Exploring America’s Strange Relationship With Parking Spaces

We have more spots than ever, but the perfect one might still be elusive. Exploring America’s Strange Relationship With Parking Spaces Giphy

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As long as there have been automobiles, there’s been an inherent need for places to park them. But as vehicles became an increasingly integral part of American society over the course of the past century, the preoccupation with parking spots has only become more acute.

Despite massive investments in creating structures and lots specifically for this purpose, you’ve probably felt the disappointment of arriving at a destination and being unable to find a place to park. So, what’s the deal?

Perception vs. reality

Visiting a bustling downtown area or a crowded shopping center can result in the belief among motorists that there just aren’t enough parking spots for all the vehicles. But the facts paint a different story:

  • Estimates indicate there are as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the U.S.
  • The city of Des Moines, Iowa, has a total of 20 spots for every household.
  • Studies show the oversupply of parking spaces in crowded cities is about 65%.
  • More than one-fourth of the property in many downtowns is used for parking.

Taking a look at these facts might lead you to believe that it should be easy to find a spot, but there are many other variables that can make a seemingly simple process feel difficult.

Unreasonable expectations

Henry Grabar researched this subject extensively for his book “Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World.

In the end, he determined that our collective frustrations with parking come down to a common problem — we are just expecting too much.

“We expect it to be very convenient, immediately available, and free,” he wrote in an article for Slate.

And when it doesn’t meet all of those lofty demands, the experience tends to make reinforce our theory that we just don’t have enough parking spots.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee May 4th, 2023
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