The number of parking spaces in downtown Hartford and New Haven has tripled over the last fifty years, according to calculations by a UConn PhD candidate.
"It was astonishing to see," said Christopher McCahill, a civil engineering student, "especially when you see these maps of how parking changed, and you see this map of how parking took over the land in the downtowns."
He found a 1957 aerial map of Hartford in the UConn library, and compared it to a 2009 map. At first he counted parking spaces, then realized each space and access to it was about 350 square feet in size. He's not devoting his career to counting parking spaces, though.
"My interest is much more broad. I'm definitely interested in transportation systems. We were shocked to see how much of a role parking plays, when you have a transportation system where cars are really important," he said.
Hartford in particular has inexpensive parking, and that has another effect, he said.
"The belief has been that if we want people to come into the city, parking needs to be easy and cheap," McCahill said. "Then your city starts to change and it starts to lose some of the advantage that a city has, which is a dense concentration of activities and people and excitement.
"When you have that dense concentration of things, then I think people are more willing to maybe pay more for that."