nowhere to park


“I can’t find a parking space.”

“There’s never any place to park.” Why isn’t there a reserved spot for me in front of ALL of my destinations? (OK, that’s perhaps a bit too much sarcasm…but isn’t that what our selfish culture thinks?).

This is one of the most common complaints thrown about in my hometown where I happen to live and practice. This rather common occurrence is symptomatic from our ‘automobile-centric’ culture, in which I too am imprisoned.

Where do I park? We’ll never reach consensus.


It’s a reasonable thought when one cannot walk from their home or workplace to their destination. Once we enter our cars, we must concern ourselves with parking it. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the need, it’s just I think it’s often the wrong question when we discuss any type of urban environment whether it has 15,000 people or 2 million people. Will more parking make our community flourish? Other communities can attest to what happens when urban centers are removed and replaced by endless seas of parking. Try it – Google “too much surface parking.”

In a recent online conversation on a local Downtown Greensburg Facebook page, the administrator of the page asked the question to the followers soliciting opinions of parking in our city. I really respect what they’re doing, but asking that question is a bit like yelling fire in a movie theater. I’m not a fan of debating on Facebook, yet I decided to contribute to the conversation. Fortunately many others contributed productively.


My comments are out of context, but they were intended to broaden the conversation beyond the useless complaint “I’d come into Greensburg more if I could find a place to park.” I don’t know how to respond to that.

“A point that has to be understood yet is generally misunderstood, Greensburg is a city and an urban environment. It is not Hempfield [Township] and a suburban environment. It should embrace that.”

“Taking down more buildings and paving them into surface lots is not the answer. That takes away the tax base and sooner or later the only thing left is parking for which they’ll be no need to park.”

“Strategically placed parking can be studied but what private developer wants to do that? A fully public parking garage would be helpful, but they are not inexpensive to build or maintain. Again, it’s up to private developers to take the risk and then benefit from this.”

“The distance issue is a moot point. People will park equally as far as or farther at Wal-Mart to park than downtown. I’ve already studied that. No you’ll rarely ever park in front of your destination. That’s what it means to live in a city rather than in the suburbs. We need private development to be willing to carefully insert parking lots/garages into areas of dilapidated buildings that can be removed without taking away the character of the primary roads. Simply taking down a building for a surface lot is a mistake.”

“We need more places to go first.”

 “Urban centers can prosper if we stop thinking of where’s MY space or where will I park? How can parking double up or triple up so the spaces are always full? Can a surface lot be used for other things? I empathize with the issue but the best solution is looking forward and might not be one anyone has thought of yet.”

 “It needs to be understood that more than 40 years ago having access to an automobile changed the city forever (and not for the good). People are more interested in parking in front of their destination than being part of a community. Our parents and grandparents understood that walking up and down the sidewalk meant more than just getting to the store…”

Quotes from others that I felt were useful and advanced the conversation:

“We do agree we need some new businesses to add to the already great ones we have. But what about the residents of downtown? Some of the buildings that are being remodeled plan on having apartments. Overnight parking can be an issue with the inability to street-park overnight and the loss of the S PA lot (without paying 24/7.)”

 “There needs to be a community directed mindset with respect to parking. During the day spaces are needed for people who work downtown, yet many of those spaces are empty after 4:00 PM. Can someone else use them? Creating a lot for daily use and harboring it with chains doesn’t give back to the community. What about parking for those who come into the city to use the services and patronize the businesses? Why do downtown workers feel they deserve the closest space? I know many state workers park far away and walk several blocks to their offices, but I’ve seen employees take up the spaces directly in front of their own buildings.”

“Do you think you can petition a privately owned lot? How do you convince someone using a lot as a form of income to be charitable to the community? What do they care about how it affects businesses?”

 “Restore the beautiful old buildings!”

 “What a great site and opportunity for public comments! I grew up in GBG moved away in early 70s. I’ve traveled extensively and was lucky enough to live in La Jolla CA for more than 20+ years. I recently retired and MOVED back to GBG…people say “are you crazy”…. NO…..Lee Calisti is right…we need to change the mind set because I don’t think people realize what a gem GBG is and we are the custodians of this city. The city and structures must be preserved. Reminds me of the song “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got til it’s gone” (take my advice…don’t put up a parking lot). ABSOLUTELY NO MORE PARKING LOTS AND NO MORE TEARING DOWN OF THESE HISTORIC BUILDINGS!”

 “We need to make GBG the attraction. In fact, we should be closing off streets to vehicle traffic and allowing only pedestrian traffic. Why can’t we have one main parking area (like the Junk yard at the main entrance on 30) and provide a shuttle service to run a loop thru downtown. I moved to the city because it has sidewalks and a downtown area. Everyone is different but the reason I selected PNC on Main is because I can walk to the ATM not drive.”

What is left of Old Greensburg, whether you like it or not, needs to be preserved. People in NYC don’t drive, they walk. So much has been lost already. I don’t know how you solve this, but, lee CALISTI has the big picture here…not short term fixes…”

“Many young people are actually moving into the older neighborhoods and enjoying city life, and the charm of the older homes. Not everyone wants to live in suburbia where there are no sidewalks and you have to get in your car to get anywhere. Hopefully, the city can attract more people who would like a different option for living and shopping. Otherwise, the tax base will continue to erode, which is a major issue with both Greensburg and Latrobe.”

One could argue that I’m taking this out of context and twisting it to serve my point. I felt we had a good conversation when people contribute useful comments and avoid biting or nasty posts. I’m very interested in seeing my community flourish. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that the attitude behind the useless complaints will never allow for positive change.

How do we tell our kids that they’re missing so much of life when they’re always looking down texting on their phones when WE miss so much of community life and details when we’re stuck behind the wheels of our cars driving around the strip mall looking for a parking space? We need to do more walking and definitely more talking (to each other).


photo 1 credit: January 26, 1970 via photopin (license)
photo 2 credit: Old School via photopin (license)
photo 3 credit: stack via photopin (license)
photo 4 credit: OGS Parking Lot via photopin (license)

nowhere to park

8 thoughts on “nowhere to park

  1. Michael Frush says:

    A very interesting article. I’m currently living in Knoxville, TN, while studying architecture at the University of Tennessee. This theme has been discussed throughout our college as the downtown urban center is losing historic context and community experience due to the removal of buildings to create surface parking. I agree that the creation and development of the automobile into society and culture is changing not only the way designers look and think about an urban context and community connectivity but also how designers think about specific buildings and spaces around or within those buildings. I’ll include an interesting article from one of our graduate students concerning parking and the change the automobile has caused on downtown Knoxville. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing another’s perspective. Most of America is struggling from this and those who don’t live in any type of city just don’t get it. I can’t truly say Greensburg is urban the way most people envision the term, but it is a city and we do have a downtown. I really want to see it develop into a thriving area with more than surface lots that serve the 9-5 community of workers.

  2. Rob says:

    An interesting idea to utilize the parking infrastructure to aid the city may have to do with varied cost, possibly even tied to different times of the day. Here is an example. I work in Cincinnati, a mid size midwestern city with a rejuvenating urban core. A lot of positive improvements are happening, especially with historic buildings being renovated for multi-use (retail plus office plus residential). I recently moved my office from the center of town about 8 blocks away to the edge. At the old location, I spent a large amount of money on monthly parking for my employees, at the new place, we bought a lot next door to park on (cheaper in the long run). Long story short, one of the things I miss most wad being able to walk to a couple of my favorite restaurants, which happen to be on the other side of the old office from where I am. When we first moved, I tried driving over there, but found it tough to find a parking spot. A couple of years ago, the city dramatically raised the parking meter rates. The old thinking was that artificially low rates – 50 cents an hour with the first 10 minutes free, would encourage more shopping and dining traffic. Unfortunately, this led to most spots being taken all day. People who work downtown would feed the meter all day. They raised the rate to $2.00 an hour and now I can find a spot. I got into a discussion with the bar tender at my favorite restaurant about this. She used to park in front of the restaurant and feed the meter all day – about $4.00 – $5.00 a day. She complains now that she has to walk 5 blocks, but pays $4.00 a day in a lot (monthly rate). I pointed out to her, that she has a customer (me) because of it, because I can now find a spot to park at lunch time.
    Bottom line, more expensive parking, leads to more turnover, leads to more business, leads to more vibrant neighborhood.

    1. That’s a great story and an objective anecdote that shows people that their initial assumptions are false. We have a similar problem of business owners parking in the spaces in front of their businesses. Nobody gets it. Others think they deserve to park out front as a customer. The last I looked, we could all do from a bit of walking. It’s too bad you can’t walk downtown anymore. Thanks for reading.

  3. Lee – Great conversation starter. Parking is the bane of our society. Instead of leaving behind “historic buildings”, our legacy will be “historic parking lots” that future generations will be tearing out because flying cars will be the mode of transport! Futuristic technologies aside, cities should take a serious look at investing in a robust network of public transit systems that aid residents, workers, and visitors/tourists instead of focusing on parking. I agree with your points about walking and connecting to the city, but also let’s not forget – more cars and more parking contributes to pollution, urban heat island effect, dilutes the urban fabric, and is just plain unsightly. I realize there are real issues we need to deal with, and I am guilty of driving a car myself. Austin, where I live, has been taking measures to address the growing population. Car share, Uber, Google car are market driven solutions that provide options for getting around. Thought I’d share a few links.

    1. Thanks for reading and for sharing your point of view. Greensburg, where I live has only 15,000 residents so the only public transportation is a county transit bus. It can’t really take you around like a large city nor does it have a route through the neighborhood. The only people that tend to ride it are senior citizens, lower income people and an occasional park and ride service into neighboring Pittsburgh.

  4. Great article Lee. Once again i find myself responding with a resounding YES! Here in Mansfield we suffer from much the same. I am on the board of our local children’s museum that is located downtown. One of the biggest complaints we get from patrons is that there is no place to park. Never mind that there is a free municipal lot the size of a city block. Never mind that it is only 1-1/2 blocks from the museum. Never mind that it is never more than 1/3 full. There is no place to park! And yet more buildings come down and are replaced with unsightly and often unpaved surface parking lots.

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