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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Underground Parking: Rome's latest Panacea

Rome is in the midst of an underground parking boom. In many neighborhoods--all outside the center, where antiquities are less likely to be encountered during the dig--underground parking lots either have been built, are being built, or are in the planning stage. The authorities have generally chosen two kinds of places to build the underground facilities: properties with no buildings on them (usually small parks), and wide, multi-lane parkways with trees in the middle, where traffic can run in reduced fashion during construction. One parkway project is underway near the Park of the Aqueducts, off the Lucio Sestio subway stop on via Lucio Sestio. Another, in the neighborhood of San Paolo, is underconstruction along viale Leonardo da Vinci. Lots under parks or vacant lots have been built in Flaminio at Piazza Melozzo da Fiori, and in Tor Pignattara.

The reason for all this activity is obvious: there are too many cars in Rome, even in outlying zones, and parking is obscenely difficult. If you're out late in the evening in your car, you are guaranteed a 10-minute search for a (probably illegal) posto (parking place). Although scooters often park on the sidewalk, that is not the custom in every neighborhood or on every street, and the city's ongoing efforts to delineate legal scooter parking places using white lines have in some places had the effect of limiting choice. So why not ease the parking problem by building lots underground?

We're not civil engineers or urban planners, but we've seen some of the existing facilities and observed enough of the ongoing protests against those planned or under construction, to understand why the underground lots might not be a good idea. The Flaminio lot was completed several years ago and finished with a public piazza above it. But the lot isn't operating, perhaps because of safety concerns, and the ramp leading to it is covered with graffiti (and not the artistic kind). Moreover, the piazza was poorly designed--mostly stone slabs, with a few benches--and is today lightly used, especially given the area's population density. We saw the surface portions of two lots in Tor Pignattara, and neither makes us optimistic. One was covered by a small, elevated park with two-foot weeds (photo at right)--asking for trouble. The other was still an ugly field, awaiting landscaping.

We're most familiar with the viale Leonardo da Vinci project, which we passed several times a day, and with the protests against it that began while we were living nearby.
There in San Paolo, elements of the community have organized to stop the project, distributing flyers (at left), holding community meetings, putting up signs, and contacting local and national leaders and other organizations that might have an interest in keeping the underground lot out of the neigborhood. Interestingly, one of the signs (see top of this post) blames not only the current Rome mayor, Gianni Alemanno, but the former mayor, Walter Veltroni (who authored the Foreword to Rome the Second Time): Veltroni & Alemanno/'sto parcheggio/fa solo DANNO! (this parking lot does only damage).

The protesters have several concerns. One is for the safety of children who attend school at the "Principe di Piemonte" facility, located across the viale from the area's apartment buildings; they argue that the new traffic configuration, by eliminating the parkway strip at the center, will result in an unsafe crossing. Another, emphasized in one of the flyers, is that the project will destabilize nearby buildings (the area is unusual geologically).

A third concern, which dominates the hand-printed signs on fences along the viale, is environmental, centered on the destruction of the mature trees that line the sides of the viale and its center strip. One says "Alberi condannati/a morte/dal parcheggio" (trees condemned to death by the parking lot). Another (right) says, "vi do/ossigeno/ma mi/abbattono/x un posto/auto!" (I give you oxygen, but you take me down, [in exchange for?] a parking space!"

Finally, the protesters make the surprising but telling point that the lot won't really help make parking easier: only 80 new, expensive ("a caro prezzo"), underground spaces, less than the number of cars that could park on the viale.
One of the signs (left) picks up on the class aspect of the project, calling the parking lot a place for the "pochi privilegiati" (the privileged few).

We sense that the protests are too little, too late, especially when it comes stopping projects already under construction; that won't happen. But we share the concerns of the opponents of underground parking and wish them success. As long as we don't have a car.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

by chance I have stumbled upon this post and I found it interesting. However, you should hope that opponents of ongoing underground parking projects can stop some of those projects even if you had a car. More car parking space translates into more car around, more traffic congestion, more air and acoustic pollution.