Streetsblog has an interesting post showing images of mostly-empty parking lots on Black Friday at shopping centers across the country, potentially revealing a flaw in how we design parking. When it comes to car-oriented infrastructure, we generally design and build for peak demand. In the case of parking lots, this generally means the holiday shopping season – so, developers pour expanses of pavement that will be used at their maximum for just over four weeks out of the year, while the rest of the year much of the blacktop is empty.
The same thinking goes for highway design. This is why I-64 into Richmond or I-95 into DC can feel like a parking lot if you hit it during rush hour, but can seem a wasteland of empty lanes at other times during the day. We design and build for the 9-5 workday, which can run the risk of creating excess capacity for the rest of the day. This is one of the reasons building our way out of traffic congestion is an expensive proposition, whereas concentrating on reducing that peak demand often makes more sense. Less highway needed to move cars, and less land needed to store them once they reach their destination.
As Virginia in general and our localities specifically work to address new stormwater regulations, acres of impervious pavement takes on additional – and costly – significance.
This said – I didn’t shop on Black Friday as I was enjoying the last days of some vacation time and helping a friend move. I did drive by Valley View Mall in Roanoke and it seemed pretty packed – I’d be curious if anyone in our area saw the same abundance of parking revealed in some of these Streetsblog photos?