Parking, simulations, and asthetics

where's the bike parking, Santa Clara?

If you’ve ever looked at a Google satellite view of your local shopping center or office park, you’ve probably noticed how much space car storage takes up relative to the actual building. This aerial view makes any parking-dependent development fairly ugly in the minds of many people. Jarrett Walker points out some of the compromises that SimCity makes to improve the asthetics of the game at his Human Transit blog:

Practically any working urban planner will tell you that managing parking, without a SimCity tooth fairy that builds it for free underground, is a dominant factor in urban form and perhaps the biggest single obstacle to denser and more sustainable forms of development.

Game makers can say it’s only a game, just as movies that glorify violence are only movies. But like movies, seemingly realistic and immersive simulation games teach people to misunderstand how the world works in a way that makes them less effective in dealing with the world.

I think I’m in the camp that says SimCity is only a game, but the discussion following Walker’s post contains interesting insights. Eric Orozco, an urban planner in Charlotte, NC, for example, writes:

No one told me going into urban design that half my life was going to be designing parking lots.

This land use factor is the primary barrier to building densely. As soon as you require a parking structure to pull your development off, you’ve just killed any element of affordability. You definitely tank [affordability] putting it underground.


This reminds me of the parking footprint for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, first pointed out to me by local bike advocate Carlos Babcock. Here’s the stadium parking map as published by the Mercury News.

Levi's Stadium 49ers Parking map

I overlaid the size of the stadium on the parking spaces. You can fit about 60 stadiums — each with a capacity for 68,000 fans — in the space required for 30,000 cars.

Levi's Stadium 49ers Parking map

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.