Park(ing) Day was started in San Francisco, but has since spread to every continent except Antarctica. It came to Providence last year, a bit late, but with a bang. For a city of a few hundred thousand people, Providence’s turnout of 35 parklets was head and shoulders above other East Coast cities on a per capita basis, coming close to matching cities like Philadelphia on a numerical one as well.
The purpose of Park(ing) Day is to temporarily repurpose parking spaces as something other than parking, in order to draw attention to the large areas of our cities oriented towards cars. When parking and streets are taken into account, cities like Providence allocate more than fifty percent of their downtowns to cars, and often even more space in the outer neighborhoods. Parking policy has strong correlations to housing affordability (extra parking raises the cost of housing) and transportation sustainability (it also greatly encourages driving).
This year’s Park(ing) Day will be upping the ante, and we need you to be a part of it! Broadway in Providence will be getting the state’s first-ever protected bike lane in the northside parking lane for the day in order to show ways that our streets can be better organized. The hope is that businesses and residents will be able to see ideas tested out without having to commit to them permanently. So-called “tactical urbanism” trumps bureaucracy any day.
Residents and businesses are asked to contribute their ideas and elbow grease to setting up mini-parks called “parklets” next to the protected bike lane. There will also be many parklet locations in Downcity, adding green space to the downtown.
2014’s Park(ing) Day comes on the heals of some let-downs in Providence politics. The state government shoved through a paving of the State House lawn for free state employee parking in fall, ignoring laws on the books requiring it to incentivize employees away from driving to work. Then in May, Halitosis Hall voted to extend $43 million plus interest payments for the as-yet-unbuilt Garrahy Garage. While stopping the garage is a longshot, Park(ing) Day focuses on aligning transportation policies so that cars are not subsidized. These setbacks should embolden us.
Participation in Park(ing) Day is free, but we highly appreciate donations to help pay for materials and permitting costs. You can sign up by visiting the Rhode Island chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ website: rhodeislandasla.org/parkingday.