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A Contemporary Update to the #BlackFridayParking Tradition

For years, Strong Towns readers have been pointing out the vast empty parking lots on the busiest shopping day of the year as evidence of poor land use regulations. Now the #iwishthisparkingwas hashtag imagines a different future.
November 27, 2020, 5am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Scott Alderfer

If the number of flights in the air and cars on the road on the days leading up to Thanksgiving is any indication, Black Friday will be holiday business as usual for many (not all) Americans. That means massive mall parking lots will still not be nearly full in many parts of the country, and probably even less full than usual.

The Strong Towns team has for years spearheaded the #BlackFridayParking social media campaign to raise awareness about the overabundance of parking, even on the busiest shopping day of the year, in most U.S. retail developments. This year, however, with the pandemic upending travel patterns and keeping many people at home, either voluntarily or by force of law, the Strong Towns team is introducing a new angle to the exercise. Daniel Herriges explains:

Photographing largely empty big-box lots in 2020 might not have the same impact as in years past: Of course that parking is empty this year, many will say.

Instead of excusing the country's parking addiction, the pandemic shows how much more productive cities would be without devoting so much space to the storage of private automobiles, according to Herriges. So in this strangest and most tragic of years, the Strong Towns is asking #BlackFridayParking participants to add another layer of meaning to the exercise by adding the #iwishthisparkingwas hashtag.

We want to know what you’d like to see instead of all that parking in your city. And it doesn’t have to be retail parking this year—public, private, any sort of use is fair game. Show us a place where there’s too much parking, but more importantly, tell us (or even illustrate for us, if you’re artistically inclined!) exactly what we’re missing out on by not taking a more flexible, adaptable approach to that space.

If you're looking for inspiration, new open space created in a time of isolation and sedentary living, emergency zoning reform to support restaurant and retail businesses, and transit service changes designed to keep essential workers moving have already achieved an unprecedented encroachment of activity on space previously reserved for cars. Though the transfer of power from car to everything has been surprisingly smooth for much of the pandemic, political support for such efforts has also begun to wain in some parts of the country, so here is another opportunity to imagine a world without so much parking.

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Published on Monday, November 23, 2020 in Strong Towns
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