Is a Parking-Free Future Possible?


Lauren Goode: Do you mean you personally or the collective you? 

Gideon Lichfield: I mean, it’s always about me, isn’t it? 

Lauren Goode: Of course. [Chuckle]

Gideon Lichfield: So anyway, I ride a bicycle, I use public transport. I don’t own a car.

Lauren Goode: But you own a motorcycle though.

Gideon Lichfield: Thank you for the street cred, but I keep it in storage most of the time.

Lauren Goode: OK, so here’s why you should care about parking.

Gideon Lichfield: I’m all ears.

Lauren Goode: This isn’t just about the future of parking, it’s about the future of the cities. And you care about cities, right? You’re a city dweller.

Gideon Lichfield: True, I am. And I think we all care about the future of cities, especially after the pandemic, we’ve been wondering what it’s going to be like as urban space changes.

Lauren Goode: Exactly, this is a theme that has come up before on this show. And I think as we have filtered back into the real world, the physical world, it’s hard not to notice how our use of space has changed.

Lauren Goode: I mean, for me, I think one of the most obvious signs of this when you walk around cities is those outdoor dining shacks or parklets that have popped up on streets outside of restaurants.

Gideon Lichfield: I love that we call them “parklets,” like we can’t let go of the idea that they’re also a form of parking.

Lauren Goode: Exactly, yeah. And whether you call them a parklet or a shack or an extension of a restaurant probably depends on how you feel about the parking spaces they occupy.

Gideon Lichfield: Yes, and then there’s the way that we’ve just seemingly decided that some streets can be closed to traffic so people can walk on them and enjoy the outdoors.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, there are a couple of good examples of that in San Francisco, right? JFK Drive and Golden Gate Park is now closed to cars, which personally, I love. I ride my bike there a lot.

Gideon Lichfield: OK, so what’s the connection to parking? 

Lauren Goode: OK, so here’s the connection. Our guest today, Henry Grabar, believes that parking explains a lot about how we use the space in our cities. He’s a writer for Slate Magazine, and this new book, Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World, talks all about how we have built up this parking infrastructure in cities to mirror the suburbs, and how that really informs a lot of other uses of space in our downtowns and maybe that’s not a good thing.

Gideon Lichfield: OK, so what is his argument? 

Lauren Goode: Well, he says that we need to rethink the idea that parking needs to be so abundant because cities are not suburbs, so we shouldn’t treat them that way.

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