No parking as a form of paradise

Parking, like phonographs and buggy whips, could be on its way out.

That seems absurd, since our society certainly isn’t giving up on the car (not to mention the bus, van, SUV, utility truck, moving van, 16-wheeler and so forth).

But with the rise of self-driving cars, some people are seriously starting to consider whether or not we will need as much parking in future generations.

In Canada, over a 10-year period from 1999 to 2009, the rate of licensing among 25- to 34-year-olds dropped from 92 per cent to 87 per cent. In fact, the decline was taking place among all groups from teens to 54-year-olds. (Only seniors seem to be driving more, as people live longer and stay in their homes longer.)

The same decline has been taking place in the United States and other western countries.

People are driving less. They’re driving fewer miles, they’re getting licenses later in life, and they’re choosing not to drive at all, in some cases, opting for bikes or public transit or ridesharing or Uber.

The expectation is that self-driving cars will accelerate this trend, sending it rocketing into the stratosphere. If self-driving taxis are cheap and ubiquitous, and ridesharing can be mediated by computer, then many people won’t bother to get a car at all. Those who do own a car may be able, eventually, to summon it and send it to find its own parking spot, and maybe recharge or refuel.

If this comes to pass (and it’s still a far off dream) it can’t come soon enough.

Parking lots are undoubtedly among the worst-designed, worst-planned, ugliest, and costliest things we build.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a close call with someone almost backing over you in a parking lot. A lot of hands just went up. Parking lots are the awkward space in which pedestrians and cars interact by design, and no one has figured out yet how to make humans hardy enough to survive the encounters unscathed.

I asked an academic who studied urban design once about why parking lots forced pedestrians to walk down, and often cross, major traffic lanes. He said they assumed the cars would drive slowly, so I guess he had never been to a parking lot in his life before.

If you ever get a chance, go up in a small aircraft and take a look at the parking lots of your city’s downtown. You’ll notice that the parking lot around the malls are bigger than the malls themselves. They take up vast swathes of real estate.

Yet if we cut back on parking, we create huge problems. Traffic jams. Extra pollution. Angry, frustrated drivers. Drivers who vote. So civic politicians spend a lot of time crafting parking policies and making sure there are plenty of parking spots. They also spend plenty of time paying for it if they get it wrong.

Yet that century-long battle, going back to the Model T, might be nearing an end.

It’s probably not going to quite happen, or to happen slowly if at all. But we might be moving in that direction within the next five or 10 years.

It’s worth thinking about it as a goal, right now. If we could eliminate, say, half of all parking spaces by 2030, what would we do with the space?

We’d have the opportunity to re-make a huge swathe of civic real estate – to consider adding housing, shops, parks, plazas, or civic buildings. The next time you’re circling a parking lot, think about what you’d do with all that space.


Just Posted

Langley Christmas Fun: Nov. 15, 2018 edition

Send details to or, subject “Christmas fun.”

Hey kids, we want to see your letters to Santa

Families and teachers can send in kids’ letters to be included in our special holiday publication.

Aldergrove car-jacking suspect arrested

Man had ordered 70-year-old pastor’s wife to get out of their truck

Crash blocks half of 200th Street in Langley City

Police and firefighters were on scene Thursday.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

Metro Vancouver mayors cancel Surrey LRT in favour of SkyTrain

Surrey mayor claims he can extend Skytrain for the $1.65 billion already committed to light rail

Hunter who saved B.C. man pinned inside smashed truck says ‘God was sending me to him’

Sayward man describes chance discovery of Duncan Moffat, 23, in northern Vancouver Island woods

Road-weary Canucks thumped 6-2 by Wild

Vancouver hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

Toronto private school didn’t report alleged sexual assault to police

Police say a sexual assault at an all-boys Catholic institution was not reported to them

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

Lower Mainland couple missing in Thompson-Okanagan area

Barriere RCMP received a missing persons report for two senior overdue travellers

Vancouver Warriors cancel first 2 weeks of season as labour dispute continues

The announcement means games scheduled for Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 will no longer be played

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Most Read