The Times They Are A-Changin’

paul_wessel

“The slow one now

Will later be fast…”

-Bob Dylan

Without a doubt, we are experiencing the birth of a multi-modal, poly-fuel future in which parking facilities will play a greater role as fueling stations and mode-shifting enablers.

I write this post from an Amtrak train on the way from New Haven, Conn., to Philadelphia, having walked through a New Haven Parking Authority garage housing scores of bicycles, a handful of Zipcars®, and an electric vehicle (EV) charging station in addition to the hundreds of cars long found there. The pace of what we will see in garages and how we will get to those garages is, shall we say, rapidly changing.

The latest sign of this is Tesla’s announcement of a highway rest stop-based fueling option for its battery powered cars that promises to be faster than filling your gas tank.  Planned to sit near the free fast-charging stations already in place on rest stop parking lots, the new premium battery swap stations will cost drivers $60 to $80 for 200 miles worth of fuel that’s ready to go in 90 seconds.

The luxury Tesla, awarded Consumer Reports’ highest rating ever, lost one point in that rating because of the hassle of charging for long-distance trips. With its 90-second battery swapping announcement, Business Week reports, “Tesla took a major stride toward getting rid of that downside.”

While few of us may ever be able to afford a Tesla, the life cycle of consumer good technology innovation has always been led by expensive, early-adopter products.  (Some of you may remember both the size and cost of the first cell phones to hit the market.)

And Tesla’s approach to feeding your car in the parking lot may not prove to be the approach that succeeds. CNET’s Car Tech blog criticizes the Apple-like proprietary nature of Tesla’s charging and battery-swapping approach as a “dead end” that’s good for Tesla but bad for electric car development in general, arguing instead for an open-source, universal approach that charges all electric vehicles.  Established auto manufacturers–whose cars most of us may be more likely to buy–are agreeing on charging standards to help the industry roll out; see, for example, the recent announcement of BMW and General Motors on a common fast charging approach.

The order may not (yet) be “rapidly fadin’,” but it’s clear from what we are seeing on the electric vehicle and hybrid front; T. Boone Pickens’ network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks; and Citi bike in New York City: transportation is becoming a many splendored affair. As we find new and varied ways to fuel our mobility, garaging our vehicles will be an increasingly creative undertaking.

A Bi-Partisan, Multi-Generational, Earth-Friendly Effort

paul_wessel

I’m still wishing everyone a happy 43rd Earth Day! It’s a sentiment I think we should try to keep alive beyond a date on the calendar. Bearing in mind philosopher George Santayana’s admonition that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” I did a little Googling on Earth Day’s history.

What I found on Earthday.org was stunning: leaders used to disagree without being disagreeable! Here’s how Earthday.org describes it:

The idea for Earth Day came to founder Gaylord Nelson (then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin), after witnessing the ravages of the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, environmental protection would be forced onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the media, persuaded conservation-minded Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to serve as his co-chair, and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes then built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.

As a result 20 million Americans took to streets, parks, and auditoriums in massive rallies across the country on April 22, 1970, to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable world. Thousands of college and university students organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that fought against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Two television broadcasts from that time capture both the passion and diversity of the emerging movement as well as the civility with which we used to disagree:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/67649

http://www.hulu.com/watch/67637

I’m glad to be part of a group of people in the parking, auto, real estate and technology industries keeping the optimism of 43 years ago alive today. Keep your eyes open for a wonderful spring blossoming from the Green Parking Council:  Check out an advance copy of our Green Garage Certification Public Beta (alternate site for easier downloading and printing) and join us in keeping the spirit of Earth Day alive 365 days a year.

 

Transforming Transportation

paul_wessel

I spent a day and a half last week at “Transforming Transportation,” at the opulent headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., with hundreds of big thinkers from China, India, Russia, Latin America, and elsewhere. There was lots of excitement about ways sustainable transport can expand mobility while avoiding congestion, air pollution, and reliance on imported fuels. They also got it that Parking Matters®; as the mayor of Quito, Ecuador, pointed out, “If we keep current car ownership trends, we will have to park on the moon.”

German climate and transportation expert Daniel Bongart argued that “Parking pricing, congestion charging, license plate auctions are keys to financing sustainable transport.” We heard about solving the “last mile” problem for parkers and commuters in Hangzhou, China, with “The Biggest, Baddest Bike-Share in the World.” Now boasting 240,000 trips per day on more than 60,000 RFID-tracked bicycles, it is projected to grow to 175,000 bikes by 2020.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, keynoting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, emphasized that transportation change can happen quickly at the city level where the streets–and parking–are controlled. He’s working with mayors of the world’s megacities to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency around the globe. Their C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, recognized Park(ing) Day last year.

The event affirmed that people from across the globe are realizing Parking Matters®. The response to my supplementing the handouts on the official table with Green Parking Council and Green Garage Certification information was so strong that I had to keep replenishing the stack!  As the parking industry pulls together to help parking become part of the solution, the solution-seekers are realizing our contributions.

That’s a very good thing. The challenge is profound and upon us as World Bank President Kim compellingly explained, “If things go badly, by the time my three-year-old son is my age, the oceans will be 150 percent more acidic, coral reefs will be melted away, fisheries will be completely disturbed, and every single day, food fights and water fights will occur somewhere in the world. Working on transport is part of this moral responsibility we have to the cities of today, and to future generations.”