The War on Parking!


The War on Parking!

I’ll admit right away that that headline is sensationalistic, but hyperbole is a common enough strategy for attracting readers, so I don’t feel too bad about using it.
In “the war on parking,” the battle lines are not clearly drawn, no weapons are in use other than words, and it’s not clear who stands on the side of right.
Maybe the war on parking is imaginary, but it seems the backlash against overly abundant parking is quite real.
As I search the Internet for parking news, I see the phrase “war on parking” used more and more often, and I think that merits analysis. I know there are complicated aspects to the discussion that include history, law, culture, geography and money, but I’m going to do my job as a columnist when I first exaggerate, then oversimplify.
From my perspective, the war on parking has three parties: the academics, the real users, and the parking industry. Each group takes turns bashing and then supporting the other in a cycle that reminds me a lot of growing up between two brothers. Every day, two of you pair off and gang up on the third, but you always get the advantage back, and you never know when that will be.
I’m calling the first group the academics, not because I think they’re smarter than the other groups, but because they like to use big words and spend a lot of time intellectualizing parking. Also, I think that’s the kind of word they would use to describe themselves.
Some of them are more worried about the environment. Others are concerned with the way the car and, in turn, parking kills neighborhoods and urban centers, and reduces our cultural traditions to the emotional equivalent of a McDonald’s drive-through, or some other metaphor that sounds really smart.
Still others are hoping to minimize our nation’s car culture in order to eventually end our dependency on fossil fuels and mitigate the political ramifications of that dependence, or some other motive that sounds really smart.
The real user group is the one I relate to most, although I understand the academics’ point of view and support it whenever I’m not in a hurry and looking for parking. Most people expect lots of parking, and they aren’t painfully worried about the environment, the threat of urban blight or the price of gas.
They want accessible and affordable parking. They don’t want to search, circle or slow when it’s time to park. And the world is very accommodating of that desire. Except in the densest of urban areas, parking in the U.S. is rather plentiful.
That’s how they/we like it.
Then there is the parking industry, which seeks to provide parking
in appropriate amounts at sensible prices in a manner that is convenient
to everyone.
There are academics of all sorts in the parking industry, from consultants to professors, from city planners to suppliers. And the industry is making strides in the areas of energy efficiency and emissions reduction.
But not everybody in the industry is intellectualizing parking. Many are just working their tails off to give the real user what he or she wants. It’s about making a living. It’s about meeting that quota. It’s about controlling the hungry hordes by feeding them their favorite treat: lots of cheap and easy parking.
What “the war on parking” is pointing out is that the industry has given people what they thought they wanted, and now some of them realize the actual cost of the arrangement and don’t want it anymore. They’ve seen that too much parking can kill the heart of a city. They’ve seen that too many cars create a culture of isolation.
For the purposes of many of my columns, I consider the car and its parking requirements as somewhat interchangeable. Many of the same claims can be applied to the effects of widespread transportation by automobile and expectations for guaranteed parking for that same automobile.
People want to drive to the store and park right in front, and they don’t want to think about how everybody else wants the same thing when there’s only so much room for front-and-center parking spots.
People want the freedom that the car and easy parking provide. But they also want their grandchildren to be able to go outdoors without a gas mask. They want to go places without depending on anyone else to get them there, but they crave interaction.
Happily, this is a war that doesn’t need to take any lives, but it’s a war that will be hard fought and will take many, many years to resolve.
If it were up to me, the parking industry would take on the mantle of mediator and determine a strategy that supports what’s best for the planet – and the consumer, in that order – and then implement that strategy.

Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at


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