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10 Percent Of The Phoenix Area Is Parking Lots

MARK BRODIE: We have all done it. Driving in circles over and over to find the perfect parking spot. Sometimes it seems like there aren't enough spaces to go around, but when we recently spoke with Christopher Hoehne — he's a graduate researcher and use engineering program — he had news for us. Turns out a full 10 percent of the city of Phoenix is parking lots. Here's Hoehne.

CHRISTOPHER HOEHNE: There have been a number of studies that have quantified parking across cities, and a lot of the time just look at total pavement coverage. So, not just parking, but also sidewalks and roads. And actually, I think many people would be surprised to hear that sometimes it can be as high as like 40 to 60 percent in some cases. You look at San Francisco, they don't even have enough parking. So, it can be an issue that goes both ways, even.

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Hoehne he added up all the many, many parking spots inside Phoenix, which was no small feat. He's actually the first here to comprehensively tally the spaces. He derived the numbers from estimates of city code — but it's not an exact science here.

HOEHNE: So, space is, you know, nine by 18 feet. And then there's the space you need to access a parking space based on the property type. You know, if it's a church, if it's a conference center, if it's just a single-family home, it requires so much space based on usually the square footage.

BRODIE: All right. So, now maybe you're wondering, why on earth is this man counting parking spaces? Well, he says cities haven't done a good job of planning their parking beyond the worst case scenario. That's why, he says, the big box store has enough spaces for a massive Black Friday crowd — even though that only happens once a year.

HOEHNE: But a lot of the times when you go on an off-peak day — like I was just at Costco yesterday — there was nobody there. You know, the parking lots one-third full. How to fix it? Well, first, cities need to quantify how much parking they have. So, without knowing how much supply they have, and sometimes not also knowing the demand, there's really — it's sort of like we're flying blind.

GOLDSTEIN: He says it's time for cities to stop ignoring the massive amount of hardscape they add with every new building. But what about the other side of this coin? In the ever-expanding Valley that is extremely car-centric, is more parking really a bad thing?

HOEHNE: Yeah, I mean it's an argument that we should always be having. I mean, I think there are trade-offs that we need to be cognizant of. We all want Phoenix to grow. But I think from our perspective, you know, researching sort of sustainable ways to accomplish this growth, building where parking may not be the answer. And I think we're trying to start to argue that that's not going to be the answer.

BRODIE: Hoehne's research appears in the journal Cities. You can read it — if you'd like to park yourself in front of it.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.