Join me for #BlackFridayParking
Black Friday. My feelings about the day are summed up pretty well in the graphic below.
What is a good urbanist to do on such a day, when everyone is doing their civic duty, spending enough so that the big box chains hit their quarterly earnings numbers?
Enter Black Friday Parking. It’s the ultimate nerd-fest for urbanists: Go to the parking lot nearest you, armed with just a smartphone. Snap photos of the melee, making sure you maintain adequate distance so you don’t get trampled. Share on social media with the hashtag #BlackFridayParking.
Here is why parking is such a big deal and why you should participate in Black Friday Parking this year. As I put it in a post before last year’s event:
Black Friday Parking focuses on an area of policy that is often overlooked and maybe seen as esoteric, but impacts our cities and towns perhaps more than any other land development regulation. In its application, it favors the big box retail model, the car-dependent development pattern, and the associated public highway funding that make it all possible. In that way, parking policy is more the cause of the Black Friday consumerist madness than the effect. It is part of a system perfectly adapted to our national car addiction and oil dependency.
Parking minimums are the worst policy for good urban form. They spread out development, make places unwalkable, and create vast expanses of low-yielding land use. Parking is expensive to provide and it favors the big box store over the hometown business. Big boxes are capital-intensive, high-volume and low margin, publicly subsidized, and yield a very low return to the municipal coffers. They do provide nice sound bites at a ribbon cutting, though. Hundreds of jobs! Lots of new property tax revenue! What isn’t said is that this growth is unproductive and also creates huge infrastructure liabilities that aren’t included on a city’s balance sheet.
Think this is just a bunch of theoretical blathering? Just listen to Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Anath Prasad, making remarks to the West Palm Beach City Council, about how transportation spending “attracts the Wal-Mart, Target, Bass Pro Shop”. Go to minute 12 of this video: FDOT remarks on Flagler Bridge This is happening everywhere, in the same way.
I hope you’ll participate in the event this year. I’ll be visiting family outside of Palm Beach County, so I’m counting on a couple of readers to snap some photos of the Palm Beach Outlets, Wellington Mall, Gardens Mall, Downtown at the Gardens, etc. with the hashtag #BlackFridayParking.
Below is the press release on the event from Strong Towns, which is the organization leading the event.
Black Friday Parking is a nationwide event drawing attention to the harmful nature of minimum parking requirements, which create a barrier for new local businesses and fill up our cities with empty parking spaces that don’t add value to our places. On Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, people all across North America will snap photos of the (hardly full) parking lots in their community to demonstrate how unnecessary these massive lots are. Participants will then upload those photos to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #blackfridayparking.
Leading this event is Strong Towns, a national nonprofit advocating for financial resilience in America’s towns and cities. This is their third year running the event, and they’re gearing up to do #blackfridayparking bigger and better than ever. As a member of Strong Towns, I invite you to participate, either by sharing your photos of half-empty parking lots on November 27, or by visiting this page to view a live stream of photos from social media as they are posted on Black Friday.
Throughout the week preceding the event (Nov. 23-27), Strong Towns will also be posting on their blog and speaking on their podcast about topics related to decreasing parking minimums, including interviews with Donald Shoup (author of The High Cost of Free Parking) and John Anderson (leader of the Incremental Development Alliance), as well as resources you can use to fight parking minimums in your own city.
I hope you’ll join me in this powerful and engaging event for a good cause. Learn more at strongtowns.org/blackfridayparking