Hunting for a parking place…

Hunting for a parking place…

Parking lots have become luxury goods in Manhattan

It’s all about being lucky! Sometimes, finding a parking place can be easy. We get off the car shaking our keys and looking at other drivers who are desperately looking for a place to park their cars… in vain. Sometimes, instead, wandering around in search of a parking lot becomes a living hell. Have you ever missed a flight because of traffic congestion? Have you ever lost your patience after having spent much of your precious time searching for a 25-square-metre space to park your car? Have you ever abandoned hope of finding a parking spot? Have you ever been fined by the parking enforcement officer for having left your car in a no parking area? This is of course what happens if you cannot afford a valet parking!

The search of a parking place – including paying car parks and free parking lots – causes stress. It is the same the whole world over: whether you live in Rome, Milan, Athens, Budapest, Moscow, Las Vegas or New York, Seattle or San Francisco, you’ll spend at least two years of your life searching for a parking place. The main problem, all around the world, is represented by the scarcity of space. It is estimated that the surface needed to park the 520 000 million cars circulating in the world amounts to four times and a half the total surface covered by Luxembourg. Furthermore, according to a research presented at the World Parking Symposium of Toronto, the search for a parking place contributes in worsening global warming due to air pollution caused by fuel.

How can this problem be solved? Underground parking areas have been built in the city centre of Barcelona and Paris; Geneva and Lyon have built parking areas under the lake and under the Rhône River. Multi-storey car parks are an alternative to underground garages. This solution is usually chosen in Japan and  Germany. The Q-park in Amsterdam is an example of great architecture: environmental sustainability aspects have been taken into account in the design of this multi-level parking garage. Another extreme idea has been launched by the American architect Eric Moss, who proposed to put offices on the ground floor and cars on the uppermost floor of buildings.

What about New York? The city has always had a conflicted relationship with cars. In Manhattan, parking lots and garages are being replaced by all sorts of buildings – above all luxury developments – and the zoning rules in force discourage developers to replace the lost public spaces with new parking lots to be added to residential buildings. Owning a parking lot in the city implies high expenses. Parking tickets are very expensive. A survey conducted by the Department of City Planning in Manhattan found that the way citizens use their cars has changed a lot since the 1980s, when the Clean Air Act limited the number of new parking lots to be built in the city. Over the last 30 years the number of off-street parking spots has fallen by 20% and there is a real hunt for remaining parking lots, which seem to have become luxury goods.

Developers in Manhattan do not need any permit to build parking spots for 20% of the number of apartments in the building if the entrance to the garage does not obstruct traffic. City approval is needed to build more parking spaces.

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