parking lot effect
(PAR.king lawt uh.fekt) n. Lighting, particularly in a garden or landscape, that is bright, harsh, and evenly distributed, much as it would be in a typical parking lot.

Example Citation:
Proper landscape lighting can expand the living space when viewed from windows inside the house and create a tranquil, even romantic, ambience. Here are eight tips on how to create that soothing feeling with landscape lighting:

1) Use different levels of light to create focal points. A common mistake is to light everything with equal brightness, creating a "parking lot" effect. The light should "draw" the viewer's eyes to specific points on your property.
—"Expand your living space with these eight lighting tips," Courier News (Bridgewater, NJ), May 30, 2003

Earliest Citation:
General Lighting. "You don't want the parking lot effect," says Eric Sepler, who owns Kinetic Artistry Inc. The idea in illuminating gardens is to do it indirectly. Thus you aim lights into trees and shrubs.
—Leslie Berger, "Illuminating Ways to Spark Up the Party," The Washington Post, June 10, 1982

Subscriber Roger Hill wrote to me the other day and said that instead of driveway effect — a special quality exhibited by a radio program that causes listeners to stay in their cars after they have arrived home so they can hear the end of the program — he'd heard the same phenomenon called the parking lot effect. This made more sense to him because, logically enough, "if the listener reaches his/her driveway, the radio indoors isn't far away. But on a parking lot, listen the segment out or lose it."

So I went searching for parking lot effect as a possible synonym for driveway effect. Unfortunately, I didn't find it but, as today's post shows, I did find plenty of evidence for a different sense of the phrase.

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