Why America Has So Many Empty Parking Spaces

iStock
iStock

When you’re driving around looking for a spot to park on tight downtown streets, you’re probably not cursing city planners for mandating too much parking space. (You’re probably thinking the opposite.) But while some areas, depending on the time of day, are inundated with more cars than spaces, for the most part Americans lead lives of parking privilege, surrounded by empty spaces they don’t need to use. By one estimate, there are eight parking spots for every car in the U.S. (Others say it's more like three, which is still a lot considering that number doesn't take into account home parking.)

Why does the U.S. have so much extra parking? A new video explainer from Vox (spotted by Arch Daily) has the answer. It’s because laws mandate it.

In the video, Will Chilton and Paul Mackie of the transportation research initiative Mobility Lab explain the rise of the parking meter, which was invented in the 1930s, and the regulations that soon followed, called mandatory parking minimums. These city laws require that those building an apartment complex or shopping center or store have to provide a minimum number of spaces in off-street parking for customers to use. The cost of providing this service is carried by building developers—giving the city a free way to get new parking without having to manage their street parking situation closely. Go to any suburb in America, and the parking lots you leave your car in are probably the result of these parking minimum rules.

The ease of parking in America isn’t a good thing—though it may feel like it when you slide into an open spot right in front of the grocery store. Experts have been calling for an end to zoning laws like these for years, arguing that excess parking encourages unnecessary driving (why take the bus or carpool if it’s easy to drive yourself and park for free?) while simultaneously making it harder to walk around a city, since parking takes up a ton of land that’s difficult to traverse on foot, interrupting the urban fabric.

These parking minimum regulations take very specific forms by building type, including number of spaces required per hole at a golf course, per gallons of water in a public pool, and per beds in a nursing home. Before you cheer for free, plentiful parking, let the experts at Vox explain just why this is a problem for cities:

[h/t Arch Daily]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The Federal Government Is Organizing a Task Force to Examine UFO Sightings—Because Aliens

No word yet on whether Amy Adams will be a member of the task force.
No word yet on whether Amy Adams will be a member of the task force.
maxime raynal, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Earlier this year, the Pentagon released three videos that show unidentified flying objects—yes, UFOs—spotted by military aircraft near U.S. coastlines. Though they’re officially calling them “Unmanned Aerial Systems” (UAS), which essentially translates to drones, the message is clear: nobody knows what they are or where they came from.

This week, two unnamed officials in the U.S. Department of Defense told CNN that the Pentagon is organizing a task force to get to the bottom of the mystery (and other similar sightings). All we know so far is that Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist will be one of its leaders, and the Pentagon is supposed to officially reveal the new organization sometime in the next few days.

Hazard reports for the three sightings disclosed that two of the UAS were white, and they were all visually similar to drones. One of the reasons it’s so important to investigate them is that the random appearance of an unpredictable aircraft poses a threat to U.S. military personnel.

“I feel it may only be a matter of time before one of our F/A-18 aircraft has a mid-air collision with an unidentified UAS,” one official explained in the report.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of national security; naturally, the Department of Defense wants to know if other countries are developing new surveillance technology or even weaponry that’s hovering over U.S. soil.

And, finally, everybody wants to know if aliens have finally landed on Earth. This is far from the government’s first endeavor to find out. In 2007, the Pentagon launched its most recent classified program (that we know of) to study UFO activity, which ran until 2012. The details of their investigation are still under wraps, but program head Luis Elizondo told CNN in 2017 that they “found a lot.”

“My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone,” he said.

While you’re waiting for the Pentagon to debut its shiny new task force, amuse yourself with 12 wild UFO stories from history.

[h/t CNN]