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This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Our Park(ing) Day Pecha Kucha


Thank you to Andy Cutler et al. for introducing us to Providence Pecha Kucha.  Both of us gave this performance at Grant's Block on Wednesday.  We're excited to get the word out about Providence Park(ing) Day even more, so please check out our slides.

Everyone knows what a "Missed Connection" is.  Psychology Today did a study that cited the top locations for Missed Connections nationwide, and this showed a lot about the cultures of different states. 
Many states had public transportation as their number one location.  In Maryland it was parks; South Carolina, football games.  Indianans had many of their Missed Connections at home, which was. . . weird.

Our state, Rhode Island, stood out in the country as having its top location in parking lots.  Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising since so much of Providence's downtown is covered by parking.  The light colored areas in this map are garages, while the darker red/orange is surface parking.

Providence has gotten better, though.  In 1975, the river was covered with parking, as was the area by Burnside Park we now use as a skating rink.  

One reason cities need all this space for parking is that cars take up by far the most space of any mode of transportation.  This is sixty people, by bike, by car, and by bus, in Muenster, Germany.  Which street would you prefer to live on?  Which one do you think has the worst traffic?
And it's worth noting that Providence wasn't the only city that destroyed its downtown to make room for cars.  This is a densely settled part of Cleveland in the 1960s. 
And believe it or not, this is the same neighborhood of Cleveland, some decades later.  You can see that there are a lot fewer building--fewer places to shop, to live, work, etc.--although there are plenty of places to park your car.
Parking doesn't necessarily come about because people want it.  Our zoning requires developers to add more and more spaces for cars, which they then give away for free.

But free parking isn't actually free.  The cheapest apartment in the figure, at $800 month, is $1300 a month after underground parking is added.  We require parking spaces to be put in housing for people who can't afford cars, thus making the housing itself more unaffordable.

Parking has a big effect on how people choose to get around.  In California, there is a parking cash-out law, where employees can get the equivalent of their parking space in cash (usually several hundred dollars a month) if they bike, use transit, or carpool.  When people have a choice, they make better decisions, even though the cash-out still maintains free parking for those who do use it.

Nor should we assume that inducing people to drive is the only way that parking negatively affects our environment.  The Narragansett Bay is one of many waterways that has been polluted by storm water runoff, where sewage runs directly into the bay.  Rainwater running off of parking lots contributes heavily to this problem of storm water overflow.

A creative solution is Park(ing) Day, when we take a day to turn our parking into something other than a space for cars.

In Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, a woman has turned her parking spot into an art installation with plants.

Park(ing) Day happens all around the world.  Here in Chile, a family has turned their parking spot into a pool.  Imagine having this instead of asphalt on a hot day.

Many restaurants would rather have ten tables outside than two parking spots.  In Russia, this family is having a temporary outdoor cafe in their parking spot.

This New York baby girl is getting a private concert from her stroller.

We don't think of Dallas, Texas as a particularly urbanist or walkable town, but here a woman has taken a parking spot and temporarily used it for a day of yoga practice.

And we shouldn't assume that Park(ing) Day has to be temporary.  Here in San Francisco a restaurant is using their parking spot for a permanent outdoor cafe, and this is also done in cities ranging from Philly, to Boston, New York, and Miami, Florida.

Nor must we assume that parklets have to be just one space.  Why not a string of spaces, used to make a protected bike lane, like the one that runs through Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

We feel certain that with effort, Rhode Island will no longer embarrass itself by having its Missed Connections in parking lots.  Next year, if a similar survey were to happen of our Missed Connections, we hope that most of them will be at Park(ing) Day instead. 

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