May 29, 2012
You could provide several answers related to a reliance on individual automobiles (inefficient road use, urban sprawl), but I’d like to focus on just one: automobile parking.
We need lots of space for parking idle cars. Because our trips do not involve displacing a car in one location for a replacement in the origin, we need space for more cars than are on the road. If you think about parking as an inventory system, it’s very difficult to get away with a “just in time” system. You needs lots of excess capacity.
Stadiums are good examples (putting aside whether their use is efficient). Modern stadiums have thousands of parking spaces that just lay empty most of the time. Here’s RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. You can see a portion of the parking lots surrounding the stadium. This is not in exurbia, you can see the Capitol in the background.
Street parking can be turned into additional traffic lanes and parking lots can be used for events, but these use cases are not the norm.
Parking isn’t just a space issue, it also reflects on our use of automobiles as a “fleet”. Parked cars are idle cars. This dully obvious point is important! So that we can get from our dispersed suburban homes to wherever we want to go whenever we want to go, we maintain our own individual fleets of cars. It is certainly convenient, but not terribly efficient.
Another fine post by Ben Lopatin.
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