Transforming Transportation

paul_wessel

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

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

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

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

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

Putting Parking into its True Context

L. Dennis Burns

I recently looked back over some archived files and articles and was struck by an observation: there is always an “implicit context” behind any article or work of research. This applies not only to my own work, but on a larger scale to all the research and reports that I reviewed.

In the older parking work, the context seemed much smaller and rather insular to industry-specific topics. Most pieces were specific operational subsets of fundamental parking management areas, such as revenue control, facility maintenance, or other operational functions.

At some point about five or six years ago, a gradual shift began away from the strictly operational to a broader, more strategic perspective. This broadening of perspective began to lead to discussions of how parking interacts with a wide range of other related professions, including planning, urban design, economic development, downtown management, etc.

I recently developed a new presentation on The Transformation of America’s Parking Paradigm. One of the sections in this presentation discusses the new context through which I now view parking. A series of slides discusses a set of criteria or concepts that form the context base I use when I consider the application of parking design and management strategies. Consider this list of topic areas:

  • Density.
  • Third Places.
  • Scale.
  • Walkability.
  • Mixed and Multi-use Development.
  • Street-Level Activation.
  • Adaptive Re-Use and Infill.
  • Vitality and Energy.
  • Local Character.
  • Safety/Security.
  • Sustainable Transportation.
  • Accessibility/Integrated Access.
  • Multi-modal/Mobility Plans.
  • Parking Strategic Plan.
  • Active Transportation/TDM Integration.
  • The “Experience Economy.”

The list could go on and on, but it is clear to me that as a profession we have come to recognize that the work we do goes much further than the mere temporary storage of vehicles. Parking, by its very nature, is a connection point within the framework of our transportation systems and our communities/institutions at large. They have a natural complexity and importance and deserve special attention. It is encouraging to see that many thought leaders from other disciplines and professions are beginning to come to this same realization. With this new infusion of diverse perspectives and resources, who knows what the parking context might look like in another decade.

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.