Cars Are Outgrowing Their Parking Spaces

“Increas­ing­ly, cars are too big for park­ing spaces, espe­cial­ly in park­ing garages and oth­er paid park­ing lots where devel­op­ers pay close to space size,” writes Aaron Gor­don in Vice. “Like the prover­bial frog in a slow­ly heat­ing pot of water, our cars have got­ten ever-so-grad­u­al­ly big­ger each pass­ing year, but the park­ing space stan­dards have bare­ly budged.” 

Gor­don describes the process by which park­ing lot design­ers decide space sizes, which uses the 85th per­centile car size. “This to design­ing park­ing spaces has his­tor­i­cal­ly served the park­ing indus­try well, ensur­ing space sizes accom­mo­date the vast major­i­ty of cars and about 20 inch­es of space for peo­ple to open their doors and maneu­ver on either side.”

But now, “the 85th per­centile method is not cap­tur­ing the changes in the car sizes. The size of the 10th per­centile car has explod­ed. The size of the 50th per­centile car has grown tremen­dous­ly. The size of the 70th per­centile car has also grown. But the 85th per­centile car is essen­tial­ly the Ford F‑150, which is much taller and longer than it used to be, but no wider.”

With park­ing spaces cost­ing thou­sands or even tens of thou­sands of dol­lars each to build, even a few inch­es can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in a pro­jec­t’s bud­get. To build larg­er spaces, devel­op­ers have to raise the of park­ing for everyone—or just for larg­er cars, like some park­ing lots in cities like already do. “It’s easy to imag­ine the that may ensue from any effort to charge peo­ple with large vehi­cles more for park­ing, even though the sug­ges­tion that peo­ple who use more of some­thing should pay more than peo­ple who use less is one of the most basic tenets of eco­nom­ic the­o­ry and the basis of cap­i­tal­ism.” But larg­er cars don’t just take up more space— pose increased safe­ty risks, too.

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