Much of the nation's most valuable real estate is now devoted exclusively to empty and idle vehicles, even as so many Americans struggle to find affordable housing. Parking determines the design of new buildings and the fate of old ones, patterns of traffic and the viability of transit, neighborhood politics and municipal finance, the quality of public space, and even the course of floodwaters. Can this really be the best use of our finite resources and space? Why have we done this to the places we love? Is parking really more important than anything else? These are the questions Slate staff writer Henry Grabar sets out to answer.
Wry and revelatory ... Grabar, who writes for Slate, does this now and again: elegantly stating a simple truth that undergirds the complex knot of social questions at the center of his book ... Many Americans expect parking to be “convenient, available and free” — in other words, “perfect.” Grabar empathizes with these desires, which is partly what makes Paved Paradise so persuasive. Only somebody who understands the emotional power of these fantasies can gently show us how bizarre such entitlement actually is.
Henry Grabar’s Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World is not a slog; it’s a romp, packed with tales of anger, violence, theft, lust, greed, political chicanery and transportation policy gone wrong ... Paved Paradise sensitized me to just how profoundly parking itself has contributed to the uglification of urban life ... Like many books that chronicle the deep problems that afflict humanity, Paved Paradise is better at explaining the magnitude of the crisis than providing workable solutions.
An anti-parking polemic, with many bits of mordant social history related in a good-natured and at times puckish vein ... Entertaining in the specificity of its indignation ... Grabar is earnest in his view that parking is a grave social problem, but his book is of necessity consistently entertaining and often downright funny. Although it is possible to make parking into a serious subject, it is impossible to make it a solemn one ... Grabar has a journalist’s essential gift for making a story out of people, not propositions. He fills his book with engaging eccentrics.