This Friday, we'll celebrate an annual tradition at Strong Towns: the national #BlackFridayParking event. While your fellow Americans are busy fighting each other for 50% off toys and discounted televisions at the stores in your town, we want to give you a different job to do: Snap some photos of the parking lots surrounding these stores.
Why do we do this? Because, even on a day that is supposed to be one of the biggest shopping events of the year, we've noticed that year after year after year, the parking lots are simply never full. Our nation is covered with miles and miles of parking lots that sit empty around the clock — yes, even on the biggest shopping day of the year.
The Problem with Parking Minimums
Unfortunately, most of our cities require this excessive parking by law. That's right: Whether you're opening a clothing store or building a duplex, your city's zoning code likely has a "parking minimum" that mandates 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail, or 1 space per housing unit, or any number of other ridiculous parameters that aren't based on real demand. We've even seen a city that required bowling alleys to have 2 parking spots per lane.
Instead of allowing business owners and home owners to decide how much parking they need, these parking minimum laws simply require it, with no consideration as to whether a business' customers largely arrive on foot, or whether a homeowner primarily takes the bus and doesn't need a car. The result is a wasteland of half empty parking lots.
This week on our website and podcast, we'll talk about the myriad of opportunities that these parking spaces present—and what this land could be if we didn't have parking minimums. I bet your mind is churning already with ideas for how to transform those empty lots that dominate your town. Would you like to see a new grocery store in your neighborhood? How about more housing? Maybe a dog park or a baseball diamond?
So as you work off your turkey hangover, help us show the nation why parking minimums are a problem. We invite you to step outside with your phone or camera and take some photos for #BlackFridayParking.
How to Participate in Black Friday Parking Day
- On Friday, November 24, 2017 get outside and take pictures of the parking lots in your town.
- Upload your photos to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Bonus points if also include a note about how that parking lot could be put to better use in your community. (Housing? Offices? Park? You decide!) It's also helpful if you note the location of the parking lot and estimate how full it is.
- Visit our website on November 24 to view other peoples' photos from across the country. Head to strongtowns.org/blackfridayparking to see the action.
We See Progress
The good news is that many towns are seeing the light when it comes to parking minimums, and they're choosing to decrease or eliminate their minimum requirements entirely. We've been tracking that progress for two years now and we're pleased to say the number of communities who have reconsidered their parking requirements is growing.
Here's our crowdsourced map, showing towns that have completely eliminated parking minimums in at least one neighborhood (in green), towns that have decreased their parking minimums (in blue) and towns that are in the process of overhauling their parking minimum laws:
If you'd like to add or update your town on the map, just fill out this simple form.
Thanks for joining us for #BlackFridayParking. Stay tuned all week to hear more about the negative impacts of parking minimums and the positive things we could do in our towns if we didn't have them.