What’s the future for parking going to look like?

Parking lot

There are nearly four parking spaces for every car in the United States and, put together, they would be larger than Connecticut, according to a story by Mother Jones.

In addition to excessive parking spaces, the article says that parking contributes to development costs while sometimes going unused. There are also the environmental impacts of circling looking for a parking space.

There have been some indications that people are driving less, especially among millennials. Fewer people driving means a decreased need for parking.

According to the story:

Research by the Frontier Group, a think tank that often publishes work on energy and transportation, found that the average annual number of miles driven by American 16- to 34-year-olds dropped 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, a pretty stunning fall.

So, the story asked, what happens when we don’t need this much parking?

Gabe Klein, who’s led the Washington, D.C., and Chicago transportation departments, told Mother Jones parking could free up space for schools, housing or plazas.

Converting old parking lots or garages would contribute to more walkable, dense areas, further eliminating the need for cars.

Josh Clark, a Pittsburgh resident, recently proposed Penn Square, a public park that currently sits on a city parking lot in East Liberty. That area of East Liberty currently has no similar kind of public space.

The city has also been experimenting with making parking easier to find. There was temporary signage downtown that pointed motorists to a parking garage with space. Residents can now check how many spaces are available on the ParkPGH website and can refill their meters using the Go Mobile PGH app on a smartphone.

There will be more changes coming to downtown with the release of a report later this month by the U.S. arm of famed urban design firm Gehl Architects.

According to the Mother Jones story:

When a city provides free parking, it's also economically unfair, since it's a subsidy available only to those who are wealthy enough to own cars.

Enrique Penalosa, who was the Mayor of Bogota, Columbia, solved his traffic problem by removing parking. He explained in the 2011 urban design documentary Urbanized that parking is not a right or a government problem. To relieve traffic jams, he wanted to reduce car use, which meant dealing with parking.

People also use ride-sharing services such as Uber, which had gotten friendly legislation passed in over half of the country by the end of 2015. That could also help reduce the future need for parking.

Reach Eric Holmberg at 412-315-0266 or at eholmberg@publicsource.org. Follow him on Twitter @holmberges.