A Look at the High Cost of Free Parking

I came across an interesting item from InsideScience.org the other day. It has to do with the extent to which we go as a society in order to provide parking for the infernal automobile. The numbers are necessarily imprecise, but even the best guesses are staggering.

For example, one estimate is that there are three parking spaces available for every car in the country. Stop and think about that: in our garages, or at meters on the street, or in public parking lots, or at shopping malls … and on and on.

In fact, they estimate – conservatively – that, at any given time, there are 500 million empty parking spaces in this country. Empty ones! I did some rough math, estimating 200 square feet for each of those empty spaces, and came up with this: in this country we have set aside 3500 square miles of land in case someone would like to park there!

Interesting, isn’t it? We know about the environmental impact of the automobile, but this is an aspect of the issue I’ve never really thought of before. And it is, of course, just one more reason why we should be moving much more aggressively toward public transportation, including transit, intercity rail, Amtrak, high-speed rail … the works.