The American car society doesn't seem to be slowing down because of the high cost of gas.
I still have the same count of SUVs behind me. The latest driver in my rear view mirror was small in appearance with cell phone in hand, pressuring me, within inches of my rear license plate.
Sometimes I feel that I should turn the rear view mirror away, but I'm still conscious of the continuous pressure.
This is only one perspective of our car society and of the car in movement, specifically on Lake Drive, but there is another perspective, parking and sculptured space that may slow dow traffic on Silver Spring and on Oakland Avenue.
Parking areas make it a lot easier for storing the car aside for awhile after arriving at our destination. I also notice that people are more courteous as soon as they step out of the car than when they're behind the wheel. This is the social aspect of people in clusters. For this posting, I'd like to talk about sculpturing space and parking.
Depending on the layout, we could park about 135 cars per acre. A four layered parking structure, because of its ramps might accommodate about 400 cars on one acre, about 100 cars per acre-level.
Today almost every active adult who can plunk down a hundred bucks is driving a car for that month. Driving is not the problem. Although the cost of gasoline may be. Parking is the bigger problem.
Most cars are in use on average less than 3 hours a day and we usually find ways of keeping them moving, whether at 75 miles per hour or at crawling speed. The urban problem is the parking of these vehicles for 21 hours a day, so that we can get out of the car and do what we need to for the time we're not in the car.
If we build a condominium with only 22 units, for proper accommodation, we need parking for at least 44 spaces, about half an acre, even though the zoning may not call for that many. Wouldn't it also be nice to have half an acre of open space as well?
Besides parked cars and parking structures do not make good “pinging points.” So we have to hide parking and keep it out of the way as much as possible. An interesting design problem.
At UWM, I designed parking spaces under the dormitories and put about 500 cars under the main concourse, at the center of the campus.
The roof of the underground parking became the main concourse, the social center of of the campus, accommodating students and providing access between library and student union and from here, at the center, to the rest of the campus. Parking structures create open space in many situations.
Therefore, parking structures in Shorewood could be combined with public space, but in other unique ways. Some parking structures in downtown Milwaukee provide for plantings on the side as well as on the roof, and on regular planted areas as well. The green movement may encourage planting on the roofs of parking structures and on condo buildings. (See Time, Nov.19, 07, p. 64, “city buildings are becoming the greenest.” )
In the renewal of our business area in Shorewood, what we are short of and what we need is parking and open space and we can through appropriate design combine the two and provide interestingly designed spaces. Even condo buildings could be so designed as to have planting balconies and green roof tops.
Each urban parking space in communities like Shorewood is expected to cost about as much as the average SUV. And who is to bear the cost, the driver, the condo owner or the community? “It all depends.” Perhaps all three.
Let's use the pressure of the SUV at our rear view mirror to move us toward fulfilling the need for parking and toward finding unique ways of inserting open space, even “ping spaces*” into our redevelopment projects.
Let's use the streets, parking and new buildings as combined elements and opportunities for creating the feeling of place, actually creating public space, as well as for improving the tax base.