Pondering parking lot potential

This is my latest piece in the spec.com:

In all things, do the math. What is the return on investment (ROI) of the thing, how much energy goes in it, and to what end? When it comes to parking lots, the ROI for cities is dismal.

It’s estimated that, in America, there are eight parking spots for every car, covering up to 30 per cent of U.S. cities, and collectively taking up about as much space as the state of West Virginia. As well, the average parking space requires over 300 square feet to store a car while the car is not being used.

That’s an awful lot of underutilized space that could be going to housing, for instance. But parking requirements are mandatory for downtown areas, so the more parking allowed, the more encouraged we are to drive, giving us urban landscapes in support of driving (although, this is beginning to change, with bike-only condos coming in cities like Toronto).

What’s more, keeping with the theme of calculating, in Hamilton, large impervious areas such as commercial parking lots that contribute the most to stormwater run-off and increase the risk of flooding, contribute nothing to the costs of dealing with it! Meanwhile, nearby households that face greater flooding risks have to foot the bill (Hamilton’s stormwater management system is currently paid primarily through water bill rates).

To address this unfairness, the Environment Hamilton group is running a campaign based on the success of other Ontario municipalities. They are calling on city council to direct staff in investigating and implementing fair fees that take into account the current and future needs of our city.

Do More with Parking Lots:

A parking lot can and should do more for the community it is in. That’s why I’m pleased that in Hamilton, there’s a lot more attention being paid to the potential for green infrastructure these “space parasites” have. For example, Hamilton Public Health is partnering with McMaster University’s W G. Booth School of Engineering Practice to create green parking lot guidelines that will assist city staff and developers creating, fixing or replacing urban parking lots to do so in a more sustainable way. The guidelines promote the use of green infrastructure to improve shading and decrease the urban heat island which is exacerbated within areas of dark impermeable surfaces. It also promotes best stormwater management practices that can reduce localized flooding and stormwater treatment costs. The intent of the document is to provide practical and cost effective solutions to help Hamilton mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

Parking Lot Conversion

There’s the city’s recent, first ever, pop up park in a parking lot at Rebecca and John, motivated in particular, we are told, by the desire to increase community gathering spaces among other factors. This parking lot transformation will eventually be turned into a much needed, permanent park.

At McMaster University, grassroots actions have led to the rehabilitation of a paved floodplain area. In 2012, thanks to the work of Restore Cootes, an environmental group dedicated to the revitalization of the area surrounding McMaster, the administration permitted a 30-metre buffer zone to be created between parking lot M, on west campus, and the nearby Ancaster Creek. The implementation of the buffer was the loss of over 300 parking spots (apparently, with no effect, according to the Hamilton Conservation Authority).



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