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Parking lot grief

  • Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM
- Posted: December 8, 2016
Anyone who has plowed snow for even a single storm knows the frustration of working around islands, light poles, curb stops and other obstructions in a parking lot that would otherwise be a simple, straightforward push. Even lots that seem simple on a beautiful fall day can be the source of endless frustration and detail work in a snowstorm. It begs the question: “Why would they design a lot this way?” So, to understand the answer to that question, as well as the future of parking lot design, it may be best explored through the five stages of grief. Consider the thoughts encountered at a new shopping center.

SB1216_ParkingLot (300x270)
As urban planning evolves, parking lot design is changing - not always for the better. Obstructions, islands and increased green space make site engineering more challenging.

Parking lot design isn’t really that bad.

Yes, there are islands, green space and small sections separated out for no reason, but plowing is plowing at the end of the day. The best snowplow drivers can engineer a plan around any obstacle. Simply focus on pushing the snow and everything will be fine. In fact, new lots are built larger with more space to stockpile snow! At the very least, it isn’t bad enough that knocking off 10% on the price to get the job will play a major factor.

Besides, this “mixed-use” trend is probably just a fad. There is no way that people will really want to live in high-end condos above expensive restaurants and shopping with every need within walking distance. Designers claimed that it helped with transportation and connectivity, but now that ride sharing is such a big deal, the story will change. There is nothing to worry about at all!

This layout doesn’t make any sense at all! Parking lot designers must do this intentionally just to ruin the timing of this route. Every push ends prematurely at an island leaving trails of snow in every corner.  Some can’t even be seen until - CRASH!  This is the dumbest layout ever! How many more hours of plowing are left?

Who is leaving cars out here all night? Do these people live here? Stop buying bread and milk, people -  it’s only a 6-inch storm! Go home!

Maybe if that island is damaged badly enough, it won’t be replaced. Surely, if this account is plowed well enough, it will lead to more accounts with wide-open parking lots. Perhaps parking lot engineers will finally accept simple design methodologies if enough property managers complain. A movement could be started! The snow gods can help change the tide of parking lot design if the industry can rally together as a whole!

Perhaps if the restaurants are plowed first then the retail won’t be so bad on the return trip. That only leaves the residences to clear after the fact. If the shovelers can band together, maybe people won’t complain. Maybe this will be the last snowstorm!

There is no hope for parking lot design. By not stopping the green space movement soon enough, there is now perceived acceptance to create more complex and difficult ordinances for trees. It’s a 24/7 world of instant gratification, and more lighting is needed in parking lots to keep late-night shoppers safe. To make it worse, environmentalists have forced LED lighting into the world of exterior lighting and their lights cost twice as much to replace when they inevitably get knocked over. 

Mixed-use centers are here to stay. No longer is it possible to only plow a restaurant or store or condominium or industry location - they’re all morphing into one! There is nothing to stop them and no way to ever regain what has been lost. Plowing is hopeless.

Admittedly, new parking lot design can be pretty terrible. Yet it is necessary for real estate companies to design lots this way to attract tenants and customers. If they aren’t successful, then who would pay plow companies? Perhaps the new reality isn’t so bad.

It does open the door for new efficiencies and sales opportunities. Detail work is certainly more expensive, which means increased revenues. Plus, the need for sidewalk machines, snow removal, specialty deicers, roof removal or even snow melting is on the table. Companies that learn to adapt may even be able to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Maybe parking lot design is just fine the way it is!

Neal Glatt, CSP, ASM, is account executive for Case Snow Management. Contact him at
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