Is too much parking a problem for Scottsdale?

Take the #BlackFridayParking Challenge to find out

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Black Friday will be here soon. And if you expect to see parking lots overflowing with cars and crowds of (hopefully) festive shoppers, get ready for a surprise.

The sad truth is parking lots across America sit mostly empty even during the consumerism frenzy that is Black Friday. The culprit? Mandated parking minimums.

The average person may not be aware of local laws requiring private property owners to maintain huge numbers of off-street parking spaces. And they probably also aren’t aware of the many ways these laws and their outcomes harm communities.

Black Friday is the perfect chance to get aware.

If we have too much parking on the busiest shopping day of the year, what does that say about the other 364 days? When you realize how unnecessary all this parking is, how can you not get aggravated?

Chances are, your own community has mandatory parking minimums. Whether you’re opening a clothing store or building a duplex, your city’s zoning code likely has a “parking minimum” that mandates, say, 1 space per 300 square feet of retail or other arbitrary parameters that aren’t based on real demand.

Meanwhile, you’ve likely seen shopping districts with far less parking (think walkable downtown areas with cool shops and restaurants) successfully manage shopping crowds and stay financially productive.

It can be done --- without creating paved-over dead zones of empty space that could surely be used to make a community stronger and better.

#BlackFridayParking is a nationwide event, hosted by StrongTowns.org, that’s meant to draw attention to the economic harm caused by minimum parking requirements.

Each Black Friday, participants post photos of dramatically under-used retail parking lots.

The last thing most cities need is more parking lots. They are the least valuable use of urban land, a city’s most precious and scarce resource. They promote car travel rather than walkability and produce little-to-no financial value.

Plus, parking lots are expensive. A typical parking space costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to construct, and all that asphalt must be maintained, too. The fiscal costs are staggering --- and they don’t even take into account the opportunity costs, the “what might have been” factor.

Excited to participate in the Strong Towns #BlackFridayParking Challenge?

Here’s how:

  • Step 1: On Friday, Nov. 29, head out to a local shopping area (you were probably going to do that anyway!) and snap photos of the underused, largely empty parking lots in your town. Be creative!
  • Step 2: Upload your photos to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #BlackFridayParking.
  • Step 3: Include a note about how that parking lot could be put to better use in your community. (Housing? Offices? Park? You decide!) It’s also helpful if you note the location of the parking lot and estimate how full it is.
  • Step 4: Check out other people’s photos from across the country.

It’s that simple. Snapping and sharing your #BlackFridayParking photos fuels the movement to convince cities to quit paving over America and find better uses for their land.

We want communities to take a deeper look at how parking minimums really affect them. The #BlackFridayParking Challenge is a great way to get the conversation started in your town.

Editor’s Note: Charles L. “Chuck” Marohn, Jr., is the founder and president of Strong Towns.

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