New Ways of Thinking

By Casey Jones, CAPP and Rachel Yoka, LEED AP BD+C

Today, Oct. 18, 2012, is National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day. One might take this news as little more than novel. Sure, maybe someone in the neighborhood has a Prius or perhaps you’ve seen an electric car charging station somewhere in your travels. But the truth is that there is a significant, paradigm-changing movement afoot with respect to how we fuel our vehicles, and reason to be optimistic that we might really be on our way to cleaner, more affordable fuel, access, and mobility choices. Here are a few examples to make the point.

BMW is the only privately-held auto manufacturer in the world. But they are also unique in how they are positioning themselves–perhaps what they’re up to gives us a glimpse into the future. BMW has redefined itself from a maker of great automobiles to the world’s leading provider of individual mobility. This is much more than a marketing stunt; it represents a sea change in terms of how we think about automakers. With partners such as Urban Mobility and Propark America, BMW is advancing the use of all-electric car-share vehicles (called DriveNow); has launched a city-specific mobility application called MyCityWay that, according to BMW “instantly identifies your location and shares the best places to get whatever it is you need;” and now offers ParkNow, which allows drivers to find and book parking, oil changes, valet services, and car washes in member and non-member garages.

BMW is not alone in forging ahead with innovation and creativity. Take Google, Inc.: At their Mountain View headquarters, you’ll see several BMW Active E vehicles available for use. There are also more than 100 compressed natural gas motor coach buses that shuttle Google employees (they’re called “Googlers”) around the Bay. Wi-Fi enabled, these vehicles are connected to the Google network and feature plush leather interiors and bicycle racks on the back. What’s more, Googlers aren’t charged to use these amenities. It’s simply part of what they provide their employees (along with free food, use of on-site workout facilities, message therapy, and a mobile barber shop). Like BMW, Google is pushing the envelope in many ways, most especially in the area of access and mobility management.

Neither of these companies is a flash-in-the-pan enterprise or undertaking anything akin to “greenwashing” (a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly). Both offer a glimpse at what is to come and both challenge us to shed our old ways of thinking. Parking organizations and professionals certainly have a role to play in this effort, and forward-thinking now will be critical to future success.

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