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Cover of Paved Paradise by Henry Grabar, red lettering on a white field that looks like a parking sign

Penguin Random House

Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World by Henry Grabar

Published in May 2023

I read (well, listened to) Paved Paradise on the recommendation of Matt Reed. Please read Matt’s June 20 review for an excellent synthesis and analysis of the book.

Once you read Paved Paradise, it becomes impossible to unsee the impact of parking.

Minimum parking space requirements deter the construction of affordable residential housing.

Cheap curbside parking encourages needless driving and deters the use of public transportation. Parking lots gobble up land that could be used for parks and housing.

Higher education gets a cameo in Paved Paradise. Clark Kerr’s famous quote is present:

“The university is a series of individual entrepreneurs held together by a common grievance about parking.”

The sole requirement to secure a free reserved parking spot at UC Berkeley is winning a Nobel Prize.

Might an equally fantastic book as Paved Paradise be written about parking and the university? Sure.

Some questions a university-centric book on parking might address include:

  • How have online learning and remote/hybrid work changed the demand for campus parking?
  • Can universities catalyze the transition to electric vehicles by giving these cars preferential parking and investing in fast charging on campus?
  • What might incentivize schools to invest in a robust (electric) shuttle network?
  • Will university parking lots be transformed into locations of campus solar panel canopies?
  • Why are universities slow to build covered bike parking for cycling commuters?
  • Should campus residence halls include parking spaces and how many per student resident?
  • Does a fantastic campus parking spot serve as a recruiting and retention tool?
  • Why have universities been slow to adopt digital parking lot assistants, such as digital signage and apps showing free spaces?
  • Do any residential universities leverage free parking for undergraduates as an amenity to drive applications and yield?

Paved Paradise tells the story of an offer for students at Arizona State University to receive a heavily discounted parking pass. The catch is that the Church of Latter-day Saints owns the parking lot and that students must agree to participate in a religion class to be eligible for the discount.

If the LDS church can incentivize student behaviors with parking, what might universities be able to accomplish?

In our post-COVID, flexible/remote/hybrid and online learning world, what is going on with parking on your campus? Is parking less of an issue than it was pre-2020?

Have you switched to commuting to campus (if you come to campus) on buses or electric bikes, leaving your car at home? Is your school building any new parking facilities? What role does parking play in your higher ed job?

What are you reading?

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