Here's some scenes from the sprawl surrounding my fair town, taken at 11:00 AM on Black Friday, November 25, 2011 - the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States.
You're probably noticing two things.
1) There's no landscaping. It's an Upstate New York thing; the excuse being that it would make the lot too difficult to plow.
2) The parking lots are nowhere even close to full.
Upstate New York really didn't get hit too hard by the Great Recession. The area where I live is one of the few in Upstate New York that is actually growing. It's not a lack of money that are keeping these parking lots empty.
So, I have to ask my fellow planners: why do we require so much parking for retail uses, spaces that go empty even on Black Friday? Why do we fear the thought of a full parking lot?
Consider this: the standards were first established in the 1950s and 1960s (usually 4 or 5 spaces per 1000 square feet of retail), when there was far less retail space per person. Stores of that era were more crowded; smaller aisles, shelves packed more tightly, few open spaces. Anyone who was a child of the 1970s or earlier remembers how much more packed and chaotic supermarkets, department stores and discount stores used to be. Today's parking standards are still based on retail floor space, and are mostly unchanged from a time when stores were much smaller and more crowded as a norm.