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Inside Science: "Free" Parking Has Huge Environmental Cost

By Erica C. Barnett December 14, 2010

Civil engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have completed a survey of the nation's estimated 500 to 1 billion (!!) parking spaces and concluded what I (and experts like Donald Shoup) have been saying forever: "Free" parking carries a massive environmental cost.

According to Inside Science, the researchers studied the energy requirements and emissions that result from creating asphalt and other things associated with building and maintaining parking spaces, including on-street parking, parking at apartments and houses, and parking lots. They then added those emissions to the emissions created by an average vehicle.
Their results are considerable, even when compared to the environmental effects of driving a car. The group found that parking contributes to greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. In fact, the environmental cost of so many parking spaces can also raise the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per mile by as much as 10 percent for an average car. And, when calculated over the lifetime of a vehicle, the amount of other gases like sulfur dioxide can rise by as much as 25 percent and the amount of soot as much as 90 percent.
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