Smart city planners are rethinking parking by getting rid of it

smart city planners are rethinking the concept of parking smartcitiesepic 1
HUDSON PACIFIC PROPERTIES

Joni Mitchell sang, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” But could parking lots soon become extinct, with the lost paradise making a return?

As cities get smarter and mobility solutions and consumer habits change, more urban planners are eschewing the construction of public parking garages — or changing how they conceive of them altogether.

With ride-sharing services gaining ground, a shifting demographic of people who no longer own cars, and the coming revolution of autonomous vehicles, transportation planners and city managers are rethinking parking despite the fact that more people are expected to move from rural to urban centers in the coming years.

According to a survey by commercial real estate firm CBRE, U.S. & Canadian Mobility 2018, the concept of commuting by car is about to undergo a paradigm shift. Indeed, in the U.S. people under 30 are more than seven-times more likely to take public transportation than those over 60 years of age. Furthermore, over the past three decades, the percentage of younger people who apply for a driver’s license has dropped nearly 20 percent, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Institute.

smart city planners are rethinking the concept of parking smartcitiesepic 3

“The demographics are changing, with younger people not owning as many cars,” Brian Abbanat told Digital Trends. Abbanat is a senior transportation planner for the city of Davis in California, which is considered one of the most progressive cities in the U.S. when it comes to transportation; it was one of the first municipalities to create dedicated bicycle lanes back in 1967.

Still, it’s a challenge to predict what a city’s parking needs may be decades into the future.

“And technologies come and go. Fuel cells were going to be big, then there was the Segway, now it’s the e-bike sharing systems,” Abbanat said. So in the short term, Davis is looking to charge for street parking downtown, hoping to manage supply and demand. Abbanat said the city is looking at dynamic pricing (higher prices during peak hours) and pay-by-app solutions to mitigate “ticket anxiety.”

As for the long term, Davis is not planning on building any parking garages. Outside consultants agree that the coming trends argue against it, with the mayor of Davis, Brett Lee, recently pointing out that a municipal garage would cost roughly $15 million and the city would have to increase property taxes for five years to cover the cost.

Moreover, there are many benefits that result from choosing not to build parking lots.

Un-paving paradise

“It’s not just about the car industry,” Esther Bahne, head of strategy and innovation at Mini, told Digital Trends. “It’s about the whole environment. Getting rid of parking lots, for example, can free up streets, allow for more parks and less pollution.” Bahne, who has worked in the auto industry for over 14 years, said the coming changes of electrification, ride sharing, and autonomous vehicles require creative ideas in cities in order to plan for the future.

smart city planners are rethinking the concept of parking smartcitiesepic 4
Esther Bahne

In fact, even where people are still building parking lots, they are taking a whole new approach that the Abbanat calls “adaptive reuse” of parking facilities.

In Columbus, Ohio, which won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $40 million Smart City Challenge two years ago, the local government has been studying and running various pilot projects to deliver solutions to city problems. Andrew Ginther, the mayor of Columbus, told Digital Trends that one of the major issues facing towns is affordable housing, especially as more people are predicted to move to cities.

“So now we ask, how can we build a parking garage so that it can be repurposed and reused in the future?” Ginther told Digital Trends when we asked him about the city’s smart city progress.

Even in places that are under constant expansion and lean heavily on a car culture, like Las Vegas, people are rethinking the approach to parking.

Making them different

“We are now building parking garages with the ramps on the outside of the main structure, in anticipation of a future where we won’t need as much parking and can then re-purpose the garages as residential properties, just by tearing off the outer ramps,” Michael Lee Sherwood, the director of technology and information for Las Vegas, told us at the Smart Mobility conference in Tel Aviv last fall.

Such considerations also affect the design and construction of office and apartment buildings.

A Hudson Pacific Properties office complex going up on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, for example, will have a dedicated ride-share drop-off lobby and two floors of parking that can be converted into office space in the future. The location is expected to house Netflix’s new headquarters, but even in the car-centric West Coast metropolis, planners are considering changes in the transportation landscape.

smart city planners are rethinking the concept of parking smartcitiesepic 2
HUDSON PACIFIC PROPERTIES

Such design changes mean building garages with higher ceilings and eliminating the sloping floors of typical indoor garages. A 15-foot floor-to-floor plan, for example, is usually needed for a loft, shopping, or apartment space. And if garages are to be converted to habitable office or apartment space, there also has to be accommodation for additional plumbing and electrical work, something that’s usually not considered in the construction of poured concrete multi-level parking facilities.

Furthermore, commercial property owners look 30 years out and have to anticipate revenue streams decades into the future. If people aren’t driving to work on their own or primarily using shared autonomous vehicles, they may not need parking, in which case a garage wouldn’t be profitable. So being able to easily convert such spaces into office, retail, or rental properties is a critical consideration today.

“But it’s hard to foresee the changes that are going to happen,” Abbanat of the city of Davis said. Even though the city has had bike lanes for over 40 years, for example, it’s now wrestling with how to handle e-bikes and scooter sharing services because the city has an ordinance that bikes need to locked at a bike rack. However, there aren’t many bike racks around town now; should they install more? What about on suburban streets? What about charging stations?

Now imagine the legislative headaches when people start riding in shared autonomous electric vehicles everywhere.

Emerging Tech

Hidden figures of the Manhattan Project: Meet the women behind the A-bomb (Part 1)

Participants of the Manhattan Project went on to win an impressive amount of Nobel Prizes, but the women scientists who worked along with them are often overlooked. They too had Ph.D.s in physics and chemistry but had few opportunities than…
Home Theater

These TVs might cost less than $1,000, but they certainly don’t perform like it

Check out our picks for the best TVs under $1,000 to enjoy top-shelf features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range, and gorgeous image processing. Park yourself here to find the absolute best values in TV land.
Outdoors

Lyft is offering free bikeshare rides to highlight Earth Day

To highlight Earth Day and promote its own green efforts, Lyft is offering free rides with its bikeshare programs in six cities across the U.S. on April 22. Anyone interested should check the service's website for full details.
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (April 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Cars

Kia’s HabaNiro concept is an autonomous electric car that knows when you’re sad

Debuting at the 2019 New York Auto Show, the Kia HabaNiro concept is supposed to preview the future of the everyday car. That future will include artificial intelligence tech that can read the driver's emotions, according to Kia.
Photography

Photoshop is headed to the iPad Pro, but is a tablet enough for photographers?

Adobe is bringing Photoshop to the iPad -- but are tablets ready to tackle the more complex photo edits? While Photoshop isn't yet available for the iPad, we added an iPad Pro to our photography workflow to see how the tablet holds up.
Emerging Tech

In the race for an atomic bomb, women scientists couldn't afford to be ignored

Participants of the Manhattan Project went on to win an impressive amount of Nobel Prizes, but the women scientists who worked along with them are often overlooked. They too had Ph.D.s in physics and chemistry but had few opportunities than…
Emerging Tech

Nonny de la Peña wants to put virtual reality within Reach

Telling a story in VR can sometimes pack a punch regular films can’t. As a pioneer in immersive journalism, Nonny de la Peña wants to open that experience to everyone with her Reach platform.
Mobile

Verizon just flipped 5G live in Chicago, but finding it is like panning for gold

Verizon activated its first 5G network in the U.S. on April 3, a week ahead of schedule, and we flew to Chicago to see what it’s like. There’s a high cost of entry, so is it worth it -- at least in 2019?
Emerging Tech

I tested my cat’s DNA, but the results only led to more mysteries

There are a couple of services that will test your cat’s DNA, including Basepaws and Optimal Selection. One doesn’t give any health information, while the other is marketed toward breeders.
Computing

As A.I. takes over the grunt work, doctors can get back to healing

The key to A.I.-based medical research is patients owning their own data. Rather than storing patient records in the cloud, researchers want patients to house their own data on their phones. This data could then be shared and pooled to…
Emerging Tech

Are we living in a simulation? This MIT scientist says it’s more likely than not

The simulation hypothesis, which was famously probed in the 1999 film The Matrix, is the subject of a new book by Rizwan Virk, a computer scientist and video game developer who leads Play Labs at MIT. In his book, Virk endeavors to unpack…
Gaming

From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.
Emerging Tech

You can now buy the $600 Somnox robot that promises to help you sleep better

Would you sleep with a robot, if it promised to cure insomnia, and leave you better rested? That’s the idea behind the Somnox sleep robot, and we leapt into bed with it for a single night to find out if it worked.