Car park impact

I’ve often wondered about how much land roads and car parks occupy around the world. It must be a staggering amount; but there are other issues relating to car parks aside from the issue of poor land utilization that affect the wider environment.

Researchers from Purdue University in the USA have revealed some very interesting statistics about the impact of car parks in a single medium-sized county in the USA Midwest – Tippecanoe; population approximately 150,000

Among their findings, car parking spaces outnumber residents by 3 to 1 and the total area set aside for car parks was found to be more than the equivalent of 1000 football fields.

According to the researcher’s computer models, car parks in the county are also responsible for over 900lbs of heavy metal run-off each year. This is about a 1000 times what the same area of agricultural land would produce; as soil is better at absorbing contaminants than paved areas.

If that area was farmland, farmers could produce 250,000 bushels of grain from it. Additionally, large areas of paved car parks help increase the “urban island heat effect”, which can raise local temperatures by as much as 3°C.

That’s just the impact of car parks, I’d hate to think what those figures would be like if paved roads were included.

Looking outside my window at our own driveway, I’m a little ashamed. We have a double driveway with enough paved surface area to park 8 – 10 vehicles. A good sized chunk of our block is purely there to drive on, when it could be used for garden or a vegetable patch.

Tippecanoe and my driveway are tiny examples of a much wider problem – the additional negative environmental impacts from our addiction to cars coupled with poor urban planning and building design.

You can read more about the Purdue University car park study on Environmental Research Web