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Visit Your Nearest National Park(ing Lot) Today!

9:37 AM EDT on April 26, 2023

Planning a summer vacation? Sure, you could check out one of America's 424 stunning national parks ... or you could skip all those boring trees and and animals and visit one of America's internationally infamous National Parking Lots instead!

Sick of Shenandoah? Tired of the Tetons? Why not check out all the other land that Americans devote billions of dollars a year to preserving for the benefit of future generations drivers: our planet-leading oversupply of publicly available car storage?

Fun fact: the National Park Service only gets about $3.6 billion a year from the federal government, while free parking alone draws between $102 and $374 billion in public subsidies annually, depending on how you calculate it. So it's at least 28 times more awesome than Old Faithful, right?

Best of all, you likely don't even have to leave your hometown to soak in the splendors of a National Parking Lot near you! Because it is literally all around you ... whether you need a spot or not.

Residents of St. Louis, for instance, can take a sweet staycation on 105 acres of lots in the downtown core alone, according to a recent analysis from the Parking Reform Network. That's twice the amount of space the city dedicated to its recently renovated Gateway Arch grounds — and that's not including all the underpriced street parking that lines the streets of the Gateway to the West.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump across Missouri, you'll find the stunning vistas of the Kansas City National Parking Lot, which constitutes nearly a full third of the downtown core, not including streets or sidewalks.

Could all of this land be transformed into walkable neighborhoods full of housing, or rib joints, or jazz clubs, or whatever else they're into in KCMO? Sure! But isn't it way better to have ... (checks notes) ... at least eight potential places to stash every registered vehicle on the road?

If you thought KCMO was rich in parking resources, well ... let's just say everything is bigger in Texas.

Based on a methodology the Parking Reform Network developed to rank the most car-storage-crazy cities in America while still controlling for population size, Arlington is arguably the parking capital of the country, with whopping 42 percent of downtown land use dedicated to automobiles that aren't even moving. San Antonio, Lubbock, and Houston aren't too far behind, either. Take that, Big Bend.

Who needs to get away to a desert island when you can vacation on a desert heat island? This summer, skip the strip and Death Valley and soak up the warm glow of all that 147 degree asphalt in the City of Sin. Sure, you won't get much of a hike in — but thanks to this mecca's parking policies and their role in encouraging sprawl, it's way too far to walk anywhere, anyway.

Lastly, if you've already done the Everglades, check out the Foreverglades of downtown Tampa, where 30 percent of developable land is lovingly calcified in asphalt. You won't get bit by a gator here...but you might get hit by a G-Class Mercedes, which will not be recorded in federal traffic violence databases, even if you die. :)

Can't make it out to support your National Parking Lots this summer? You can still support their important mission to preserve our not-at-all-fragile car storage ecosystems by fighting for mandatory parking minimums imposed on developers, opposing parking maximums, making sure street parking remains as cheap as possible, and otherwise maintaining the autocentric status quo any way you can.

Or you could visit an actual National Park ... but you'd probably still have to drive. 

This series was done in collaboration with Civic Graphics. 

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