I have a confession to make. I’ve never participated in PARK(ing) Day™️. If you’re not familiar, PARK(ing) Day™️ is an annual event on the third Friday in September where people are encouraged to transform public curbside parking spaces into public spaces. The concept originated in 2005 when a group of folks in San Francisco turned turned a parking spot into a park, for 2 hours.
I like (even love) the idea of PARK(ing) Day™️, but there sure are a lot of rules to follow for a tactical urbanism event! For one, the name is trademarked (and that’s fine) and you really are only supposed to observe the holiday on the third Friday in September. Also, in Portland, where I live, PARK(ing) Day™️ is an official event. The city requires applications and approves about 18 installations for that day and there’s a list of about a dozen requirements for what happens in the space and what spaces are allowed to be repurposed.
Place-making is fabulous and I am very happy that my city embraces it, but I’m a parking reformer and I think once a year isn’t enough. I also prefer something a little more transgressive. So I was amused and inspired when I saw these tweets last week from Victor Pontis who decided to “set up a desk and work out at a parking spot for a couple hours to show that parking real estate can be used for better purposes.”
Victor isn’t a Shoupista (yet), he wasn’t aware of PARK(ing) Day™️ and he hadn’t read The High Cost of Free Parking, but he tapped into something and his cheeky brand WePark (twitter @WeParkWeParty) has some buzz. This has brought out a few detractors who don’t think Victor gave enough credit to reBar, the founders of PARK(ing) Day™️, but Victor is alright with me and I just hope he takes a crash course in Better Parking 101 and uses some of his spotlight to advance awareness of bad parking policy and the reforms that can fix it.
I’ll also suggest that people organizing WePark events do so in a way that moves things forward. Of course HAVE FUN, but here’s some ideas:
- Locate the event near a consenting independent business, like a coffee shop. Try to support a local business that is owned by a non-white person. If you can, start a tab for people at your WeWork.
- Put out a donation jar and ask the people who show up to throw in some money (sliding scale) to be given, that day, to a local homeless charity.
- Be intentionally inclusive. Invite people to sit with you, as long as they aren’t disruptive or dangerous, all should be welcome.
- Help people make a connection with the policy. Have a little literature on hand about the high cost of parking, or exclusionary zoning. Use this as an educational opportunity.
So next week I’m going to get together with some Portland Shoupistas and find a couple good spaces and work outside. Lucky for me, my current job is talking about parking, so look for me behind a desk with a sign that says “We have too much parking and it’s too cheap. Change my mind.”
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