Parking is often a chore at Colonie Center, especially when the mall is crowded.
It would become even more difficult if the mall’s new owners are granted permission to increase the number of spaces by roughly 2 percent.
The problem is that in doing so, the mall would reportedly shrink the width of an unspecified number of spaces — by six inches in some cases to a full foot in others. That would be from the current 9 feet to just 8 or 8 1/2 feet.
The shrunken spaces would ostensibly be designated for “compact” cars only. But what qualifies as a compact car? And even if there were a standard definition, who would make sure the rule was adhered to?
Sure, there are plenty of smaller cars around these days, but bigger and fatter ones as well. The industry standard of 9 feet for spaces in parking lots is sufficient for the average car perhaps, but not the pickup trucks and large SUVs so many Americans still favor.
And in tight, irregularly shaped parking lots like Colonie Center’s, navigating the twists and turns is already tough enough for many motorists. So is escaping a shopping trip there without dinged doors — which would be more likely when oversized vehicles park next to small ones in shrunken spaces.
It’s not like mall officials want to add the new spaces out of any sense of altruism; they’re proposing it because they want to build a couple new restaurants, which would trigger a town zoning requirement. But the requirement — four new spaces for every 1,000 square feet of new building — is there for good reason, and shrinking the width of existing spaces just to squeeze in 167 more is not the way to address this issue.
Actually, it seems quite a bit like airlines shrinking the size of their seats and the space between rows so they can jam in extra seats and rows. They started doing it decades ago, and it soon became a slippery slope that, as any regular flier knows, has resulted in less leg room and more-cramped quarters for all but first-class passengers.
The Colonie Planning Board, which will consider the proposal at its July 15 meeting, should encourage a more responsible approach to the problem — like the construction of a parking deck.
Something else that could help with parking congestion would be a program that encouraged greater use of public transportation to and from the mall.
Either option would be better than creating narrow new parking spaces that will make an already-difficult parking task even more challenging.