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America’s Park Preserves

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America’s most used parks may not be  Yosemite or Shenandoah — they’re often parking lots all across America. A study released last July 29 says at any one time, there are approximately 500 million empty parking spaces in the U.S., contributing to everything from air and water pollution to fossil fuel use and global warming.

The study, Parking Infrastructure: Energy, Emissions, and Automobile Life-cycle Environmental Accounting, conducted by engineers at the University California/Berkeley, estimates that under the most likely scenario, America has enough parking spaces to take up room half the size of Massachusetts.

Local government planning and zoning ordinances frequently require proposed retail development projects to have enough parking spaces for a maximum demand scenario even if that parking pressure is rarely if ever present.

How often have you driven by an empty parking lot and wondered whether it’s ever full — and what its impact on water alone from stormwater runoff might be?

A side note:  almost three decades ago, the late Congressman Morris Udall wisecracked about anti-environmental U.S. Interior Secretary James Watt that for Watt a wilderness was a parking lot without yellow stripes.

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