Parking Lots and Trash

Mark Wright

On a recent trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, I noticed a small sign placed along many of the area’s hiking trails that simply said: ‘Leave no trace.’ The signs apparently help, as I saw very little litter.

Back here at home, though, I see no such signs—but plenty of litter. I’ve watched people deliberately throw trash on the ground as they walk down the street or get into or out of their car in a parking lot.

Keep America Beautiful, Inc. (KAB) says more than 51 billion pieces of litter hit U.S. roadways each year. It’s an $11.5 billion problem annually, with business picking up the tab for $9.1 billion of that, followed by governments, schools, and other entities.

Trash is also a big environmental problem, particularly when plastic items slip through storm drains into local watersheds and out to sea. KAB spokesman Rob Wallace tells me research reveals that litter on the ground tends to attract more litter. “A littered environment creates a social norm that littering behavior is acceptable and that there is no penalty (either criminal or social) for doing so,” explains Wallace. “Therefore, a littered area is more likely to receive even more litter.”

Rick Siebert, Chief of the Division of Parking Management for Montgomery County, Md., says his jurisdiction discovered a counter-intuitive solution to excessive trash in county parking facilities about 15 years ago: removing all trash cans.

“People would bring garbage bags with them to work and dump them in our trash cans,” says Siebert. “And if the can was full, they’d stack them on top or leave them beside the can, which then drew vermin.”

Siebert says the county now has an outsourced crew go through each garage at least once a day and clean up. “When we took the cans out, litter went down—no more free dumpsters.”

How about you? Do your facilities have trash receptacles? How do you keep parking areas free of litter?

Those little trail signs in Maine make me wonder: Would a ‘leave no trace’ campaign work in a parking lot?

All Roads Lead to Technology

EmergingTrends_100sq

According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

Thinking Outside the Lot

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.

Guest blogger Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D. is professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and head, joint program in city design and development, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is author of Re-Thinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and of a feature in the May issue of The Parking Professional.

One look at a typical surface parking lot raises many questions: Can parking lots be designed in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing way? Can environmental considerations be addressed and adverse effects mitigated? Can parking lots provide more than car storage? Can they be integrated more seamlessly into our built environment in a way that is not only practical but also elegant and enjoyable? What can be learned from usage behavior and the manipulation of lots by unplanned-for users such as teens, food vendors, theater companies, and tailgating sport fans?

In the May issue of The Parking Professional [PDF], I offer thoughts from my book, ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. The book explores the origins of the surface lot and its influences on our culture; I think even the most mundane lot has potential to be much more. I argue, using the parking lot as an example, that molding everyday places though simple, generative interventions can transform the way we live and interact with our surroundings.

What is needed next is a renewed vision and exciting ideas for the 21st century parking lot. As a leading voice of the parking industry, the International Parking Institute champions new directions through its Awards of Excellence, which recognize outstanding design in parking. These awards encourage imagination and creativity that help find new solutions intrinsic to the function of the lot, but go beyond the typical aesthetic embellishments and illustrate potential for our future built environment. I am looking forward to hearing about this year’s winners in June.

What do you think can be done to encourage better design in surface lots?

 

The Conundrum of Paid Parking

Brett Wood

We are often asked about the implementation of paid parking within a community. Citizens, business owners, property owners, employees, and employers all want to know three things:

  • How will this affect business?
  • Who is going to be accountable for the system?
  • How do you measure success?

These are difficult questions to answer, but we find ourselves trying to answer them more and more. Every community reacts differently, and the success or failure of a parking system depends on everyone involved. Your community should consider these thoughts:

The community has to support implementation. You don’t have to believe in it, but if you want your business to succeed in the new environment, it’s imperative that you educate yourself, your employees, and your customers about the benefits and use of the system.

Forget about revenue. Paid parking shouldn’t be a cash grab for the general fund. For successful implementation, everyone has to understand that paid parking is about management, providing incentives to park away from premium spots, and encouraging prime spots to turn over.

Give something back. Provide some tangible benefit to the area through benefit districts that pay for transportation and community enhancements, and tell people you are doing it. Put a sticker on every meter that tells your customers where the money goes.

Ease up on the tickets. If you implement paid parking, focus on compliance. Ease up on citations. By educating your customers about how and where to park, violations should go down and revenue should be unchanged.

Market, market, market. Before you implement paid parking, start educating your customers about it. Pilot studies are a great way to test new technology before you buy. Don’t be afraid to try three or four vendors and equipment types. Test them all at one time. Ask people what they think.

Be flexible. Provide payment options. Don’t be afraid to raise or lower rates if you don’t find the balance you like. Go into the implementation with the mindset that year one is a trial, and include your stakeholders. Because they are using the system, and they are educating your customers.

Stormwater Solutions: Saving Money, Saving the Earth

Mark Wright

Standing in the middle of a parking lot on a bright sunny day can play tricks on your senses. It looks like a parking lot. It feels like a parking lot. It even sounds like a parking lot.

Go out there while rain is falling, though, and you realize something different: that parking lot is actually a stormwater management system. Unfortunately, many lots make all that stormwater somebody else’s problem by simply dumping runoff into the sewer system.

Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ill., decided its commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability demanded a greener approach to its parking lots, especially because the local sewer system was already capacity-challenged.

They invested in a 400-car permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) parking lot. PICP is a system that includes layers of aggregate material beneath the concrete pavers that let stormwater trickle down while pollutants are filtered out.

“Using PICP allowed us to eliminate unattractive and space-consuming detention ponds,” explains Jay Womack, ASLA, LEED AP, who recommended the system to the college; he was director of sustainable design at Wight & Company, Darien, Ill., and is currently director of landscape and ecological design for WRD Environmental in Chicago. “We were designing a new LEED Registered (Silver) residence hall for the college, and making the hall’s parking lot ‘green’ by using PICP just made sense.”

PICP systems can also save money by negating the need for a separate water detention facility.

Have you used PICP in your own parking facilities? Was it for new construction or a retrofit? And what has your experience with it been so far? All comments are welcome.