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Shared Spaces

Isaiah Mouw

A recent flight offered me the time to read ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.  (The Parking Professional cover story, May 2012. [PDF]) One concept that caught my attention was that of shared space designs for streets and parking lots.

Shared space involves the redesign of streets/land areas to blur distinctions between drivers and other users by removing clear-cut rules, signage, and traffic lights that should prompt caution, low speeds, and a negotiated approach to the right-of-way. In other words, removing the typical safety boundaries in a street or parking area creates an intentional unsafe environment. Creating an unsafe and unfamiliar environment causes drivers and users to be extra cautious.

Sound ridiculous?

Shared spaces has been widely used over the past 20 years in cities such as Delft, Netherlands; Bohmte, Germany; and Brighton City, U.K. Designers of a shared space plan in the Delft state, “Separating traffic flows blinkers people and causes an increase in speed. Because everyone has their one lane, people take less account of other road users.”[1]

This is an example of why more pedestrians are killed crossing the street at marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. Pedestrians compensate for the “safe” environment of a marked crossing by being less cautious about the oncoming traffic.  The book, Target Risk, by Gerald J.S. Wilde discusses Sweden’s efforts to change from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right. People compensated for the new traffic changes by driving more carefully. During the next year, traffic fatalities dropped 17 percent, before eventually returning gradually to their previous levels.

Of course, a concept as radical as this does not come without its complaints. Coventry City, U.K., recently implemented several shared space designs in several of its town junctions in part of redevelopment plan for the upcoming Olympic Games. Many city residents are not happy with this plan, leading to a petition with more than 700 town signatures to put an end to such designs, as well as a Facebook page entitled “End Coventry’s ‘Shared Spaces’ Experiment.”

I am not advocating parking professionals take down all their parking and traffic flow signage and open up their parking lots to be used as public free-for-alls, but this concept is definitely worth looking into in more detail.

All Roads Lead to Technology


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.

Rethinking Our Future

L. Dennis Burns

Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D., professor of landscape planning and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has written a new book, ReThinking A Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, and a feature about it for The Parking Professional [PDF], as well as a post here at the Parking Matters® Blog. Dr. Ben-Joseph makes many excellent points related to the importance and prominence of parking not only as a significant and necessary land use, but also the great potential that exists in rethinking it.

It is exciting to see the academic community beginning to recognize the significance of parking on so many levels. Donald Shoup, Ph.D., professor of urban planning at UCLA, deserves much credit for generating a greater awareness of parking to a broader audience.

Parking professionals today (I am proud to be considered one) routinely operate in a world of vision and scope that has expanded exponentially in the past decade. Parking is an exciting, multi-dimensional discipline that is more interesting, more varied, more relevant, and more valued than at any time in its history. Parking intersects with many other disciplines that today’s industry professionals are challenged to be fluent in; we know not only the fundamentals of parking management, but also those of related disciplines such as economic development, urban design, campus planning, sustainable transportation and brand development/communications, just to name a few.

Because of its importance, complexity, and specialized nature, the parking industry has two important challenges for the decade ahead: a need to prioritize education within the industry and to promote a greater awareness why Parking Matters® externally. I know that IPI has both of these priorities well in hand. The progress being made is truly exciting.

Thank you Dr. Ben-Joseph for helping to raise the level of discourse related to parking and for challenging all of us rethink how we do what we do.

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.

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.

Giant Twinkies

Mark Wright

I’m staring through a tall expanse of picture windows at a parking lot as I tap out this post on my iPad. The windows are just about the only thing between me and the parking spaces a few feet away that house vehicles pointed directly at me. A very shallow curb extends a few feet out from the building.

Sitting here is stupid, given my history. But it’s a bright sunny day. The big windows draw my eyes out toward a beautiful blue sky. And I’m watching every vehicle that pulls in so I’ll be ready to leap if one of them fails to stop — or if a driver’s foot mistakenly hits the gas instead of the brake.

None of the people around me seem concerned as vehicles come and go from the spaces a few feet away. They’re chatting. They’re reading. They’re using mobile devices.

Well, far be it from me to interrupt them (“Who the heck was that wacko…and what’s a bollard?”).

If a parking professional sat next to me, of course, he or she would surely notice something missing. White-lined parking spaces? Check. Blue disabled-only symbols where appropriate? Check. Proper drive lane widths and clear sight lines? Check.

The missing element: a safety barrier between vehicles and the people sitting here behind all this glass.

An observation by the ever-insightful Homer Simpson seems fitting: “You know that little ball you put on your antenna so you can find your car in a parking lot? That should be on EVERY CAR!”

Ditto for safety barriers—bollards, boulders, planters—whatever’s appropriate for the site. Why shouldn’t every parking facility use them?

If we were to ask Homer for an idea about protecting pedestrians and building patrons from moving vehicles in parking areas, his answer might be, “Ummm, giant Twinkies?”

I’d hate to block that great view in front of these picture windows with four-foot Hostess products, though. (D’oh! Now I have the munchies.)

What are your thoughts? Post them in the comments below.