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Park(ing) Day NYC
September 17, 2009 7:08 AM   Subscribe

Park(ing) Day NYC is a one day event of taking over automobile parking spots throughout NYC and converting them into miniature parks, bicycle parking, art installations and performance areas. "These small, temporary public spaces provide a breath of relief from the auto-clogged reality of New York City, and aim to spark dialogue about our valuable public space and how we choose to use it." Plan your day with this map of Park(ing) locations and schedule of events.
posted by cristinacristinacristina (108 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not just NYC, it's all over the world.
posted by octothorpe at 7:17 AM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Reducing the availability of already rare parking spots will relieve the auto-cloggedness of the city?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:22 AM on September 17, 2009 [11 favorites]


This seems designed solely to further heighten the tensions already present between cyclists and motorists. I can't see any positive outcomes other than someone maybe getting laid by that hot punk art school dropout bike messenger they've been crushing on. (nod to IRFH here)

For the rest of straight society, the deprivation of parking spaces will only piss them off and make them hate cyclists all the more.

Other than that, though, nice concept.
posted by Danf at 7:25 AM on September 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


Anybody fucks with my parking spot I am driving right through their 'art installation'. And I have a bike and ride it.
posted by spicynuts at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Damn hipsters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:30 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Let’s rock peoples’ minds and inspire them to re-envision their streets!"

This will inspire motorists to change their ways in the same way that Critical Mass inspires them to ride bicycles... by infuriating them!


expletive hipsters
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:31 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Will there be sofas? Because I always think it's cool when someone takes over a parking space for a sofa. (They are comfy, and sitting outside on sofas is strangely weird. Have you ever sat outside on a sofa? There's a strange sort of feeling that you're doing something wrong, because if it rains it might get messed up.)
posted by ocherdraco at 7:36 AM on September 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


Good luck with that. /non-car-owning Villager
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:37 AM on September 17, 2009


This isn't exactly a underground anarchist thing, you have to get a permit from the city to participate and in my city (and I'm assuming others) the mayor and city government are out there too and most of the spaces are set up by local corporations and arts institutions.
posted by octothorpe at 7:38 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reducing the availability of already rare parking spots will relieve the auto-cloggedness of the city?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:22 AM on September 17


In general, increasing the number of available lanes only serves to increase the total amount of traffic. Some good reading material here.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:39 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


You cannot win people over by infuriating them. Everything does not have to be "us vs. them." I left a liberal activist group because of this mentality.
posted by desjardins at 7:40 AM on September 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Park(ing) Day NYC is a one day event of taking over automobile parking spots throughout NYC

In Chicago they do this all winter long.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:43 AM on September 17, 2009


There's parking in NYC??!?!?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:46 AM on September 17, 2009


Will there be sofas? Because I always think it's cool when someone takes over a parking space for a sofa. (They are comfy, and sitting outside on sofas is strangely weird. Have you ever sat outside on a sofa? There's a strange sort of feeling that you're doing something wrong, because if it rains it might get messed up.)

grass sofas are good sitting spaces, provided you water them enough and don't mind a wet butt.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:48 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


burnmp3s, your link led me to discover the best word: impedimenta. Thanks
posted by soelo at 7:50 AM on September 17, 2009


Some years ago, a proposal to BAN cars from a large part of mid-town NYC.
trucks (delivery), taxis, buses and emergency vehicles ok...all others not.
Very sensible since so many drive cars into the heart of the city from the burbs and clog the streets. Want to be in midtown? walk, taxi, bus...much less fumes, confusion, noise, traffic.
posted by Postroad at 8:00 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hopefully, this will go over better then that time they let people drive their cars on the subway tracks.

RAIL DAY '06, NEVAR FORGET!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:05 AM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Nobody cares about winning over drivers. That is not the point of this.

The amount of space devoted to parking and driving in the city is HUGE when you consider the actual number of drivers vs. the number of pedestrians. It's a huge flaw in city design that most major European cities managed to avoid.

The new Gansevoort Plaza is a great example of successfully reclaiming wasted "driving" space. This is probably going to start happening all over -- the sooner you get used to it, the sooner you can start enjoying the city as a human being the way everyone else does.
posted by hermitosis at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Department of Sanitation has Park(ing) Half Day in most neighborhoods at least twice a week.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:07 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and Postroad, that's still at least going to be the case in Times Square, which is set to become a huge outdoor pedestrian area.
posted by hermitosis at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2009


"you can start enjoying the city "

Yeah, not so much. Thanks, though.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:08 AM on September 17, 2009


My two destinations tomorrow have no sufficiently near parking locations. (West End & 75th and John st & B'way) so I guess I'll miss this event (though I'll be travelling by bike.)

Though I don't see this event as preaching to anyone but the choir, sometimes you have to preach to the choir so that they feel less alienated. A side effect of making bikers feel outside the community is increased lawless biking.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:10 AM on September 17, 2009


How about we put all this great energy into creating a Habitat for Humanity:Light Rail edition across this country. With all the great technology available today I think we can create mass transit that is predictable, convenient and reliable. I hate driving and would love to live in a country where the majority of us took mass transit, maybe then we can get our news from each other instead of the propaganda that is cable news. Oh yeah, one more thing: fuck you Robert Moses.
posted by any major dude at 8:10 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reducing the availability of already rare parking spots will relieve the auto-cloggedness of the city?

Assuredly. Remove all of the parking spots, and I guarantee you'll have practically no traffic at all.

It's a classic problem: when the only toolmode of transportation you have is a hammerautomobile, everything starts looking like a naildrivable locale.

While it's true that it doesn't always have to be "us versus them," there's an awful lot of selfish, lazy drivers that make drivers as a whole look like a pretty monolithic "them."
posted by explosion at 8:11 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, not so much. Thanks, though.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:08 AM


is this "walking sucks" or "new york sucks" you have to be specific so i can record it in my journal
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Reducing the availability of already rare parking spots will relieve the auto-cloggedness of the city?

No, not if it's just for one day. If you permanently reduced the availability of parking spots, however, fewer cars would be driven downtown.
posted by pracowity at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2009


I think these events are mostly used to try and make impressions on city leaders -- you can show them sketches and designs of what new plazas and promenades would look like, but it doesn't have the same effect as being able to invite them down to actually stroll through an area that has been reclaimed for people. They get to see citizens actually using and enjoying the space. And yeah, less parking spaces, but also less congestion and fewer auto-related deaths.
posted by hermitosis at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2009


If they want to keep cars out of the city, why don't they just go to New Jersey and Queens and start slashing tires?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2009


Danf: "This seems designed solely to further heighten the tensions already present between cyclists and motorists."

I agree with this, and feel like this kind of thing is emblematic of cyclists in NYC in general.

THAT SAID, there is an extremely strong case to be made for the need for adequate bike accomodations in the city, and there is obviously an extremely strong case for lessening petroleum dependence everywhere.

the problem is twofold: cyclists aren't successfully appealing to the people who can affect the change they need. (note: "appealing" used here to mean "making their case," not to mean "likable.") additionally, the people who can affect change (and the automotive public in general) are almost totally, and perhaps intentionally, deaf to the needs not only of cyclists but the general welfare of the public both economically and ecologically.

that there isn't already a considerable and successful movement underway to bring better, more widely available and more thoroughly pervasive public transportation to every metropolitan area in the country (and the suburban areas too, as a start) is a systemic problem, caused by intense corruption at the administrative level and utter apathy at the popular level. that the cyclists have decided to affect change through irritation is their problem, and any cyclists who support this kind of thing should be aware of why the tension it fosters exists.

but what can they do? at times it seems to me like the only thing that CAN create real change is something so dramatic no one would want it to happen, anyway: like a rash of cyclists being killed by motorists or something horrible like that. other than that, it seems like you almost HAVE to annoy the shit out of drivers just to make it their problem so they'll help you do something about it.

so there you have it: the problem as shmegegge perceives it. the solution? no fucking clue.
posted by shmegegge at 8:18 AM on September 17, 2009


OK, in all seriousness, Janette Sadik-Khan, the current Transportation Commissioner, is behind the Gansevoort Plaza business, the Times Square stuff and is an all-around pretty interesting person. It sounds like she's been actively supporting city biking groups and Bike to Work Day, and I'd love to know what her involvement in this has been, if any.

No, not if it's just for one day. If you permanently reduced the availability of parking spots, however, fewer cars would be driven downtown.
Well, maybe. First, there would be the same number, but people would leave earlier, drive longer, and arrive angrier -- not just commuters, but deliveries of freight, which would have a pretty significant impact on the city's consumer economy. I'm not saying it's a bad idea -- I supported the late lamented congestion pricing, for example -- but let's make sure to surface the drawbacks.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:18 AM on September 17, 2009


note: I was a hair's breadth away from posting a kneejerk "FUCK THOSE CYCLIST ASSHOLES STEALING OUR ALREADY INSUFFICIENT PARKING GRAR GRAR" comment when I stepped back and took a breath. I don't even own a car. I ride subways everywhere. I hope what I eventually posted instead is more constructive, and I'd like to mention that this issue is bizarrely emotional for people as evidenced by my first reaction.
posted by shmegegge at 8:20 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised by the anti-cyclist outrage in here - i thought we all worked this out of our systems last week in the Toronto threads. I ask those that are getting worked up over this one-day, city supported event to look a little closer as to how it's applied - its a reclaiming street space event. It's meant for pedestrians, cyclists off of their bikes, or drivers out of their cars.
posted by stachemaster at 8:33 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


For those eager to pin this on militant cyclists, you should know that the push for re-evaluation of urban space is coming from pedestrians and local businesses too, possibly in greater amounts than cyclists. People *gasp* want to be able to enjoy the neighborhoods they live and work in, and feel safe in them.

That's what cab drivers, as well as people who drive in from CT and NJ and LI don't really think about as they circle and honk and barrel through sidestreets. They are in someone else's neighborhood. If people treated THEIR neighborhood this way, they'd be looking for solutions too.
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 AM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


While I understand New York isn't as bike friendly as it could -or even should- be, I feel like more effort is done to accommodate bikers than anywhere else I've lived (Arizona, Louisiana). I mean, there are at least some bike lanes. Most residential areas I lived in at Arizona had no sidewalks (hello, driver culture), not to mention bike lanes. And good luck finding a bike lane in Louisiana. To me, the NYC problem seems to be less an issue of biker's rights and more an issue of congestion. Bikers certainly seem to have more rights here than I'm used to, but those rights just don't seem enough to make it as safe to ride as it is in other cities where those rights are less explicit.

But yeah, all the free parking in the city (lower to mid-manhattan) has to go, unless you actually live in that neighborhood. There are far too many people driving around here when the public transportation system is so good.
posted by scrutiny at 8:45 AM on September 17, 2009


NYC is not the center of the universe - Park(ing) day isn't a NYC-only event, but rather something going on at dozens of cities all over the planet. I'll be stuck at work during my city's parks' lives, but I'll be damn sad for missing them.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:51 AM on September 17, 2009


Transportation Alternatives has this map called CrashStat on their site, which shows the locations of every bike and pedestrian fatality since 1995. If you select for fatalities only and then zoom in to look at actual streets, it is simply amazing to see how many pedestrians have been killed. So many more than bicyclists.
posted by hermitosis at 8:52 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm surprised by the bicycle derail, as well. Because this event isn't about cycling, it's about taking little spaces and making them into temporary art exhibits, parks, info booths, etc. Cars will still be on the street. This isn't like the event where they close a street from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has nothing to do with cyclists or hipsters and everything to do with the allocation of space in NYC. In a few years of checking out Parking Day NYC, I've never seen or even heard of a confrontation with a motorist.
posted by entropone at 9:00 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, I just got off the phone with a mechanic who presented me with a $700 bill so that I can have the privilege of moving my car into the District of Columbia, so you're getting me at my anti-car peak.

That said, I find events like this deeply unappealing precisely because they're not really about traffic, they're about art. Poor urban design is a problem, it's even an aesthetic problem, but that doesn't mean the solution is art; the solution is better designed public transit systems, roads, and public spaces. If you want to take away my parking space because you've got a better designed, more aesthetic appealing permanent alternative use for the space, fine go ahead. If you want to take away my parking space so you and your hipster friends can do some bullshit, different story.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:03 AM on September 17, 2009


People *gasp* want to be able to enjoy the neighborhoods they live and work in...
....you can start enjoying the city as a human being the way everyone else does.


The condescension detracts from your arguments.
posted by cribcage at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2009


Um, if it became permanent, that's not what would go there. I think everyone who walks through and sees it knows that.
posted by hermitosis at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2009


Wow lots of rage towards cyclists in this thread, that's a shocker. While some of the spots are about bicycles and bicycle parking or lanes, there is also Shakespeare in the parking spot, Idea swap from Idealist.org, Democrats, Seniors, Green building, Wishing trees, etc. It's less about bikes vs. cars and more about temporarily taking over a space to propose an alternative to what it could be used for other than a car sitting still.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember reading in Jane Jacobs about how during the mid-1900s New York progressively widened roads in the city. Sidewalk space was taken over and given to car use, depriving the pedestrian and street-user of that space. She specifically mentioned the width of sidewalks in some areas, and considered a certain width "necessary" for street life.

So, yeah, if your parking on a city street in New York, aren't you likely to be parking on what used to be the sidewalk anyway?
posted by Sova at 9:08 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


the sooner you get used to it, the sooner you can start enjoying the city as a human being the way everyone else does.


I enjoy the city the way most humans in new York do- by staring at the inky blackness through the subway window on my way to work and back each day,
posted by freshundz at 9:11 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sidewalk space was taken over and given to car use, depriving the pedestrian and street-user of that space.

You can mostly thank Robert Moses for that. He also tried to build a huge expressway through what is now SoHo.
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 AM on September 17, 2009


I always wondered if it was legal or ethical to park bicycles in automobile parking spots, assuming a) no other legal bike parking and b)suitable locking for bicycles in said spot. Since those two conditions don't generally exist, it's more of a thought experiment. I get that it's not nice to take up space that an auto can park in if space exists that a bicycle but not a car can park in. But if there's one space for the two of us, and I'm there first on a bike--why shouldn't I be allowed to park my vehicle there?

More on topic, this seems well-intentioned but not terribly useful. Yes, art can be like that but art is not usually so damned inconvenient.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:14 AM on September 17, 2009


I think the best thing this can do is draw attention to exactly how much of our "public space" is given over to cars. I live on a residential street in San Francisco that, sadly, is also a one way street (which means in the evening it is a freeway in some ways). The "public space" along this road (that is, not actual buildings which are private, but roads and sidewalks) is the following:

* Two lanes of through vehicle travel lanes (one is 1.5 times wider than a standard lane so that passing is possible if you're riding a bicycle).
* Parallel parking on both sides.
* Sidewalks and grass that, generously, are as wide as a car (they aren't remotely this wide all along the street, but let's be generous as it also makes the math easier).

So we have, effectively 6.5 car widths of public space along this road. 2 are entirely given over to cars in the name of parking. 2.5 of them are also given over to vehicles -- effectively solely cars and trucks because bikes are pretty rare on this street (it's very scary to bike on it, though I do, because 1/10 or so cars will pass you too closely at 40mph). And obviously kids don't play in the street here. Then we have, very generously, two car widths of "pedestrian" space.

So seventy percent (70%!) of the public space along my *residential* street is given over to cars. The percentages aren't probably much different in most of the city (except downtown where there is less parking and the sidewalks are wider). Yes, there are public parks that are mostly not given over to cars -- and we have some nice ones -- but clearly a majority of "public space" in San Francisco is given over to cars. Probably a steep majority.

So this "Park(ing) Day" thing is just to draw attention to how car-centric our public land use allocation actually is by putting something that *isn't* a car in the space normally given to it.
posted by R343L at 9:15 AM on September 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


I actually sort of disagree with Bulgaroktonos' point, although in fairness I'm not the one dealing with moving the car since it's not listed in my name so my perspective is a little different.

I was all set to hate this and think it was stupid and ridiculous, but it actually kind of seems like fun. I think that's what makes it worthwhile for me, is the idea that it becomes like a little party. You can hang out and meet your neighbors and sit around and chat and I think it could be done in such a way as to be really pleasant and enjoyable.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:18 AM on September 17, 2009


Sidewalk space was taken over and given to car use, depriving the pedestrian and street-user of that space.

I noticed in some streets in my city that lately they've been extending the sidewalks out one car width just at the intersections so that you can't used the parking lanes to drive in and the pedestrians don't have to sprint across four lanes of traffic before the light changes. Seems like a decent compromise.
posted by octothorpe at 9:20 AM on September 17, 2009


Wait, what's wrong with cabs? If anything, the widespread presence of taxicabs is vital to a system that allows so many New Yorkers to live without owning a car. And it's not like they spend a lot of time parking.
posted by lalex at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2009


Witty condemnation of the co-option of parking spaces by idealistic, naive young people. Declaration that this will lead to grief somehow. Affirmation of own bicycle ownership, implying that said young people do not represent the interests of all forward-thinking, progressive and community-minded persons.
posted by killdevil at 9:30 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I noticed in some streets in my city that lately they've been extending the sidewalks out one car width just at the intersections so that you can't used the parking lanes to drive in and the pedestrians don't have to sprint across four lanes of traffic before the light changes. Seems like a decent compromise.

I think bump-outs as a compromise miss the point. Sure, it is nice to make it a little safer for pedestrians to cross the street, but bump-outs don't reclaim any significant amount of public space for pedestrians. In fact, they just reinforce the mentality that the lion's share of space belongs to cars, so we have to create some special accommodations to make it safer for pedestrians to cross that space. Bumps-outs are just a band aid covering up the problem of too many cars taking up too much public space and not a real compromise.
posted by ssg at 9:36 AM on September 17, 2009


Nobody cares about winning over drivers. That is not the point of this.

That's the problem with this.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:38 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use? I'm trying to think of what the logistics of that would be in a residential area, and they're fairly nightmarish. Years of construction while they build new sidewalks? It's the only way to convert the space in a legitimate way, at least that I can think of. I'm curious if this something that has actually been done on a large scale anywhere.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:42 AM on September 17, 2009


I was all set to hate this and think it was stupid and ridiculous, but it actually kind of seems like fun.


same here.

There are not many good ways of cluing the public in on urban planning and sidewalk widths, it’s just not a sexy topic. I think most of us take the city as our environment, and our environment is static – it is the way it is, it only changes when *some* city planner *somewhere* decides to repave. Everyone can be engaged with the places we live, and it seems like a sort-of art festival is a great way to do it.
posted by Think_Long at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
posted by Think_Long at 9:46 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

This was sort of done in downtown Houston, although it only covers three blocks (and light rail runs through).
posted by Burhanistan at 9:46 AM on September 17, 2009


Wait, what's wrong with cabs?

Nothing's wrong with them. There just need to be limitations imposed on the spaces they're driving in.

The Gansevoort Plaza I linked to upstairs is an example of this. Before, that intersection was a free-for-all. Cabs entering and exiting from all over, wide unmarked lanes, and a wide area that pedestrians basically had to cross at their own risk.

In the new area, traffic thoroughfare is limited but much more efficient, and there are cab stands on certain corners to make the process of getting into a taxi a little less hectic.

If you design a space for both drivers and pedestrians so that it's instinctively navigable for both, everyone wins.
posted by hermitosis at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2009


"is this 'walking sucks' or 'new york sucks' you have to be specific so i can record it in my journal"

No, just a generic "cities suck". You can put your pen down.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:49 AM on September 17, 2009


Is it time for Park Like a Pirate Day already?
posted by ericbop at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2009


No, just a generic "cities suck". You can put your pen down.

How can you seriously be comfortable making such a broad declaration? That's like saying, "the outdoors sucks," or something else ridiculously broad.

A New York-style city is different from an LA-style city, which is different from Phoenix-style sprawls, which are all in turn different from university-centered large-college-town cities.

Or do you just hate the notion of a critical mass of people that facilitates civic life?
posted by explosion at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

Well not permanent but it was tried in one neighborhood business district in Pittsburgh starting in the '60s but was reverted about twenty years later after most of the businesses in the area had collapsed. Agree with them or not, Americans like driving places.
posted by octothorpe at 10:00 AM on September 17, 2009


Now that I think about it - you're right, explosion, it's not cities I hate, it's people.

Present company excepted, of course.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:01 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


How can you seriously be comfortable making such a broad declaration?

dude, this is metafilter. We ALL make broad declarations. EVERY ONE OF US.
posted by Think_Long at 10:01 AM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


How can you seriously be comfortable making such a broad declaration?

He lives in Utah.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2009


Oh, cool like hermitosis; I hadn't seen that.

what a great improvement. that intersection was terrifying and it did not help that I was usually trying to cross the cobblestones in heels after a couple of drinks
posted by lalex at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2009


uh, cool link
posted by lalex at 10:04 AM on September 17, 2009


Semi-related but 100% hilarious: even teabaggers think public mass transit infrastructure is important.
posted by lalex at 10:10 AM on September 17, 2009


No, just a generic "cities suck". You can put your pen down.

Now that I think about it - you're right, explosion, it's not cities I hate, it's people.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey


Good point. The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:17 AM on September 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd like to see cities give all of the residents of a street (not building owners, who may live elsewhere) decide whether and where people can park on their street and how much to charge for the privilege. It would be a whole different deal if you knew that the guy driving into the city and parking directly in front of your home every day was doing so because you and the other people on your street allowed him that privilege and that the fee you decided to charge him was paying to fix that same street (sidewalk, bicycle path, nearest park, nearest school, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 10:31 AM on September 17, 2009


Although I'm pretty anti-pissing-people-off-to-make-your-point, if this can help inspire more cities to create more bike corrals like we have here in Portland, then it's not a bad thing.
posted by dersins at 10:33 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

one more to add:
Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado. "The section of Pearl Street between 11th and 15th streets was closed to traffic in June 1976. Residents got used to driving a one-way loop around downtown and walking to the still-open businesses."
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:34 AM on September 17, 2009


The parking on my city street is only for residents only; we have to pay $20 a year per car (2 cars maximum) to get a little window sticker to allow us to park in front of our houses. We're get one guest pass too. Any one else who parks for more than two hours gets a $20 fine ($100 on home football game days).
posted by octothorpe at 10:37 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

It's only a block and a half long, but Essex Street here in Salem has a pedestrian-only area. But Salem is a tourist town, so the businesses that thrive on Essex now are catering mostly to visitors who have parked elsewhere.

Although, if they let cars back in, they'd have to turn at least one kiosk into a 'Drive Thru Custom Dracula Fangs' business, a move I wholeheartedly support.

"I'll take a Lugosi Supreme with extra bloodpacks, please."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:39 AM on September 17, 2009


I've seen enough desolate plazas to know that just changing spaces to pedestrian doesn't magically make it livable, or a better use of the space than parking cars there.
posted by smackfu at 10:42 AM on September 17, 2009


In fact, the only thing that seems to do a good job of using closed-off pedestrian streets is sidewalk cafes.
posted by smackfu at 10:43 AM on September 17, 2009


I guess the cited examples are not really what I'm talking about. The points that have been made above are about the amount of public space(along streets) that's devoted to automobile traffic. For example

* Two lanes of through vehicle travel lanes (one is 1.5 times wider than a standard lane so that passing is possible if you're riding a bicycle).
* Parallel parking on both sides.
* Sidewalks and grass that, generously, are as wide as a car (they aren't remotely this wide all along the street, but let's be generous as it also makes the math easier).

Now, I respect that this is a lot of space for cars, and not a lot of space for living, so my question was how to change this balance, in the context of a residential neighborhood(i.e. where people care most about livability). What I've seen are commercial spaces where cars have been removed from the equation entirely. Because residential areas are where people store their cars, it's a much trickier proposition. You can't remove cars entirely, unless you provide residents with a place to keep theirs cars outside the neighborhood. It's also politically and logistically a lot more complicated to do major construction in a place where people live and sleep.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:48 AM on September 17, 2009


pracowcity, that's an interesting idea but it seems like a recipe for parking only occurring in poor neighborhoods where they need the extra revenue to pay for infrastructure (because, say, income tax revenues are too flat).

I like the idea of this project, and it really doesn't seem intended to piss off drivers (nor does it seem terribly biking-centered, for that matter, it's more of an urbanist thing). And in fact, last year I located the nearest impromptu park to my place of work and headed down there to check it out and eat my lunch. There was a little parking space's worth of sod which two people had brought in from a different park that had some extra. They had set up a few chairs and a little coffee table there, and I hung out for a little while having a casual chat with them and eating. A few other folks dropped by and passing cyclists and pedestrians would occasionally stop to ask about the thing.

At the particular place I was at I didn't get any kind of pretentious or confrontational vibe. It was altogether enjoyable and very much captured the casually communal feel you can get in a popular urban park, and in that sense seemed like a successful experiment in transforming the space.
posted by whir at 11:04 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

A significant part of my small town's downtown area was converted to pedestrian use only about 30 years ago. Most of our downtown business are located in the pedestrian only area and I've never heard anyone suggest we should open it back up to traffic. If our small town, where there is no significant public transit, can do it, surely big cities with much higher density and usable transit can do it.

Another example of this working is Sparks St. in Ottawa. It works, it makes the downtown area much better for pedestrians, and it doesn't seem to hinder traffic too much.
posted by ssg at 11:37 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos -- amazingly, all new residential construction in SF also must provide a certain proportion of parking spaces built into the property (primarily first floor and below ground garages are used). Even lots of older buildings are retrofitted with basement/first floor garage space created from what used to be front yard gardens (the classic SF "victorian" had a garden where now there is a driveway to a garage).

I don't know how we go about reclaiming some of the car space for non-car use without upsetting everyone -- when it was suggested that we close some budget gaps by increasing parking meter rates and starting to meter on Sundays in some areas, there was a huge fuss, even though, by the percentages, hardly any public street parking in SF is metered (less than 5%). The vast majority of street parking in the city is free, where the only hassle is you can't leave it parked indefinitely as the street cleaners come through every other week (and theoretically you can be ticketed for leaving it too long in one space) and you might have to search to find a spot close enough to where you're going/living. The latter hassle is just due to the fact that in a dense, urban area with good (by US standards) public transit not everyone can or should have cars.
posted by R343L at 11:44 AM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

Well, that's part of what Boston's Big Dig accomplished. The North End is no longer across an Interstate highway from Faneuil Hall and Scolay Square and there's a park there instead.
posted by atbash at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2009


This event makes sense in Manhattan. The outer boroughs, not so much, because no satisfactory mass transit exists to link, say, Staten Island with the Bronx. Or Brooklyn with Queens for that matter (no the G doesn't count). In those areas people must drive to get places efficiently. There's a group putting this even on in my neighborhood way out in Brooklyn (past Prospect Park) and at that point, it's just taking away parking from an area where people actually need cars to get around satisfactorily.
posted by lorrer at 12:28 PM on September 17, 2009


that's an interesting idea but it seems like a recipe for parking only occurring in poor neighborhoods

If that's true -- if people who live in the city generally don't want people parking on their streets -- then that's cool. Let the people who live there decide.
posted by pracowity at 12:29 PM on September 17, 2009


Boston -- well, Cambridge, at least -- is participating in this event as well. Unfortunately, my proposal of a 10-foot-high folding chair met with disapproval and will not be featured this year.
posted by Spatch at 12:33 PM on September 17, 2009


Oh, and Postroad, that's still at least going to be the case in Times Square, which is set to become a huge outdoor pedestrian area.

Yeah -- the first stage started on Memorial Day weekend . In mid-August ew chairs, umbrellas and café tables were installed [photos] -- all part of Mayor Bloomberg's "Green Light for Midtown" program.
posted by ericb at 12:41 PM on September 17, 2009


Pure insanity.
posted by Zambrano at 12:42 PM on September 17, 2009


BTW -- the Times Square initiative is a pilot program.
"Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today announced a pilot program, 'Green Light for Midtown,' to reduce traffic congestion throughout Midtown Manhattan via targeted improvements on Broadway, focused at Times and Herald Squares. Despite attempts over several decades to address congestion caused by Broadway, the street has remained a significant traffic problem, disrupting the grid of avenues and streets, creating complicated intersections and negatively impacting traffic flow throughout Midtown Manhattan. The Mayor and Commissioner Sadik-Khan were joined by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins, and Macy's Senior Vice President for Government and Community Relations Ed Goldberg at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.

'Time and time again, we've worked to find innovative, practical solutions to our most pressing challenges - whether that's to improve the City's environment, combat illegal guns, or reduce congestion,' said Mayor Bloomberg. 'By making targeted adjustments at Broadway's two main pinch points, we believe we can ease traffic congestion throughout the Midtown grid. We are going to closely monitor the results to determine if this pilot works and should be extended beyond its trial period.'

'For Midtown traffic - Broadway is a problem hidden in plain sight,' said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. 'We're going to the heart of the matter and piloting a simple solution to a complex problem. The 'Green Light for Midtown' plan will work with the grid instead of against it, correcting the complicated intersections that create traffic congestion, while creating enough space to enhance safety.'"
posted by ericb at 1:10 PM on September 17, 2009


Is there any way to reallocate land away from personal automobile use without drivers reacting with infuriation?
posted by anthill at 1:21 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's really pretty clever. You call everything a pilot program, and you do it as cheap as possible out of your existing budget, and it's a lot easier to get things done.
posted by smackfu at 1:21 PM on September 17, 2009


I'm also genuinely curious about why this project is provoking such infuriation. I sense a "they're wasting a parking space that could be mine" vibe, but if artists are paying for the space, then aren't they entitled to it? How is this different from a driver parking in that space to visit an art museum? Parking spaces are used for all sorts of leisure/unproductive activities all the time.

Would it be less infuriating if the artists were paying a premium for the space? What does that say about the fair price for parking spaces?
posted by anthill at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


In those areas people must drive to get places efficiently. There's a group putting this even on in my neighborhood way out in Brooklyn (past Prospect Park) and at that point, it's just taking away parking from an area where people actually need cars to get around satisfactorily.

South Brooklyn past Prospect Park is seriously lacking in terms of public park space. I used to work down off of Avenue M near the Q train stop (yes trains go out by there, so you don't need cars to get around satisfactorily for everything) which has no parks nearby. The closest area to sit down outdoors was ocean parkway, a 20 minute walk away. There was no kitchen in my office, and no place to be outdoors during break or lunch and it SUCKED. That area needs parks more than anywhere else, not more parking.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:27 PM on September 17, 2009


If you want to take away my parking space so you and your hipster friends can do some bullshit, different story.

Did you RTFA?

"Each space was individually organized and executed by partners and allies that included elected officials, artists, architects and planners, advocates and engaged citizens."

Sheesh, if you don't want to lose your parking space to "hipsters", get there early and keep feeding the meter. Be sure and stand around and shake your fist at anyone who doesn't look like you that approaches your car.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:55 PM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think most of us take the city as our environment, and our environment is static – it is the way it is, it only changes when *some* city planner *somewhere* decides to repave. Everyone can be engaged with the places we live, and it seems like a sort-of art festival is a great way to do it.

Or you could go to your city's planning commission meetings and get involved. City planners are often DESPERATE for public input, and aside from a few loudmouths that show up at every city meeting, most people don't show any concern. In my graduate program we just about had to bribe people to come to a meeting about a redevelopment plan. Seriously, get involved. Your city planner will probably be happy to hear from you.
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on September 17, 2009


Be sure and stand around and shake your fist at anyone who doesn't look like you that approaches your car...

Get offa my fuckin' lawn. Err ... oh, wait. What?
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2009


hermitosis: The amount of space devoted to parking and driving in the city is HUGE when you consider the actual number of drivers vs. the number of pedestrians. It's a huge flaw in city design that most major European cities managed to avoid.

Europe was not built around the car, so people have grown up with the idea that smaller (than American standard) cars and roads are fine, and that there doesn't need to be a parking structure every 3 blocks.

octothorpe: I noticed in some streets in my city that lately they've been extending the sidewalks out one car width just at the intersections so that you can't used the parking lanes to drive in and the pedestrians don't have to sprint across four lanes of traffic before the light changes. Seems like a decent compromise.

Those are called bulb-outs, or curb extensions, and are intended for a number of things. Smaller spaces make people slow down naturally (instead of relying on signage), and pedestrians have a shorter distance to travel. Win-win.

Think_Long: There are not many good ways of cluing the public in on urban planning and sidewalk widths, it’s just not a sexy topic. I think most of us take the city as our environment, and our environment is static – it is the way it is, it only changes when *some* city planner *somewhere* decides to repave. Everyone can be engaged with the places we live, and it seems like a sort-of art festival is a great way to do it.

Planner geek reply: sidewalks and parking are public works dimensions, more often than not, though the planners are the ones who enforce parking per project.

Fun graphic: Cars vs Bus vs Bikes: how much space the same number of people take up per mode of transpiration.

Fun fact: parking isn't required in some SF districts, if rezoning standards are passed. I thought that I read that mixed-use development wasn't required to provide (as much) parking, but I couldn't quickly find anything to back that up.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:39 PM on September 17, 2009


As a legitimate question, can anyone point to a place where this sort of public space was permanently converted to pedestrian use?

I believe this is what happened with the 16th Street Mall in Denver. There is transit running through it, but it is very pedestrian-friendly. I used to walk through every day on my commute.
posted by jeoc at 2:39 PM on September 17, 2009


Developing consensus (in this case,repurposing urban space into something better suited for something other than cars) is tedious, time-consuming, tiring and incremental, but ultimately dialogue, tenacity and respect will have longer-lasting and more significant positive outcomes than this passive-aggressive, infantile behaviour.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:01 PM on September 17, 2009


KokoRyu, certainly I agree with you about building consensus being the way forward, but I honestly don't see how this is passive-aggressive or infantile. The point is not to block cars from parking there, the point is to demonstrate another use of the space. It's not like this is critical mass or something, altogether in SF (for example) they'll probably use 20 parking places in a city that has somewhere around 450,000 of them.
posted by whir at 3:32 PM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, man. I hope I see the PARKcycle!

This event has literally (first definition) nothing to do with bicycles.

I love Parking Day. I've always cruised by on my bikes, but today should be much better since I'll be pushing a cute-as-hell 9-month baby girl around. Free stuff and love for me!

Here is the SF map.

Oh ... it's tomorrow? Shitsburgh. I got stuff to do tomorrow! I was hoping on taking a leisurely stroll this afternoon.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:35 PM on September 17, 2009


Also, I'm pretty sure that Park(ing) Day started with one installation in San Francisco by REBAR back in 2004 or 2005, so using the NYC link in the FPP is pretty lame.

Can the mods can add the official link? (I know someone already linked to it ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:38 PM on September 17, 2009


They, surprisingly, seem to even have an event in Spokane, WA.

(Albeit it is in front of one of the "Center For Justice" buildling, which doesn't surprise me a lot.)
posted by hippybear at 4:00 PM on September 17, 2009



mrgrimm: Also, I'm pretty sure that Park(ing) Day started with one installation in San Francisco by REBAR back in 2004 or 2005, so using the NYC link in the FPP is pretty lame.

While I agree that the post could of had a bit more information and links to events in other cities, if you read the description in the link, you'd have your answer.

On October 29th, 2005, Transportation Alternatives took over a parking spot on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As it turned out, people on the West Coast were wondering the same thing. A few weeks after the Brooklyn squat, the San Francisco-based arts collective REBAR launched PARK(ing) Day as a national event in which people in cities all over the country reclaim parking spots as vibrant, public spaces for one day. In the years since its debut, the annual event has expanded globally and is now celebrated in 50 cities.
posted by stachemaster at 8:24 PM on September 17, 2009


this anti-PARKing day message brought to you by the The Society for Driving Fucking Everywhere.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 9:46 PM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, some people want to change how cars move (and not move) in the city to make a better system. Ok, admirable goal. Fantastic, how will we sell this idea to the public?

This would have to involve voters at some point, whether by voting in or out someone who makes a transportation decision, or having some kind of referendum, would you agree?

People who use cars and vote are currently more numerous than people that do not want/have cars and vote. Agreed?

To achieve a goal like the reduction and reorganization of automobile traffic, it would have to have at least a moderate amount of support by people who use cars to work/transport themselves/etc. Agreed?

Why does so many people who want to change the way automobiles are deployed in a city, and want to encourage people to think differently about their use of cars, you must create events that frustrate drivers? You are not winning support of drivers by taking parking spaces, the one place in the city that they actually STOP DRIVING.

You're not going to win any votes for change like this by having a pretty art "sit-in" in the one place drivers need to stop at to get done what they came into the city for in the first place.

Give them a practical solution - not enough public transit? Advertise heavily, and for one day go rent a shitload of busses and find licensed volunteer drivers and go where the regular busses don't, so drivers can see what COULD be if there was more public transit, for example. Imagine the reation to these two situations the next day - This event - "Damn hippies didn't let me park yesterday" or the suggestion above - "It was actually nice not to have to drive and park and deal with all that crap for a day." Which gets a better reaction out of your voter pool?

If "Critical Mass" drove rickshaws and gave free rides anywhere for a day, they could do more for their cause than the moving roadblock party they are now.

What you'll just hear now is something like.
"Do all the unicycle interpretive dance you want, just let me park so I can get to my goddamn job/meeting/doctor's appointment/hooker on time!"

I agree with most of these people's goals, just not their methods.
posted by chambers at 9:47 PM on September 17, 2009


I don't want to come across like I'm a broken record so I'll drop it after this, but I just don't think this event is meant to frustrate drivers. The little parks take up a single parking place and have a negligible impact on the overall parking situation. There are around 100,000 parking spots in Manhattan according to this site, and there are a total of 38 parks planned there according to the map linked from here. The parks compete for the spots just like cars do, and feed the meter just as cars would.
posted by whir at 10:53 PM on September 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't want to come across like I'm a broken record so I'll drop it after this, but I just don't think this event is meant to frustrate drivers.

Completely agreed. Everyone I've met in SF (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists) loves these things. (Of course, I could be self selecting.)

The only people I've ever met who get upset at this thing are people online, talking in the abstract about better methods for whatever it is they think this event is trying to do.

they'll probably use 20 parking places in a city that has somewhere around 450,000 of them

Seriously. *No one* (sane) is going to be driving around, see one of these installations, and say "HOLY SHIT! THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN MY PARKING SPACE"

Here's my question: Whether the space is filled with a car, art installation, PARKcycle, or dance party ... if someone pays for the spot, what's the difference?

I can't fathom why this event would upset anyone.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2009


Associated Press | Friday, Sept . 18, 2009 -- Parking spaces morph into ‘parks’ across U.S.
posted by ericb at 6:25 PM on September 18, 2009


Here is a fairly detailed article covering what went on in San Francisco by the generally excellent Streetsblog (which is generally fairly new-Urbany and prone to look favorably on these kind of events), and here are some videos which cover the event in SF and NYC. Some tidbits that stuck out to me from the SF article:

- The planning department evidently set up a little Lego-style planning exhibit with different blocks for different zones, like a live-action SimCity.
- Most businesses quoted seemed to be happy about the event, though of course that could easily be explained by selection bias on the part of Streetsblog.
- One or two locals evidently did grumble about losing parking places.
- Bike parking was set up in a few of the parking spaces, and more is on its way.
- Free BBQ seems to be popular.
posted by whir at 3:16 AM on September 22, 2009


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