parking, cities are hoping to revitalize public areas, increase public transit value, improve housing affordability and fight climate change. In other words, change lives for the better.

Making our cities better places to live through autonomous technology is what we at May Mobility are working to achieve. Every project, decision and action stems from our shared determination to create a safer, greener and more accessible world. By pushing people to give public transportation another chance, we hope that we can convert two-car households into one-car households. As car ownership decreases, city officials will be incentivized to change parking laws and build up mass transit infrastructure that will help everyone, whether they own a car or not. And with fewer parking spaces needed, cities can reuse that vital space for things that actually improve quality of life.

Don’t get us wrong; the goal isn’t to get rid of parking lots completely. They do serve a purpose in our communities. But, hopefully, we can all push for a future where parking lots and garages are built more responsibly. Having a car is nice, but we envision a future where everyone has easy access to the places they want to go. Whether on foot or in a wheelchair, rich or poor, young or old, reducing the need for owning a car will make everyone’s life better.

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