Portland is a paved-parking paradise. Drivers are spoiled with options on where they can park. There is parking at Whole Foods, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s, Planet Fitness, parking garages and Park and Rides, as well as on-street parking.

Many cities and towns have minimum parking requirements, which dictate how many parking spaces a new business or dwelling can have. These numbers are based on the number of seats at a restaurant or the square footage of the building rather than on the number of cars frequenting the establishment.

Minimum parking requirements create wasted empty space in cities that could otherwise be utilized for landscaping, parks or other public gathering space. Additionally, drivers feel more entitled to free parking, which is not actually free. Free parking spaces at businesses and underneath apartment buildings add to the price of goods and services. Parking contributes greatly to the housing crisis experienced in Maine.

Overall parking is both a car ownership problem and a failure to effectively allocate public space. Cities and towns should revise their ordinances to include maximum parking requirements based on traffic counts. Parking can be shared between businesses. Car rideshare and better public transit can encourage people to drive less and dissuade them from owning a car. Large parking lots of over 50 spaces should include landscaping and buffers to create more green space and reduce urban heat islands. Parking is not paradise, but green space is.

Samantha Peikes

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