Charles Marohn at the Strong Towns blog had a great idea last week when he asked followers of that blog to Tweet photos of Black Friday parking lots around the country with the hashtag “#BlackFridayParking.” The Strong Towns blog then ran a live feed of the results as lots of folks from around the country posted pics of vastly underused parking lots to help emphasize the need for reform of minimum parking standards.
Here are some shots I took at South Mall in Allentown, PA, around 9:30 AM on Black Friday. Not much going on there.
Front (east side) of Allentown's South Mall. Around 9:30 AM Plenty of
available parking. (photo by author).
South end of South Mall. More wasted spaces. (photo by author).
My friend Ron Beitler took this photo in the early afternoon on Black Friday at the Caramoor Village strip mall in Macungie, PA. Again, overkill on the parking spaces. Ron also blogged about Black Friday Parking at: http://www.ronbeitler.com/2013/11/29/the-ridiculousness-of-minimum-parking-standards/.
Dozens of photos from other shopping centers around the country showed similar scenes – deserted asphalt at all but the couple hundred feet immediately surrounding big box stores and strip malls. I think Strong Towns had a great idea in organizing this Twitter event, because it hopefully will help to spark discussion around the country about how minimum parking standards waste both dollars and space, creating eyesores that are daunting to pedestrian traffic while they create unnecessary stormwater runoff. We all need to let our local officials know that we demand intelligent design standards for new developments and redevelopment projects.
I also will acknowledge that these #BlackFridayParking Twitter pics certainly do not constitute a scientific study of this problem. I don’t think that Charles Marohn intended this experiment to be anything more than an exercise in anecdotes.
However, these photos from around the country got me thinking back 30+ years ago to when I worked part time at the Sears store at Montgomery Mall near Lansdale in suburban Philadelphia. I remember jam-packed parking lots at the mall on Black Friday as well as in the evenings 3-4 days before Christmas Eve. I have to wonder whether the week before Christmas in the first dozen years of the 21st century has continued to max out parking capacity at Montgomery Mall. Specifically, I wonder if the explosion of on-line shopping over the past 10 years has relieved some of the load on mall parking lots during the holiday shopping season. I’m not sure how a researcher could actually go back to look at parking density throughout holiday shopping seasons over the past 15 years to try to identify trends that could be correlated to the increasing popularity of or dependence on internet shopping (unless NSA would be willing to share some historic satellite images with us).
Frankly, I would be surprised if the advent of the on-line economy has not relieved some of the parking pressure at mortar & bricks retail establishments. And in that likely case, how crazy would it be for municipalities to continue to rely on minimum parking standards that were written for a pre-internet world?