While planners and architects in Silver Spring turned parts of Ellsworth Drive into a beach for Park(ing) Day last Friday, my urban design studio in Philadelphia turned a parking space at the University of Pennsylvania into a visual representation of how much space cities around the world give over to parking. We created a three-dimensional bar graph listing the number of parking spaces in the downtowns of major cities, along with a banner showing what we could do with that space instead.
The figures came from this report by Donald Shoup, an economist at UCLA who wrote the book The High Cost of Free Parking. We found that parking amounts ranged widely across the road. In Manila, the entire downtown has only 1,500 parking spaces per square mile, compared to 68,000 in downtown Los Angeles. Assuming a parking space is about 10' by 20', or 200 square feet, there's roughly 12 million square feet of parking in downtown LA - or as our banner points out, 4 times as much space as King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia, one of the largest malls in the country. (It's just a little bigger than Tysons Corner Center closer to home.)
Even in Silver Spring, a vast amount of land is given over solely for the storing of cars. According to friend of JUTP/blogger at GGW/MoCo planner Matt Johnson, there's 82 acres of parking in downtown alone, almost a quarter of the entire district. Are all of those parking spaces being used? Definitely not. There's tons of things we could do with that space - for instance, we could use part of it to build a real skate park.
Anyway, check out this photoset showing Penn Urban Design Studio's Park(ing) Day installation and the process of getting it built.