Space Hogs

SUVs Send Cities To the Redrawing Boards
by | March 2005

If SUVs are going to rule the road, governments may have to re-rule parking lots. The city council in Bernardsville, New Jersey, for one, voted in January to make parking spaces wider to accommodate the many mammoth vehicles that come to rest side by side in lots. Parking space widths will increase by half a foot and the space between rows will expand by four inches in some parking lots.

Widening spaces could mitigate the problem of large vehicles wasting adjacent spaces by parking over the white lines and prevent the "dings" that are caused by car doors hitting the cars next to them.

But not everyone thinks that creating more parking room, as some localities have done, or removing special spaces for compact cars--as at least one city, Honolulu, has done--is a good move. Increases in space size and turning room ripple through the system and could result in a sharp drop in the number of parking spaces available. Structured parking could become more expensive and there could be significant economic and functional ramifications, says Martin Robins, director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University.

Already, a robotic parking structure in New Jersey is unable to accommodate a Hummer. Parking experts such as Darius Sollohub, assistant professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, would like to see a study done of the pros and cons of widening spaces. "After the Hummer, when does it become unmanageable?" he asks. "As they get bigger, where do you draw the line?"

Ellen Perlman
Ellen Perlman | Former columnist |