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26 June, 2024
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The free parking illusion

Downsides of free parking



By Michalis Lambrinou

Imagine a city where parking is easy, convenient, and free. While this might sound perfect for drivers, it comes with a cost. Free parking has more consequences than just convenience. In this article, I'll explore the downsides of free parking and explain why adopting sustainable transportation is better.

Parking lots may seem handy, but they harm the environment and don't align with sustainable travel.

The Environmental Impact: Parking spaces might be useful, but they leave a significant environmental footprint. Let's look at the effects of abundant free parking:

• Land use and urban sprawl: Research from the University of California reveals that US parking lots cover an area similar to Delaware. Free parking encourages urban sprawl, using up space that could be green and harming nature.

• Traffic and emissions: Free parking encourages car use, leading to more cars and traffic. The International Transport Forum states that almost a third of city traffic comes from drivers searching for parking. This worsens pollution and climate change.

• Runoff and pollution: Parking lots prevent rain from soaking into the ground, causing pollution. Studies say they create runoff with oil, metals, and chemicals that damage water and aquatic life.

• Heat: Parking lots heat up cities. The US EPA says they can be much hotter than green areas. This makes cities warmer and worse during heatwaves.

Personal Well-being: Free parking seems good, but it's bad for our health and well-being.

• Lack of exercise and health problems: Easy parking discourages activity. Studies show that people with free parking at work walk and cycle less, leading to obesity and health issues.

• Stress and anger: Finding free parking is stressful. People spend hours looking for spots, leading to anger and stress. Using alternative transport can make commuting calmer.

• Hidden costs of cars: Free parking seems cheap, but owning a car isn't. Cars are costly, from buying to fueling. Public transport is often cheaper.

Society Benefits: Free parking affects society too. Let's see how sustainable travel helps.

• Public spaces: Fewer parking spaces mean more parks and gathering spots. This makes cities look better and encourages community.

• Air quality and health: Sustainable travel reduces cars, improving air quality and health. Air pollution causes many deaths. Sustainable travel makes communities healthier.

• Economy: Sustainable travel helps local economies. Research shows investing in public transport creates more jobs than roads. Pedestrian-friendly areas attract people and boost businesses.

• Equality and access: Focusing on pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport helps everyone. Good transport helps low-income people find jobs.

It's time to rethink free parking and embrace sustainable travel. Recognize the downsides of free parking and work towards a greener, healthier, and fairer future. By supporting sustainable transportation, infrastructure, and mobility, we can create vibrant, inclusive, and eco-friendly cities.

Mr Lambrinou is a consultant in transport and mobility.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  traffic  |  US  |  parking  |  cars

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