The New Parking Lot To Be
For the past 3 months of so, I have been watching the construction of a new parking lot across the way from the employer’s new office building. The new parking lot will actually service 3 or 4 buildings in the complex that my employer moved into, not just my company. To make up for the current shortage of parking, my employer has arranged for a shuttle to an overflow lot about 5 minutes away. It is really very convenient and very simple. However, the thought of not being able to walk to my car has taken some getting used to.
The existence of this parking shuttle, with me as a potential “customer”, has brought back memories of my transit activist days. I have been a big supported of public transit for a long time. I have also favored mass-transit oriented policies, both public and private. One of these policies is the use of shuttles from SEPTA train stations to various corporate complexes. This idea is very similar to the parking shuttle that I see in front of my office building every day. These shuttles promise employees a (relatively) quick trip back to the train if they need to get home before their regular time. And I am sure that they deliver that.
In a similar fashion, the parking shuttle promises to get me to my car very quickly if I ever need to leave early. It does deliver on that promise. However, the timing seems longer than it actually is. I remember back (in my pre-office park days) when having a shuttle upon demand seemed so easy. I wondered how anyone could not be satisfied with it. If they truly had to leave the office, they had transportation provided for them. How cool was that?
Now, I am part of “Anyone”. And am I satisfied with the on-demand shuttle I have access to? When I actually use it, I am. However, when I am not using it, the thought of me being in one place and my car being somewhere else is not very comforting. It is mostly psychological and ties into the fact that the car represents for me freedom of on-demand transport (assuming I am not on the clock at work, of course).
This points to a disconnect in the psychology of the car in American life. It is considered the symbol of independence and freedom–go where I want, when I want, as far as I want. To a large extent, this is true. However, this ignores the obvious fact that my ability to actually go anywhere in my car efficiently is based entirely upon traffic. Traffic is simply the number of cars that have chosen to be on the same road I have at the same time I have made my choice. In other words, my efficiency (in getting to or from work, for example) is a function of not my choices, but the choices of other people.
On one hand, I will certainly be happy when there is always a spot for me in the new parking lot. But the honest truth is that the parking shuttle has not had any discernible impact upon my commuting times–the traffic on Pennsylvania Turnpike plays a far greater role in that.