Urban Fields of Cement and Asphalt

by | Traveling

In the USA the common term of ‘meter maid’ is a parking enforcement officer who trolls the street for violations on unpaid parking meters. Has not most of us experienced that sense of dread when we leave our car with some coins in the meter hoping to squeeze a couple of free minutes or making a quick stop hoping to avoid paying the meter? On a recent trip to Shanghai, China the solution to parking enforcement was actually no meters at all. Instead there is parking PERSON on EVERY street and parking lot in the city. No worrying about the meter here, because you pay everything  to an actual person!

This trend in shanghai clearly shows the shift happening in the use of cars there. With parking spots becoming increasingly hard to find (Beijing has 5.4 million cars for its 2.7 million parking spots) parking needs to be carefully managed.  The average cost of parking while I was in shanghai was $6 per hour (300 million people live in china on $3 per day). A Spedster member in China recounted a story with a Motorola facility moving to a new location and asking their employees to pay for parking because of the large cost to maintain such parking structures. In dense urban cities, parking spots (9 feet by 18 feet) can cost up to $10k to build and maintain.

How a city or region deals with parking can have a significant impact on a number of things:

— More parking spots leads to people taking their own cars and opting out of public transport (a small city official in California said that while they are trying to encourage ridesharing and other alternative transportation ‘we are really competing with free parking’).
–San Francisco city planners found that traffic slowdown in downtown areas was due to people looking for parking…they now have higher fees on their parking meters to discourage car circulation.

But possibly the most important affect that parking has had.. is on the social fabric of society. In a book called ‘a Pattern Language’ author Christopher Alexander argues that less than 9% of available land in any given area should be used for parking. He believes that what makes a place ‘friendly’ is how the physical layout of an area can encourage interactions between people (like having a central street or park where everybody needs to cross). If there are too many cars, driveways, garage doors, parking spots, asphalt and concrete surfaces then people feel the social potential of their environment has disappeared. Any area near a parking lot which holds 8 cars already is clearly identified as ‘car dominated territory’. The average city area has 30% dedicated to asphalt surfaces.

Perhaps the biggest impact of RideSharing might be the affect on reducing parking areas and its encouragement of a more social city environment.

 

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