WTF Fun Fact 13746 – More Parking Lots Than Housing

Oddly enough, some cities have gone to such great lengths to accommodate cars that they now have more parking lots than housing!

The city landscape across America reveals a startling fact: in many places, there’s more room for cars than for people. From Seattle to Des Moines, the concrete sprawl of these lots often surpasses the space set aside for housing. This phenomenon isn’t just an urban planner’s nightmare; it’s a real puzzle for anyone trying to find a vibrant city life amidst the vast concrete expanses.

A Concrete Jungle Where There’s More Parking Than Housing

Imagine a city where cars have more room to rest than people do to live. This isn’t a futuristic dystopia; it’s the reality in several U.S. cities where parking lots devour city centers. It turns out we have not only sacrificed urban vitality at the altar of convenience but also transformed downtowns into mere waypoints rather than destinations.

In cities like Seattle, the ratio of parking spaces to housing units is staggering. Seattle boasts about 30 spaces for every acre, overwhelming the number of residential units five to one. Down in Des Moines, the scenario gets more dire with a parking-to-housing ratio of 20 to 1 per acre. These cities, famed for their ever-rising skyscrapers, surprisingly cater more to vehicles than to residents.

The Parking Lot Takeover

The sprawl gets absurd when you head to places like Arlington, Texas, or Detroit, Michigan—cities where the car is king and the pedestrian is a pauper. Arlington’s city center dedicates a whopping 39% of its land to parking. Detroit, the famed Motor City, isn’t far behind, dedicating about a third of its downtown to car spaces. These areas have become so optimized for cars that finding anything else to do can feel like a scavenger hunt.

What’s the big deal, you might ask? Beyond the obvious urban blight, this sea of parking has profound implications. City centers that prioritize parking over accessibility tend to lack the density that makes urban areas vibrant and walkable. The result? Cities that are easy to drive to but not worth staying in. Moreover, this excess of concrete slabs drives up real estate prices, making urban housing scarcer and more expensive.

A Shift Toward More Livable Cities

Despite these challenges, not all cities have succumbed to the parking plague. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco are leading by example, with only 4% and 3% of their downtown areas devoted to public parking, respectively. New York City tops the list with a mere 0.4% of midtown Manhattan given over to parking spaces.

This trend hints at a future where cities reclaim space from cars for people. As more Americans opt out of driving—thanks to the rise of ride-sharing, public transit improvements, and perhaps soon, autonomous vehicles—the demand for vast parking lots is set to decrease. This shift presents a golden opportunity for cities to transform car lots into parks, housing, and vibrant public spaces that foster community rather than car storage.

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Source: “These U.S. Cities Have More Parking Lots Than Housing” — Atlas Obscura


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