A Recipe to Reframe the Parking Matters® Conversation

Bridgette Brady

“You need to involve more planners in your associations,” said Gordon Price after his keynote address at the PIPTA conference in Seattle. I swear, I saw faces light up when he said it. Why? We were excited because Price, a renowned urban planner, former politician, and now writer and college instructor, had just acknowledge that what we do … matters.

During his keynote, Price offered a new way of communicating that Parking (and transportation) Matters and he did it without knowing that this is what we’ve been saying all along. He reframed the conversation about our role in creating urbanity and place by providing a recipe for transportation choice. He was no longer using plannerspeak, instead relating the topic to something we all love: food. It didn’t hurt that he was a little spicy–pardon the pun–with his choice of phrases, which kept the audience engaged.

My interpretation is this; you need a whole cup of human density in an area, a tablespoon each of mixed-use and proximity to services, with a couple pinches of good design to serve up a transportation choice. Thankfully, one choice is the car, which implies the need for parking. Of course, the other plated transportation choices are mass transit, active transportation, and sharing modes.

Price also offered a non-numeric equation for those who don’t go anywhere near a cookbook and the kitchen, using the same variables whereas TC (transportation choice) follows the equal sign. For those that prefer plannerspeak, he communicated further in the address that “form follows parking.”

Price hails from Vancouver, a city well known for smart land use and comprehensive transportation systems. His career as an urban planner and politician occurred in Vancouver, lending to his credibility as a subject matter expert. As a side note, he’s really funny too.

I truly hope that within the coming year, you are able to experience his keynote address because he gets it. He understands we need to be involved in planning for access to place. It might be odd to blog about a blog but just in case you are interested, Price’s is Price Tags.

Open Dialogue on TDM

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Planners, transit professionals, developers, and transportation demand management (TDM) experts have been on our list of people to reach out to and build partnerships with for the last several years. We know our industry’s work influences these perspectives and vice versa, and we’ve had success in attracting some of these folks to our events and inviting them to contribute to our publications.

I just returned from the Heartland Active Transportation Summit (HATS) held in Omaha, Neb. The theme was Parking for Livable Communities, and planner Jeff Speck and I delivered key note addresses to a crowd of about 250. Jeff spoke about what makes cities walkable, including how parking can contribute or not (see his new book and our interview with him in the September issue of The Parking Professional). I spoke about sustainability in parking and ways we can take lessons from other industries to illuminate our path forward.

What sets HATS apart and why the meeting was special is that the conference was not organized by the usual suspects–and by that, I mean us! This conference was organized and attended mostly by people who are not from the parking industry. Planners, transit professionals, and TDM experts put on the conference and seem to get by without our prodding to work together to address transportation, livability, and sustainability issues.

During one Q&A session, a comparison was made between Wichita and Omaha, and I gather that Wichita is outdoing Omaha in some regard. One member of the audience challenged the rest of the group by saying, “If Wichita can do it, so can we.” To that I say, if the planners, transit gurus, and TDM pros in the heartland can invite a meaningful and important dialogue with the parking profession, so too can everyone else.

Getting Right Already

Brett Wood

One of my passions is right-sized parking. When you find others in the industry who share your views, it’s only natural to promote them and, more importantly, the great work they are doing.

In my time working in the Pacific Northwest, I have been following the efforts of King County Metro Transit and the work of Daniel Rowe. Together, Daniel and his organization are making great strides to right-size parking in their community. By employing data-driven analysis methods and realistic planning factors, they will inevitably help the Seattle and larger King County community save countless parking spaces and enable the construction of higher-density developments that help shape a more dynamic and energetic community. The King County Right Size Parking Project is funded by the FHWA Value Pricing Pilot Program. Additional information on can be found here.

Over the past couple of years, Daniel and King County have undertaken one of the nation’s largest right-sized parking efforts to date. The intent of this movement is to help communities find the right mix of parking and development to support growth without inhibiting community development. Sounds easy enough, but when you start to look at all the factors and players, achieving right-sized parking isn’t as easy as it sounds. Through their study efforts, King County has defined new ratios for parking generation based on location, area density, transit service availability, pricing, job availability, and development type. And to top that off, their website allows you to evaluate parking demands based on all these factors.

I dare you to play with that website for five minutes and not get hooked on the premise of right-sized parking. Daniel’s team has established unique factors that define their community’s parking paradigm, including transit availability, job density, and overall residential development characteristics. With these factors, you (the parking planner in any city) can begin to plan your ideal development that requires no parking and promotes the ideal walkable lifestyle.

I may be overly excited about an effort like this, but this outside-the-box thinking is going to transform us from an auto-dependent society into one that embraces great urban design policies, sustainable transportation infrastructure, and lessened pollution. It’s time to get right!

Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning

L. Dennis Burns

I guess it’s true. There are no new ideas.

I recently spoke at the Healthcare Design Conference in Phoenix. While waiting in the speakers’ lounge, I struck up a conversation with another presenter. She asked what my topic was (Parking and Transportation Master Planning for Healthcare Campuses) and I asked her what she was speaking on. Her topic was Practitioner-Based Healthcare Planning.

I was kind of floored, because I had just been drafting an article based on the same concept, but within the parking and transportation planning arena (thus no new ideas). I guess even for me and my colleagues, the idea wasn’t really new. A small group of colleagues and I have been bringing in practicing parking professionals on our projects for years to provide added value and insight, but somehow giving it a label such as “Practitioner-Engaged Parking and Transportation Planning,” seemed to put a new spin and a different focus to the practice.

The reasons I am excited about this approach are threefold:

  1. I know from numerous experiences that this approach really does add significant value and sometimes unexpected insights to a consulting project.
  2. The sheer number and diversity of innovative programs being led by highly qualified parking professionals has grown exponentially. It used to be a challenge to find qualified candidates; now the problem is narrowing down the list!
  3. All of this speaks to amazing qualitative growth and development of the parking industry over the past 10 years.

I give IPI a huge amount of credit for creating the idea of a “parking professional” years ago and following through with programs that have made that concept a working reality. The exponential growth of creative ideas that have led to new and innovative programs and strategies is propelling our industry forward!

 

 

Parking 20 Years From Now

Dave Feehan

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.

Goldilocks and the Three Parking Approaches

Brett Wood

I am sure you have all heard the cautionary tale of Goldilocks, about a young girl who entered the house of a family of bears and tried their food, chairs, and beds. In the story, Goldilocks is not a fan of the food, chairs, and beds of the larger bears, but the baby bear’s items are just right!

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Has Brett lost his mind? He’s blogging about a children’s story.”

Let me get to the point. We’re going to examine differing parking planning philosophies like Goldilocks would.

The traditional method for defining parking needs included looking in a manual or a dusty old city code ordinance and doing a simple series of calculations that defined parking needs based on a building’s total square footage. Let’s call this the “Too Big” approach. Typically, codes are based on sampling of suburban sites, which begs the question, “Why are we applying suburban parking practices in our downtown?”

Newer methodologies include “shared parking,” which has drastically changed the way we plan for parking. Under this philosophy, the planner would look for compatible land uses that might be able to share a common pool of parking spaces. The analysis would use typical time of day patterns to predict peak and hourly parking conditions. The problem with this approach? We are still using generic parking generation rates that come from a small sample of sites, which can still result in a misrepresentation of parking. Let’s call this the “Slightly Too Big” approach.

The newest form of planning takes the form of “Right Sized Parking,” and is a concept that aims to localize parking decisions by factoring in unique conditions such as transit, user characteristics, and actual demand attributes. The intent of this approach is to better define parking demand, reduce (or sometimes enlarge) parking needs based on actual community characteristics, and provide more developable space. It is based on local data, either collected continuously or modeled in parking planning applications.

Given the state of urban planning, smart growth, and increased efficiency through sustainability measures and infrastructure reduction, isn’t it time parking got it just right? The next time you sit down to think about how you manage your community’s supply and demand, think about Goldilocks and just the right size.

 

MTI: Claiming a Seat at the Table

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Sally Ride’s passing gives us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of exploration and the profound impact research can have on our society.  In our own sector research is equally critical. The Mineta Tranportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University announced yesterday their award from the U.S. Department of Transportation  of a $3.49-million grant to study “transportation research, workforce development, technology transfer and education.”  MTI will be teaming on the project with colleagues from Rutgers University, Howard University, University of Detroit Mercy, Grand Valley State University, Bowling Green University, Toledo University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Pennsylvania State University.  No doubt, the consortium’s work will produce findings that will positively affect us all.

In looking over the list of schools included in the work I can’t help but think of the fine parking professionals at or near each school who I hope will be included in the effort.  Experts such as Tad McDowell at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Clayton Johnson from the Downtown Toledo Parking Authority, to name two, are seasoned parking and transportation professionals who would bring a tremendous amount of practical experience to the table.

Research is critical to expanding our knowledge base, and it’s exciting to hear about efforts that are directed at our field.  To get the most of the effort, the right people need to be included. In this case, the MTI and its colleagues need to look no further than their own communities to find capable, smart, talented people who can help them ensure their efforts bear the most fruit.

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.

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.

Parking Op-ed in the New York Times

Shawn Conrad

There was an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking. I sent a letter to the editor of the New York Times (below) that supports IPI’s efforts to advance the parking profession. Look for a feature from Dr. Ben-Joseph in the May issue of The Parking Professional. I welcome your comments.

My Letter to Editor of the New York Times:

Thank you to Eran Ben-Joseph for bringing attention to the importance of parking in his New York Times op-ed, “When a Parking Lot is So Much More.”

The Survey of Emerging Trends in Parking conducted by the International Parking Institute last year found that many problems identified with parking facilities today could often have been solved had parking professionals been consulted earlier in the planning process. Well-planned parking can increase use of mass transportation, reduce the number of people commuting, encourage alternative travel methods and better utilize parking through shared use. There is a new generation of parking professionals with diverse expertise in urban planning, public policy, transportation, architecture and engineering who are making significant progress in improving parking through advanced technology, better design, and a focus on sustainability to create more aesthetic and livable communities.