Monday, September 17, 2007

Filling In The Spaces

From time to time, I like to keep up with the studies going on at universities and within the scientific community. I feel it is my civic duty to ensure that tax revenues and government grants are spent wisely.

Imagine my shock when I read that Bernard Engel, a professor at Purdue has produced a study showing that the country has too many parking spaces. My first thought was "sure, when's the last time you went shopping?" but I decided to read further, my interest piqued by his claim that parking spaces outnumbered drivers 3 to 1.

Naturally, his two extra parking spaces are out in the Midwest, where they just naturally have a greater expanse of land on which to lay asphalt. But it was this reasoning that really had me scratching my chin.

“The problem with parking lots is that they accumulate a lot of pollutants - oil, grease, heavy metals and sediment - that cannot be absorbed by the impervious surface,” Engel said. “Rain then flushes these contaminants into rivers and lakes.”

If only one in three parking spaces is occupied by a car, then I can't see how having a larger parking lot contributes more pollutants. The only oil, engine grease and other nasty chemical solutions that will leak onto that parking lot will come from that one car, not from the two empty spaces beside it.

Here where I live, I can guarantee you there are not too many parking spaces, in fact, every parking lot is designed to have at least 20 fewer parking spaces than the actual expected number of customers per day. This is to give the impression that this is a very popular place to shop, and it is well worth driving around the lot a few dozen times, following people leaving the stores to their parking spaces so that you too, can shop here.

And all the time these cars are driving around, they are spewing more pollutants into the air and possibly posing a mortal danger to the occupants of the car that just beat me to that space I had my eye on. Well, maybe I wouldn't really run them down.

Maybe they have extra spaces in Tippecanoe county because they are expecting a lot of cars to drive in from other states, having heard how nice and spacious the parking lots are.

Engel's point I guess is that this land space could be used for something else, but he doesn't say exactly what. Few people want to build their houses in the parking lot of the mall.

Honestly, if it wasn't for the thrill of victory when after circling the lot for 20 minutes I find the perfect space just two away from the front of the store, I wouldn't even go shopping, I would just order everything online. But there's something very satisfying about pulling in just ahead of that sleek, shiny new sportscar and taking the space they just zoomed over from the next aisle for. Finding a parking space is an activity that requires concentration, strategy, nerves of steel and lightning reflexes.

Plus, it's kind of fun.



glenniah said...

I quite understand how shokced you must have been to realize your mistake, your eyes were telling you the wrong thing. The problem isnt not enough parking spaces, its too many. Is this professor 'Purdue' Pollyanna perchance. Speaking about engine grease and such, are you aware that women's beauty products particularly hair shampoo and cream are made from the same products which purport to strip grease from the ground. Just thought I'd mention it, is all :0)

Janus Torrell said...

It seems the professor is looking at the parking space in front of his classroom and finding a few spaces.

I kind of like having more parking spots so I can actually park my car.

When it is Christmas and I have to be dropped out at the door while someone else drives in circles and picks me up because of lack of spaces, I certainly prefer to have more.

I always wonder how they do these studies, does the professor and the grad students drive around the country and count parking spaces. What time of day and year do they do it? That sort of thing.

Andrea said...


At least that means my hair won't be filled with pollution and grease residue, but I will have to watch the runoff and make sure I don't wash my hair near bodies of fresh water.

Andrea said...

It seems it's one spot, Tippecanoe County that has this plethora of parking spaces and unless I want to drive a couple thousand miles directly west, I will probably drive a few dozen at Christmas to do my shopping.