Putting Parking into its True Context

I recently looked back over some archived files and articles and was struck by an observation: there is always an “implicit context” behind any article or work of research. This applies not only to my own work, but on a larger scale to all the research and reports that I reviewed.

In the older parking work, the context seemed much smaller and rather insular to industry-specific topics. Most pieces were specific operational subsets of fundamental parking management areas, such as revenue control, facility maintenance, or other operational functions.

At some point about five or six years ago, a gradual shift began away from the strictly operational to a broader, more strategic perspective. This broadening of perspective began to lead to discussions of how parking interacts with a wide range of other related professions, including planning, urban design, economic development, downtown management, etc.

I recently developed a new presentation on The Transformation of America’s Parking Paradigm. One of the sections in this presentation discusses the new context through which I now view parking. A series of slides discusses a set of criteria or concepts that form the context base I use when I consider the application of parking design and management strategies. Consider this list of topic areas:

  • Density.
  • Third Places.
  • Scale.
  • Walkability.
  • Mixed and Multi-use Development.
  • Street-Level Activation.
  • Adaptive Re-Use and Infill.
  • Vitality and Energy.
  • Local Character.
  • Safety/Security.
  • Sustainable Transportation.
  • Accessibility/Integrated Access.
  • Multi-modal/Mobility Plans.
  • Parking Strategic Plan.
  • Active Transportation/TDM Integration.
  • The “Experience Economy.”

The list could go on and on, but it is clear to me that as a profession we have come to recognize that the work we do goes much further than the mere temporary storage of vehicles. Parking, by its very nature, is a connection point within the framework of our transportation systems and our communities/institutions at large. They have a natural complexity and importance and deserve special attention. It is encouraging to see that many thought leaders from other disciplines and professions are beginning to come to this same realization. With this new infusion of diverse perspectives and resources, who knows what the parking context might look like in another decade.

About L. Dennis Burns, CAPP

L. Dennis Burns, CAPP, is senior practice builder and regional vice president with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. He is a columnist and frequent contributor to The Parking Professional magazine. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, the Professional Development Task Force, and the Parking Program/Accreditation Task Force.

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