The huge amount of land devoted to parking lots leads to increased water pollution and the urban heat island effect. Steve Mirsky reports. Get a free audiobook at www.audible.com/science
This is going to come as a shock to anyone who’s spent an hour looking for a place to park in Manhattan, but we actually probably have a glut of parking spaces in the US. And they have some unfortunate consequences. That’s according to a study by researchers at Purdue University. They surveyed the total area devoted to parking in their midsized, Midwestern County. Turned out that parking spaces outnumbered drivers by three to one. And the total area devoted to parking spaces at places like big box stores and mega-churches was more than two square miles, larger than a thousand football fields.
One problem associated with the parking lots is water pollution—oil, grease, sediment and heavy metals from car batteries collect on the lot surface and then get washed away by rainfall into lakes and rivers. The parking lots lead to a thousand times the heavy metal runoff that agricultural land of the same size produces. And parking lots add to the urban heat island effect, whereby local temperatures might be more than five degrees Fahrenheit higher than in the surrounding areas.