Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World

Penguin Pr. May 2023. 368p. ISBN 9781984881137. $30. SOC SCI
Grabar, the urban affairs columnist at Slate, traveled to various cities and conducted interviews to investigate why parking spaces are so important to Americans. He found that a billion parking spaces don’t seem sufficient, yet most lots are underused. Some road rage parking disputes have resulted in assaults and murders. Case studies include a San Diego area developer who proposed low-income housing, but parking regulations and a lawsuit from neighbors defeated the project. Generous space requirements for vehicles were a factor in U.S. architecture throughout the late 20th century. Sketches illustrate the sort of mass constructions for large car lots or garages, and recent designs give priority to living space. As a cash business, parking revenue was vulnerable to skimming by corrupt officials and organized crime. Around the year 2000, urban planners realized too much cheap parking was bad for cities and the environment. Curb lanes were converted to transit, bike lanes, or mini-parks; detached garages became tiny houses. Then pandemic lockdowns cleared the streets, transforming parking infrastructure into vaccination clinics, hospital waiting rooms, and café patios.
VERDICT Grabar offers an intriguing, wide-ranging, readable perspective of the urban American parking scene, its issues, and possible future.
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