This Is Why It's So Hard to Find Parking Spots, Even Though America Has Tons of Them

·2 min read
Photo:  Darren McCollester / Staff (Getty Images)
Photo: Darren McCollester / Staff (Getty Images)

The United States has too many parking spaces. And yet, a lot of times, it feels like there isn’t enough. When someone suggests getting rid of parking spaces in the city, it can be hard to understand why, when it took forever to find a spot downtown the last time you went out for dinner. Somehow, both things can be true.

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Slate looked into this problem recently with an article adapted from an episode of the Decoder Ring podcast. And when you look at the total number of parking spaces per car, it’s clear there’s definitely too much parking. In Seattle, there are five spaces for every car, which is a lot, but it’s nothing compared to Des Moines, which has 20 spaces per car. One study of 27 mixed-use neighborhoods found that even at peak times, there was still 65 percent more parking than necessary, and in neighborhoods where residents believed there was a parking shortage, it was still oversupplied by 45 percent.

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But that doesn’t explain why it often feels like there’s no parking available. According to Jane Wilberding, a Chicago-based parking consultant and a founder of the Parking Reform Network, there are a few reasons for that. The first is that cities generally do a bad job of telling drivers where the parking is. If you don’t know where the parking garage is, how are you going to find it? Just by chance? A serendipitous encounter on Google Maps?

Second, we don’t do a good job of sharing parking. There could be hundreds of empty parking spaces at the church across the street, but they’re reserved for people at the church on Sundays, not the people visiting the bookstore on Tuesdays. And finally, most parking is free. That means commuters get in early and take the best spots, while the rest of us get stuck fighting for what’s left over.

There’s a lot more to the article, so head on over to Slate to check it out.

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