Lakes of black asphalt spread across towns and villages, parking lots increasingly represent those fighting against climate change. Some greener options flourish among these large asphalt surfaces, but regulations are slow to take root in the development of greener, more attractive and more user-friendly parking lots.
Where it reigns, the kingdom of the automobile seems infinite. In 2019, Laval had more than half a million parking spaces throughout le Jésus, or three spaces for every car — not counting residential entrances. On average, more than 80% of these favorable lots were vacant at all times of the day, and 90% of their surface area did not have trees.
Another example: Drummondville a few years ago calculated that mineralized surfaces occupied almost 50% of the area of its central district. Between roads and parking spaces, the ground occupancy of buildings is a narrow 18.5% in the city center.
These large asphalt surfaces where the car sleeps while waiting for its owner pose various problems. First, parking lots generate heat islands, so much so that the perceived temperature can easily rise by 10°C compared to other urban areas within the same environment. The mercury that jumps in the city increases, through ricochet, the use of air conditioners, which are often energy intensive, to the point that “a 2°C increase induced by urban heat islands can increase energy consumption by 5%”.
As early as 2009, the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ) sounded the alarm: “on hot days, asphalt surface temperatures can reach 80°C”, INSPQ wrote in its measures to combat urban heat islands. The document shows that these conditions contribute to the formation of smog and formation, in addition to proving the total possibility of chronic diseases.
Other curbs: areas around schools, butchers, hospitals, arenas, warehouses, shopping malls, etc. they do not absorb rainwater. As soon as it reaches the ground, it stagnates or rushes into municipal aqueduct networks, which are already absorbing the increasingly frequent torrential rains in Quebec, like the flood that hit Montreal last September.
“Climate change is changing the frequency of extreme events,” explains Professor Sophie Duchesne, researcher at the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) and expert in hydrology and urban infrastructure. When it rains on a highly mineralized surface, this water falls on the impermeable surface and quickly flows to join the municipal network. It creates very fast flashing rivers. »
“We are still investing a lot of resources to increase and concrete roads, the interim director general of Nature Quebec, Cyril Frazao, but it is not enough to revegetate and revive the destroyed places.”
Other options promised
However, other traditional options for parking lots exist and allow municipalities to save significant amounts of money, in addition to creating more user-friendly areas for residents.
A few cities have adopted more careful parking lot policies to reduce heat absorption and increase rain absorption. Professor Duchesne notably worked on the development of the eco-responsible Peter-Laporte parking lot located in the city of Victoriaville. Once a sea of tarmac like Quebec has so many, this parking lot is undergoing a green treatment in 2020.
He looks forward to spreading the honeycomb, the summer grass growing under the axle of the car. The water retention of the island, newly planted with plants and trees, can be done before the rainwater wipes the surface before it flows into the sewer. Picnic areas have also taken root, and pedestrians and cyclists are also finding their way through walking corridors and bicycle garages.
“The sparrow becomes a sponge,” explains Professor Duchesne. In addition, he adds: Romain Coste, coordinator in the Montreal Regional Council for the Environment (CRE), encourages a new car park of mixed uses. “Traditional parking lots are designed solely around the automobile, never for active public transportation,” he laments. The program is car-centric, and we forget to plan around other roads. »
The improvements made to the Pierre-Laporte parking lot required millions and the sacrifice of 20 car parking spaces. However, there are still 141 left today, excluding the bicycles added to them.
This expense was well worth it, according to Villa Villa. “A little while ago, the mayor of Victoriaville, Antoine Tardif. On the other hand, in the medium and long term we get our money back by avoiding digging to expand our sewers and by reducing the amount of water treated in our purification centers. »
Victoriaville is, along with Drummondville and Pointe-aux-Trembles, one of the few municipalities in Quebec established by law to govern the design of several user-friendly and green lots. “In the future, every day to repair the parking lot,” emphasizes Mayor Tardif, “we will have to fill the needs so that it becomes more responsible coaching.”
A private challenge
Since 2017, Romain Coste, from CRE de Montréal, has been leading a campaign to support the conversion of lots and encourage best practices. He believes that the example of Victoriaville should be generated in Quebec rather than later.
“Peace is very slow, and we still have some challenges in our approach,” he said. Everyone agrees on the importance of greening our cities, but when we first reach the number of parking spaces, some elected officials rebel for fear of popular discontent. People always cry disaster, and every time the worst never happens. »
In Montreal, certain neighborhoods, such as Saint-Laurent or Le Sud-Ouest, are in front of the coaches. In others, sometimes there are no signs of tree planting or weather management, laments Romain Coste.
CRE believes that the rules are one of the keys to making regulations on the green parking lot. Taxation can represent another, according to Romain Coste, by promoting good practices and rejecting bad ones.
Taxation can also be encouraged by private individuals, so that the movement to reduce parking lots can be scaled up, he explains. CRE in Montreal lists about 500 parking lots with at least 100 spaces that together cover a few thousand square meters of mineralized space. A quarter of them belong to the industrial sector, another to public institutions, and the middle to the commercial sector.
“There are many opportunities for greening in private parking lots than in public lots,” says Cyril Frazao, of Nature Quebec. However, the hunger to do better does not yet hold the large private sector.
“In the new shopping centers, Mr. Frazao observes, there will be one tree for every 10 parking spaces… There is a bit like greenery. »
For the past few years, CRE has been rewarding the most exciting car lots in Quebec by providing them with an eco-responsible certificate. We have received 10 entries so far.
“The municipalities are aware of these things; but it lacks a lever for common use. The next step, concludes Romain Coste, is to review the regulations to establish new standards for the development of parking lots. »
To prevent the climate of the states in the bitumen seas with no other use than to push the cars.
An earlier version of this text, which indicated that parking lots represented spaces of 100 and more in Montreal’s 1,000 square kilometers of mineralization, has been corrected.