…and put up a parking lot. How many of us recognize those song lyrics from “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell? I remember singing along with this on the radio when I was a kid, not fully understanding the implications of numerous parking spaces sprouting up in my hometown. In 1981, I moved to Frederick to attend Hood College, and it seemed as if I’d moved backward in time to some extent. But a mere 32 years later, Frederick and our surrounding towns have “caught up” to Baltimore County where I grew up. Whether or not this is a good thing…well, that’s a matter of opinion!
Did you know that our cars are parked 95% of the time? I find this amazing, that something I pay so dearly for and depend on so desperately gets used only 5% of the time! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 16.5% of their take-home income on transportation. People earning salaries in the exact middle range spend more, about 18%, than those in the uppermost range of income, who spend about 16%.
Why is this important? Because most of us spend nearly one-fifth of our take-home pay on something that sits unused most of the time, in our driveways or garages, or in a parking spot in a lot, garage, or deck somewhere. The average cost to build ONE parking spot is….any guesses? A surprising $15,000-$20,000 is spent to provide one parking spot! What’s even more shocking is that in the U.S., there are 4.5 parking spots for every man, woman, and child who live here. And this doesn’t include our driveways, garages, and on-street non-metered parking.
So why should most people care about an abundance of parking spaces?!? Because there are 1.3 cars in existence for every American….isn’t it rather absurd that our cars outnumber US?!! And by the year 2020, only seven years from now, two BILLION cars will exist in this great Country. We are a car-centric Nation, and we’ve become such in a very short amount of time. Our environment is suffering the consequences, as is our well-being as we sit in our cars on long commutes and don’t have time to exercise, or play with our kids, or read a good book. In order to be healthier and happier, we really should consider whether or not we need our own 1.3 cars or we can share rides or use public transportation at least some of the time.
Every time we “progress” as a community and add places for people to work, shop, and live, we are also adding parking spaces to our landscape, for use and temporary storage of an item that costs us so much to purchase, fuel and maintain, yet sits idle 95% of the time!
Something to think about next time you hear Joni Mitchell, the Neighborhood or The Counting Crows sing those iconic lyrics.