This clever video really put our brains into gear. A typical parking space costs $40,000 and takes up about as much space as a studio apartment. A typical driver needs at least 2-3 parking spots per day (home, office, errand). Production and maintenance of parking spots are big drivers of emissions, accounting for 12 percent of energy consumption and greenhouse gases.
Contributing to the problem is our car culture, where access to a parking spot is considered something akin to a civil right. The prevailing myth is that more off-street parking reduces congestion on streets. It turns out that the opposite is true: It actually encourages more driving and more cars. (That’s why we steer towards offering cars only as needed, in locations convenient to city life.)
So why do we continue to invest in car ownership-centric regulations, infrastructure, and design? After all, just because cities have been around for centuries doesn’t mean they can’t be retrofitted. From dedicated bike lanes, mass transit, transit-oriented development, bike sharing, car sharing, and other new innovations, the cities of tomorrow will be even easier to get around on foot or bike.
Interestingly, most of the cities making these kinds of innovative advancements are outside of the U.S., with perhaps the most ambitious being Helsinki. The Finnish capital is working on a plan to make car ownership truly optional for all citizens within a decade by integrating all forms of transportation into a single service that can be accessed by a mobile app.
Yet we can’t rely on policymakers alone to drive the change we want in cities. It requires a mix of ideas and technologies from entrepreneurs, planners, designers, tinkerers, visionaries. It will take cooperation from forward-looking businesses and organizations. Perhaps most importantly, it will take the voice of everyday citizens who are willing to declare that their rights to convenient transportation are as important as those of people who own cars.