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Parking 20 Years From Now

Are city local governments and private developers that are building parking structures today with life expectancies of 50 years in the same boat as people who built horse stables in 1900? A number of companies have been at work in the U.S. refining a concept that has been working in Europe and Asia: the automated robotic parking garage.

I visited Boomerang’s model facility in New Jersey recently and I was impressed with how smoothly and efficiently it works. No up and down spirals, no slanted floors, and a building that can be used in any number of ways and can store any number of things besides cars.

California just became the second state to pass legislation permitting driverless cars. Several other states are considering such legislation, and Google, Toyota, and Cadillac are well into testing these vehicles. Add to these advances the acceptance of car- and bike-sharing programs, and in 20 or 30 years it may not be necessary to own a car, secure a driver’s license, or worry about tickets at all.

People living in urban areas will only need a smartphone (maybe worn on a wrist?) to summon a “personal transportation unit” that will pick them up, deliver them to their destination, and then proceed to either the next customer or a charging station. These vehicles may well use Segway technology, and will be relatively small, light, and electrically powered. Some people may still own more conventional vehicles, but even these will probably have driverless technology, obviating the need for traffic signals and reducing auto accidents to a very low level, thus reducing traffic congestion.

Automated parking structures can be built to be readily convertible to office or residential use once development patterns change, so there will be no need to tear down expensive conventional parking garages that are still structurally sound.

None of us knows for sure how fast these changes will occur, and how readily people will adapt to them, but think of the speed of innovation in other industries, and think of the energy savings and cost savings that could occur if we move in this direction. If I were a parking director for a city, hospital, university, or private development, I would think long and hard about this technology.

About Dave Feehan

Dave Feehan is president and CEO of Civitas Consultants LLC and former president of the International Downtown Association. He is a member of IPI's Accreditation Committee and a frequent contributor to various professional journals. He is working on a new book, Design Downtown for Women - Men will Follow.


  1. Dennis Burns says:

    Dave, Great Blog! Very thought provoking.

  2. Rick Onstott says:

    First time I ever agreed with Dennis Burns! Fantastic blog Mr. Feehan!

    Just kidding Dennis!

  3. Liam Keilthy says:

    Dave, can I suggest that we may benefit from a little reality check and historic perspective here. On the basis that the past is the best measure for predicting the future can we cast an eye back over the past 20 or 30 years and consider what lessons can be drawn from how cars parks have changed in that time? The answer is that the basic multi-storey car park has changed relatively little. Automatic car parks have been around for all of that time too. The revenue control systems and lighting technologies have changed dramatically. New online prebooking systems have emerged and payment options are evolving as we speak. For my money (a) I cannot see a significant shift to automatic stacker systems as a % of total new builds and (b) even if the share of new build grew the share of installed capacity would still remain very low. The same logic holds for electric vehicles and driverless cars. Big changes – probably in a 100 year time frame but not in 20. Liam

  4. helen says:

    Hi,About Dave Feehan, I appreciate your documents . We are manufacuter of thermal printer mechanism and have sell lots of mechanisms to PARKING SYSTEMS.

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