The Solar Parking Lot

Isaiah Mouw

The Wright Brothers started in a garage. Amazon started in a garage. Hewlett Packard and Disney both started in garages. Mattel started in a garage. The Ramones started in a garage. And the world’s first solar roadway started in a… parking lot. The Solar Roadways team just finished up the world’s first solar parking lot.

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

You might remember Scott and Julie Brusaw from their presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference &Expo or the feature in the February 2013 issue of The Parking Professional. They told us of their dreams to pave the world’s highways with high-tech solar panel roadways. Their purpose is to replace our nation’s deteriorating highway infrastructure and crumbling power grid with an intelligent highway system that pays for itself through the generation of electricity and doubles as an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized power grid. With the completion of this parking lot, they are one step closer to their dream.

“One of the biggest challenges of this phase was to explore and test various glass surfaces and textures and test them for strength, traction, and durability and all test results have exceeded our expectations. In addition to the solar cells, the panels contain heaters to keep them snow and ice free and LED lights for road lines and verbiage”, says Scott Brusaw. You can check out the pictures of the prototype parking lot here.

The parking industry can once again lead the way by donating to Solar Roadways’ Indiegogo crowdsource fundraising campaign which goes live on Earth Day (April 22). They plan to raise funds to be used to hire a team, plan for production and gear up for manufacturing, one parking lot at a time. It’s a fascinating project, and I’ll report back as new developments arise.

Mobility as Service

L. Dennis Burns

I recently embarked on a new area of research: multi-modal mobility as a service (as opposed to a product one might own). This brings together many elements from the fields of transportation and mobility, emerging technologies, environmental sustainability, changing demographic trends, and communications advancements. It is related to the concept of the connected traveler in that it embraces and leverages our new abilities to easily access a range of combined mobility services via smartphones and, increasingly, vehicles and other devices. Integrated mobility services offer new and easy ways to access options that can be tailored to better meet customer needs and address a range of issues related to the fact that soon, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in megacities.

The future of urban public transportation lies in mobility systems that provide bicycles, cars, and other transportation modes on demand. Most mobility assets will be shared instead of owned by users–a phenomenon known as shared-use mobility. Convenient and reliable lifestyle and mobility services will be offered to connected citizens who will be able to easily access them via their smartphones. These services will become viable alternatives to car ownership, as they are more tailored to customer needs and will ultimately be more cost effective and environmentally sustainable, and reflect the lifestyle choices of a new generation.

Combined mobility services take the concept of shared-use to a new level, recognizing that desires for flexibility and efficiency are further advanced when shared-mobility solutions can be offered in an integrated platform. For service providers making the transition to combined mobility services, these developments offer a real opportunity to deliver sustainable growth during the next decades.

Many of these new services are delivered as apps that connect the different participants. For example, Washington, D.C.-based RideScout integrates data from a host of different providers, including those offering carshare, bikeshare, fixed-route transit, and ride services.

Another intriguing model is Zappos’ Project 100, which aims to create a seamless network of 100 on-demand chauffeured Tesla sedans, 100 shared vehicles, 100 shared bikes, and 100 shared shuttle bus stops that a phone app optimally assigns to each subscriber who inputs a destination. This mixed-mode concierge service could be the next level of the concept of mobility as a service.

The parking industry has much to contribute to this new mobility future. After all, shared use is already an emerging trend within our industry. I am in the process of developing several new concepts for existing clients who are ready to take the next step toward combined mobility. I encourage you to learn more about this exciting area. Together, we can help develop strategies that will allow the parking profession to be a creative force for applying combined mobility solutions for the future. I hope you will join me for the ride!


Copybooks for All

Rachael Yoka

My kids started school a week ago (finally). It is of note that they resurfaced and re-striped the parking lot over the summer. This caused a certain amount of chaos, but it was a wise investment that will improve conditions in the long run. This post isn’t actually about that, though.

My kids have classes in history, english, math, and more. I am to provide a copybook for each distinct subject–a separate, individual copybook where my son and daughter will write useful information and things worth remembering about each subject.

Sadly, most of the time this is the case. Interdisciplinary explanations, connections, and impacts from one related subject to another (history and social studies, for example) go largely unexplained and unexplored at the elementary level, which I would argue is the best time to teach about those connections. Language and math and history and art and politics cannot be cleanly separated, and to do so leaves our kids at a disadvantage.

In the “real” world, do we operate differently?

Planners plan walkable (or drivable) cities.
Architects design green buildings and contractors build them.
Engineers create complete, green streets.
Parking and transportation professionals plan and operate assets to access said cities, buildings, and streets.

Few organizations, courses, or programs address not only these honorable endeavors, but also the complex relationships, synergies, and conflicts among them. Sustainability and smart growth can serve as that umbrella concept, but what more can we do?

To IPI’s credit, through its Parking Matters® program and other industry outreach efforts and alliances, inroads are being made so related professions take a more holistic approach that includes parking.

But we have much ground to cover. We do what we learn early in life.  We have learned to silo these “subjects.” I would rather be under the colorful umbrella that captures the nuances and relationships of the subjects we learn, and the work we do.

I, for one, would support a change in that paradigm, from Kindergarten all the way up to CAPP!


My Worst Nightmare: The Parking Death Spiral

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

This term “death spiral” conjures up images of nothing good in my mind. As a kid, I had a frequent nightmare about jumping off the bridge of a huge ship and spiraling downward without being able to stop my free-fall. Luckily, I’d always wake before hitting the water, where I’d certainly perish.

In a real death spiral, the thing spiraling (organization, state, business, or person) continues a downward progression that only accelerates as conditions worsen. Mounting inertia grows, making revival nearly impossible.

I recently returned from the Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) annual University Summit, which brought together 60 transportation demand management (TDM) and parking professionals to talk about university parking and transportation. Some of the schools most successful in advancing the use of alternatives to driving were there, including Stanford, the University of Washington, Arizona State, and the University of Colorado. The topic of the death spiral was prominent at this conference and worthy of further consideration.

Most higher education parking departments are self-supporting auxiliaries. This means that no outside resources are provided, and programs and services are funded through parking fees and fines. Alternative transportation programs have become increasingly important to universities in reducing driving, furthering sustainability goals, and enhancing the pedestrian environment.

There is, from our perspective, a downside. As more people find alternative ways to reach campus, (bike, bus, carpool, walk) revenue streams and expenses are affected. The more successful an institution is in shifting people away from single-occupancy cars, the fewer parkers there are to fund the entire parking and transportation program. This creates a spiraling effect that can result in financial instability.

Some might argue that the obvious response is to abandon alternative transportation altogether. While I’d disagree wholeheartedly with that approach, I do believe that the traditional funding model for higher education parking and transportation may be incompatible with alternative transportation goals. A new model is needed. The strategic partnership between IPI and ACT offers the best chance of coming up with a new model to help us all avoid a TDM and parking nightmare.

Getting a Charge

Dave Feehan

Last week, I bought a new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. I previously drove an all-wheel-drive Ford Edge because I was doing a lot of work in Pittsburgh, and the winter drive through the mountains from Washington, D.C. can be challenging. With that consulting contract winding down, I was primed for something much more economical but didn’t want to sacrifice comfort.

I looked at several hybrids and a couple of diesels, but the Volt seemed like the best option, especially because General Motors has spiced up incentives. With current tax credits, a $40,000 Volt can be purchased for well less than $30,000. After a week of in-town driving, I hadn’t spent a dime on gas, because I recharge every night. On the round-trip to Pittsburgh, I averaged almost 40 miles per gallon (mpg). The Volt handles much better than my Edge did, and because it’s a hatchback, luggage space for my wife and me was more than adequate.

The transition hasn’t been without its challenges, though. Places to recharge other than home are almost nonexistent–I couldn’t find a charging station in any of the parking garages I used. Charging seems like a great service for the growing number of customers with plug-ins, and it could be a money-maker for garage owners and operators. Why not reserve a small number of spots (next to handicapped spots, close to elevators?) for plug-in drivers? Why not advertise that your garage is “plug-in friendly?”

I’m convinced that many (if not most) of us will be driving something other than conventional, gas-powered vehicles within 10 years, especially if car manufacturers are going to meet federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Plug-ins such as the Volt seem to make a lot of sense because most trips are less than 50 miles and they can extend their range by switching to gas when necessary. Charging kiosks will, admittedly, be expensive to install, but the payback should be reasonable, and even with a surcharge for profit, most plug-in drivers would rather spend a couple bucks on a charge than $60 filling the tank.

Industry analyst Lisa Jerram estimates there will 150,000 public charging stations in the US by 2020. This looks like a great opportunity for folks in the parking industry.

The Times They Are A-Changin’


“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


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 was stunning: leaders used to disagree without being disagreeable! Here’s how 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:

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.


Musings on Earth Day, Generational Change, and Radical Shifts

Rachael Yoka

Fun fact: Did you know there is actually an Earth Day anthem? I didn’t either, until I started thinking about this blog post. Apparently, itphoto is set to Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Just like Mother’s Day, once a year we pull out all the stops to let Mom know how much we love her, which–in my opinion–misses the mark by 364 days. Similarly, we pull out and dust off the concept of Earth Day once a year, and concerned folks plan events and take to the streets in different ways to get the message of sustainability out to a broader audience.

I am a marketing person at heart, and nothing speaks to me more clearly than a well-executed campaign to brand a concept and increase public knowledge and awareness. So I agree that the message and intent of Earth Day is critically important (not just to us but more to our kids, and their kids). That message is getting through, and it’s ringing true for the youngest of generations.

My children are very concerned about sustainability–about recycling and pollution and baby animals everywhere (see accompanying art, copyright Sofia, age 9).The message will grow wider and deeper with each successive generation, and that is a very good thing.

But there is certainly recognition that we can’t wait for my 9-year-old to effect. We understand many of the challenges we face, and we can make changes to positively affect outcomes now.

The parking industry’s reaction to sustainability (until fairly recently) has been a reactive or responsive one. However, change is coming, and fast.

Committed leadership and dedicated volunteers are shifting our approach to a proactive one.  The International Parking Institute formally adopted its Sustainability Framework at the 2012 IPI Conference & Expo, and this year, opportunities abound to get engaged in Fort Lauderdale.

The Green Parking Council will release the Certified Green Garage Program for public comment today. IPI and the National Parking Association (NPA) are nearly finished a groundbreaking publication on parking and sustainability due out this summer. Each of these positive and meaningful leaps forward can propel us to a more radical position–one in which the parking and transportation industry helps lead the sustainability movement well into the future.

That vision and leadership is going to take 365 days a year.


IPI Part of DOE’s Workplace Charging Challenge

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu explains the Workplace Charging Challenge
at the Washington Auto Show

IPI has worked tirelessly to earn parking a seat at the table and the fruits of those labors were very evident yesterday, when I had the opportunity to represent the industry at the Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge Roundtable.  This event, which assembled leaders from major automakers, telecommunications, high-tech, and energy companies, is part of a broad and aggressive effort to expand the number of plug-in electric (PEV) cars in use across America and make them an affordable, reliable, and convenient alternative to fossil-fueled vehicles.  In a word, the goal of this program is to finally “mainstream” PEVs in an effort to address environmental and economic sustainability concerns. The ubiquity of charging stations at places of employment is viewed as an important step toward increasing the likelihood that consumers will feel comfortable investing in an EV.

As a Workplace Charging Challenge program Founding Ambassador, IPI has committed to lead an effort that will encourage the installation of charging stations in parking facilities that serve places of work.  We will do this by capitalizing on our vast and engaged membership, by leveraging the work already underway in our sustainability committee, and through established strategic partnerships with other organizations.

Announcing the Challenge yesterday, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu issued a challenge to employers to increase the number of chargers available to their employees tenfold in the next 10 years, saying that offering charging stations for workers increases their flexibility and is “incredibly useful.”

“The thrill of driving by a gasoline station and smiling is one everyone should experience,” he said.

The fact that IPI was invited to be part of this effort is a reflection of the influence and respect we’re earning as an association, and a signal that those outside of our industry are acknowledging that parking really does matter. And while being invited to take part in such a prestigious and important event is truly a mark of success, we cannot rest on our laurels.

Howard Skipper, a scientist working on a cure for leukemia  in the 1970s, once said this about the importance of taking action on critical problems even when all the answers aren’t known: ” We cannot afford to sit and wait for the promise of tomorrow so long as stepwise progress can be made with tools at hand today.” Skipper’s words ring true today on the topic of sustainability. To keep our seat at the table we must act with dispatch and do our part in this and other key efforts.

Read IPI’ s news release here and the Department of Energy’s  news release here.


Transforming Transportation


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.”

I Want To Be Like Lebron James

Wanda Brown

If there ever was a great example of the benefits of biking, it was printed in a recent South Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper story entitled, “Bike rides keep LeBron James in peak physical condition.” Basketball star James began with an occasional ride to practices but soon made the decision to bike in more often to morning shootarounds and games. There was a progressive decision to bike to events rather than drive his expensive car. Why would he choose such an unglamorous mode of transportation after having worked so hard to buy that car? The answer is durability. The added conditioning his body developed as a result of biking to practices and the games resulted in “logging 42 minutes in the most routine of games.”

I’m very interested in James’ decision to make the change from four wheels to two. Did the difference in his endurance prompt him to escalate his frequency of biking, or was it his increased performance? From my perspective as a parking professional, it’s important to understand the things that affect human behavior when implementing a sustainability program, especially in a health system environment. What makes a person choose biking over driving a luxury vehicle?

Many comments from those who participate in biking programs often say that biking results in clarity in critical thinking, increased energy to endure long work hours, and the ability to manage stress while maintaining a positive attitude. Like James has found, biking has some valuable outcomes that cannot be ignored. This is why our industry’s sustainability efforts are critical to the improved health of our parking professionals and our customers. What are you doing that helps you get through the day?

Help Wanted: Corporate (Parking) Sustainability Officer

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

I believe there are three primary drivers of sustainability especially among corporate entities: profitability (when businesses see that pursuing sustainable practices does not mean profits must be sacrificed); convenience (when businesses make and sell the connection between sustainability and convenience); and a balance of carrots and sticks (when government sets the rules so there is an even playing field and incentives and penalties help businesses transition to a more sustainable way of doing business). If this is the “what” in the next wave of sustainability, the next logical question might be who will bring about this change.

The presence of corporate (or chief) sustainability officers (CSOs) is becoming commonplace among the most successful companies. AccountAbility CEO Sunil A. Misser offers that CSOs are typically responsible for reducing costs by improving energy, supply chain, and resource efficiencies; establishing processes to monitor, manage, and mitigate sustainability-related risks; managing and monitoring stakeholder engagement processes that spearhead innovations to increase revenue; and enhancing the reputation of the company and the value of the brand. Misser goes on to point out that the number of CSOs has increased recently for three main reasons:

  1. CEOs and business leaders have realized there is tremendous value to be gained by mainstreaming sustainability into business practices.
  2. Companies are increasingly approaching sustainability with the same level of discipline (i.e. planning, execution, measurement, reporting) that is demanded in every other functional area.
  3. Companies have been pressured to elevate sustainability to the C-suite by regulators, media, shareholders, consumers, competitors, and other stakeholders.

Sustainability is expanding rapidly into the parking industry, and great work is being done in many places. But it may be that we haven’t yet resourced our efforts appropriately until we do as many successful corporate entities have by adding the strategic position of corporate or chief sustainability officer to our leadership teams. From parking management company to manufacturer and service provider, now might be the time to add a CSO to your leadership team to ensure that you make the most of your sustainability efforts.

Solar Roadways and Parking Lots

Isaiah Mouw

I recently stumbled across this video about Solar Roadways. The concept involves turning roadways and parking lots into solar panel road surfaces that generate electricity. Inventor and co-founder of the Solar Roadways project Scott Brushaw explains, “There are 25,000 square miles of road surfaces, parking lots and driveways in the lower 48 states. If we covered that with solar panels with just 15 percent efficiency, we’d produce three times more electricity than this country uses on an annual basis and that’s almost enough to power the entire world. Roads are collecting heat anyway; this thing collects the power and stores it.”

One concern was creating glass strong enough to support the heaviest loads under the most extreme conditions, but they believe they’ve created a weatherproof, high-strength surface that’s up to the task. But the biggest concern is, of course, cost. One of these solar panels (12’x12’) can cost up to $7,000, and the plans to cover the roadways would call for billions of these panels. Do the math.

The Solar Roadway project recently received a $750,000.00 grant to build the first solar surface parking lot. With an estimated industry average cost of $4,000.00 per space to construct a parking lot, this $750,000 is not as large as it first seems. These solar panels consist of embedded LEDs that can be used to create crosswalks or traffic warnings. They could also be used to mark parking spaces. Imagine being able to change your layout design any day of the week, depending on your demand. These panels will also have the capability to charge electric vehicles while parked. The system will warm itself during the winter to melt away any snow or ice. The Solar Roadways team should have the parking lot completed in November and will be presenting the results shortly after.

This is not just a sustainability issue. Yes, it is very sustainable as the renewable energy from the proposed Solar Roadways project would literally cut greenhouse gases in half. But it may also make economic sense sometime in the future. The cost of petroleum-based asphalt continues to rise, while solar power has been falling at a rate of 7 percent per year for the last 30 years.  As technology improves each year, the cost of solar technologies should continue to drop. Solar panel surface parking lots could pay for themselves quickly as they generate renewable energy in the future.

To me, solar road surfaces is an important aspect  of the future of parking. Not this decade or even the next, but down the road, I think we will all be parking on solar surfaces.


New Ways of Thinking

The Parking Matters Blog Avatar

By Casey Jones, CAPP and Rachel Yoka, LEED AP BD+C

Today, Oct. 18, 2012, is National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day. One might take this news as little more than novel. Sure, maybe someone in the neighborhood has a Prius or perhaps you’ve seen an electric car charging station somewhere in your travels. But the truth is that there is a significant, paradigm-changing movement afoot with respect to how we fuel our vehicles, and reason to be optimistic that we might really be on our way to cleaner, more affordable fuel, access, and mobility choices. Here are a few examples to make the point.

BMW is the only privately-held auto manufacturer in the world. But they are also unique in how they are positioning themselves–perhaps what they’re up to gives us a glimpse into the future. BMW has redefined itself from a maker of great automobiles to the world’s leading provider of individual mobility. This is much more than a marketing stunt; it represents a sea change in terms of how we think about automakers. With partners such as Urban Mobility and Propark America, BMW is advancing the use of all-electric car-share vehicles (called DriveNow); has launched a city-specific mobility application called MyCityWay that, according to BMW “instantly identifies your location and shares the best places to get whatever it is you need;” and now offers ParkNow, which allows drivers to find and book parking, oil changes, valet services, and car washes in member and non-member garages.

BMW is not alone in forging ahead with innovation and creativity. Take Google, Inc.: At their Mountain View headquarters, you’ll see several BMW Active E vehicles available for use. There are also more than 100 compressed natural gas motor coach buses that shuttle Google employees (they’re called “Googlers”) around the Bay. Wi-Fi enabled, these vehicles are connected to the Google network and feature plush leather interiors and bicycle racks on the back. What’s more, Googlers aren’t charged to use these amenities. It’s simply part of what they provide their employees (along with free food, use of on-site workout facilities, message therapy, and a mobile barber shop). Like BMW, Google is pushing the envelope in many ways, most especially in the area of access and mobility management.

Neither of these companies is a flash-in-the-pan enterprise or undertaking anything akin to “greenwashing” (a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly). Both offer a glimpse at what is to come and both challenge us to shed our old ways of thinking. Parking organizations and professionals certainly have a role to play in this effort, and forward-thinking now will be critical to future success.

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?

The EEB and Parking

Rachael Yoka

Have you heard of the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub at the Philadelphia Naval Yard?

It’s something you will want to know about. The EEB Hub, as it’s called, has a mission to improve energy efficiency in buildings and essentially create an industry for retrofitting existing buildings. The goal is ambitious: to reduce energy use in the U.S. commercial buildings sector by 20 percent by 2020. The EEB Hub hosts multiple international delegations a week to showcase the best technology and act as a living laboratory to test strategies, products, and operational practices.

This is already happening in the parking industry–parking garages are ripe for retrofits with energy-efficient lighting and solar panels to cut operational costs and optimize existing facilities. For many of these retrofits, we anxiously await the numbers: have they cut their electricity consumption (and utility bills) as predicted? Are the selected technologies and products operating as expected? What is the true payback period?

Energy management has gone mainstream and is becoming a key function of asset management. In IPI’s just-released Emerging Trends in Parking Survey, 60 percent of parking professionals surveyed said energy-efficient lighting had the greatest potential to improve sustainability. (A printed report of the survey will be bound into the July issue of The Parking Professional.) You may also want to read the Lighting Study conducted by IPI with the Department of Energy. We can easily make this jump in the parking industry, and it doesn’t take a new living laboratory to do it.

Do you have success stories (or challenges) from in retrofits or energy management to share? Leave a comment below!

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.

Get Your Bike On!

J.C. Porter

Tomorrow, May 18th is Bike to Work Day and you may be asking yourself one question: “Do I have to wear Spandex to ride my bike to work?” The quick answer is no, not unless you really want to! Commuting by bike should be easy, but we like to make excuses such as, “I can’t commute by bike because I don’t have a carbon fiber bike,” or, “I have to buy all new clothes to ride my bike.”

I’ll help lead an International Parking Institute (IPI) webinar next month on making your parking facility bike-ready. Until then, here are a few tips for bike commuting to help everyone get started:

1. Use what you have. Everyone either has a bike in their garage or knows someone who has a bike they can borrow.

2. If the bike has not been ridden in awhile, make sure it is in good working order before you set off. Complete the ABCs to ensure a bike is road-ready:

A: Check to make sure the tires have the proper amount of Air in them.
B: Check the Brakes for slowing down as well as stopping distance.
C: Gauge the Chain to make sure it is well oiled and will shift properly.

3. Wear the clothes you have. Most people just commute in their work clothes. As long as you take it easy and do not pretend you are competing in the Tour De France, you should be okay.

4. Use Map My Ride or another route-finding technology to find a bike route from your home to work. Keep in mind you most likely will not use the same route that you would in your car. Practice your new route ahead of time so you are comfortable with it and can identify any potential surprises that may arise.

Enjoy the ride to and from work, as it is a great stress reliever to the start and end of your work day. Remember, coffee cup holders are available for most bikes!

More on Climate Change

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Last week, John Van Horn, at his Parking Today Blog, wrote a response to my blog post about the need to take leadership on the sustainability front.

Here is more information I wanted to share, with links to additional resources on this topic.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists who publish in the field and every major scientific academy in the world agree that climate change is real, is mostly caused by humans, and requires urgent action. The fact that carbon dioxide (CO2) warms the Earth has been known since the 1800s. It is also well known that man has increased the CO2 content in the atmosphere by 40 percent since the industrial revolution by burning gigatons of fossil fuels every year. Arguments such as “it’s the Sun” or “it’s natural variation” have all been debunked in scientific literature. Read more at

Recent studies show that extremely hot days in summer that happened about 0.25 percent of time 50 years ago are now happening about 10 percent of the time–a 4000 percent increase. The same study concluded that there is a high level of confidence that the recent Texas heat wave, the Russian heat wave the year before that, and the 2003 European heat wave (that killed tens of thousands) were not natural events and were indeed caused by climate change. Even an organization funded by those who deny climate change, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, found that the Earth has warmed +0.8°C (+1.4°F) which is consistent with NASA and other scientific organizations’ results.
Speaking of NASA, while a group of retired astronauts, engineers, and administrators did write a letter to NASA, not a single one of the signers has any climate science qualifications.

Part of the confusion among media about climate change stems from a fossil fuel-funded disinformation campaign (which includes some of the same groups that tried to show there was doubt that cigarettes were dangerous). The facts speaks for themselves: Farmers are planting weeks earlier than they used to, 90 percent of mountain glaciers are melting around the world, gravity satellites show that Greenland and Antarctica are losing more than a hundred cubic kilometers of ice ever year. Last year, there were 14 U.S. weather events with $1 billion or more in damage. The previous maximum was nine events and the long-term average is four.

Continuing to deny science will hasten our arrival to a point where there is no turning back. And that point is fast approaching. Even a few degrees increase in average temperature will create a climate spiraling out of control for future generations.

It’s time to accept reality and take steps to protect our children, our grandchildren, and our planet.

A first step is to read more on this topic. Here are two suggestions: [PDF]

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?


Smoke Screens and Sustainability

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

Soldiers in combat used to find cigarettes in their rations. Today, such a thing would be unimaginable given what we know about the dangers of smoking. The climate change debate is very much like the argument over tobacco in the 1960s following reports about the dangers of smoking. At a point in both discussions, the science was understood.

The near-universal view on climate change can be summed up this way: “The build-up of heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels and clearing forests is changing the climate, posing significant risks to our well-being. It stands to reason, then, that reducing those emissions would greatly reduce risks associated with climate change.” So say Andrew Hoffman, director of the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan, and Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In their recent article Hoffman and Frumhoff describe the debate over climate change as a social challenge similar to the one that occurred around smoking. Conclusive evidence did not stop tobacco companies from spending huge sums of money to discredit the science and encourage people to smoke. It was only after public consciousness was raised that change began to take hold.

To raise public awareness, we need trusted leaders to bring about fact-based and respectful dialogue that is based on shared values. IPI is doing this through our sustainability committee, through content offered at our 2012 Conference & Expo, and through The Green Standard sustainability column in The Parking Professional. But as an industry, we need to ask ourselves if we’re like big tobacco, or are we taking action as leaders in an effort to respond to unequivocal science?

4 Ways to Welcome Cyclists

J.C. Porter

Bicycling is receiving a lot of attention in the parking world, and for good reason: it’s healthy, it’s environmentally-friendly, and it helps alleviate car congestion. There are four easy ways to create an inviting bike environment for businesses, cities, and universities:

  1. A little paint goes a long way to help increase the visibility of cyclists and your efforts to promote bicycling. Sharrows, a street marking to indicate a shared-lane (from a combination of the words share and arrow), are easy to paint and save space over traditional bike lanes, as they are meant to be used by both bikes and automobiles.
  2. There are several different types of bike racks that can work for different types of spaces. An inverted U is the most common type of bike rack; this works best for cyclists and is also attractive. Space savers can be used in areas such as underneath stair wells or unused portions under garage ramps. And finally, cycle stalls are multi-space bike racks that are placed on the street. These allow for better access on the sidewalks and, if placed strategically such as near crosswalks, can create better sight lines for both pedestrians and motorists.
  3. A fix-it station is an easy addition to any location. This provides a place for riders to use an attached pump or other tools to keep their bike running.
  4. Joining forces with bicycle-related organizations is a great way to receive recognition for additions and improvements you take on. These organizations will help promote your business, city, state, university, or hospital’s efforts to encourage cycling. Small investments in time and money will go a long way in helping to promote your organization.

Have you encouraged your customers to commute by bike? Let us know in the comments.

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.

Backing into Green

Frank L. Giles

I still remember my dad’s 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Whenever he and I stopped along the way on our adventures, he would always back into the parking space. It was almost ceremonial; he would swing wide to line the car up just right, place the ball of his left hand on the wheel, and pass his right arm just over my head so his hand was on the passenger headrest. With a slow smooth turn of the steering wheel, the car would glide into the space just right.

Believe it or not, he was doing something sustainable. I know—you’re thinking, “The only way to get a ’78 Caddi green is paint it.” As it turns out, backing into a parking space can be good for the environment. Now that I’m an adult I find myself backing into parking spaces just like dad did (minus some of the finesse), but I always justified it as being safer than pulling in forwards. There is less chance of hitting another car while backing into a space than there is while backing out into traffic. Also, it’s easier to leave a dangerous situation if you can pull straight out.

Now I have another reason to swing wide and glide into a space: turns out, it more fuel efficient. Studies show that it takes considerably more fuel to back up when the engine is cold than it does when it is warm. This means you help the environment and save a little money. So if you haven’t been able to start your personal green initiative head-on, take a cue from my dad and back into it.

Sustainability: Thinking Big

Casey Jones 4x5 (2)

The pursuit of sustainability is going to be a way of life, not a passing phase or flavor of the month. Here’s evidence from two industries that are very different from ours, but relevant in that we share the common denominator of being petroleum-focused.

“Creating a sustainable future” is the lead in to United Airlines President and CEO Jeff Smisek’s February column in the company’s on-board Hemispheres magazine. The column describes the company’s historic November flight propelled by algae-derived biofuel; it was an important precursor to a commitment to purchase 20 million gallons per year of the stuff. Pretty bold move, I think, for a company that seems just as connected to petroleum as the parking business is.

Another great example of bold is seen in Ray Anderson, founder of carpet tile giant Interface. Anderson’s company committed to eliminate all environmental impacts by the year 2020. Shortly before his death in 2011, the company was halfway to meeting that lofty (some say impossible) goal. Interface says that in the past 17 years, it has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 24 percent, fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, waste to landfill by 82 percent, and water consumption by 82 percent while avoiding more than $450 million in costs, increasing sales by 63 percent, and more than doubling earnings.

If you haven’t already read IPI’s Sustainability Framework please do. This important document lays out what IPI stands for on the topic of sustainability and represents a bold step forward. I’ve read recently how the parking industry has been “doing” sustainability for a long time. Yes, we’ve been doing some good things, but up until recently there have been no game changers. If we intend to make meaningful progress, we need to think and act like Smisek and Anderson: BIG.