The average car, two hulking tons of steel, is 80 percent empty when it’s being driven by a single person. And most of the day, cars are totally empty, sitting unused. That, of course, requires space for parking: There are a billion parking spots across the United States, four for every car in existence. Plus, there are all the paved roads crisscrossing our cities. Add it up, and many downtowns devote 50 to 60 percent of their scarce real estate to vehicles.
It all seems rather inefficient and wasteful. If cities could reclaim even a fraction of this land from vehicles, they could build more housing, or stores, or parks, or plazas. For cities struggling with housing shortages and soaring rents, such as San Francisco and New York City, the gains would be staggering.
With ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft extending their reach, the development of autonomous vehicles, and the effect both will have on car ownership in the future, cities are going to have a drastically reduced transportation footprint. Cities like San Francisco are already preparing for the extra space that the influx of automotive technology is promising.