Welcome to the Sharing Nation

Wanda Brown

“OMG! What the heck?” That was all I could say after reading the Time magazine article, “Strangers Crashed my Car, Ate my Food and Wore My Jeans: Tales From the Sharing Economy,” by Joel Stein. Opening your private home to strangers for a $35 meal or renting your personal vehicle to someone you’ve never met before was more than I could grasp. How did such a seemingly dangerous act become so popular? Why is this new shift from acquisition to rental in such demand? After making a number of inquiries of individuals between the ages of 25 and 35, I discovered it was more about accessing services than owning them.

Services such as Airbnb, which provides rental of housing; Vinted, which provides clothing rental; and Uber which provides taxi services, are among the popular services in the sharing economy. As I continued to read the article, I noticed that there were apps that dealt with parking, too. Rental of driveways or parking in someone’s public parking spot were common ways I was quite familiar with, but the services that allowed a driver to reserve and pay for parking before he or she reached their destination truly opened my eyes to how this next generation of commuters were thinking. The ease of getting what you want when you want it was the catalyst for such demand. How creative it is and what out-of-the-box thinking to maximize the use of possessions and plug in the social connection with it. Wake up, Boomers!

Services provided by Uber and Lyft offered the convenience of taxi-like services and provide even greater ease in moving from point “A” to “B” without the stress of driving. These two options were invading the monopolies that cab drivers once enjoyed—sort of like what the Internet did to map sales or the encyclopedia industry.

The sharing economy is more about getting the most value out of what others own as well as enhancing the experience of using it. I conveyed this information to my daughter who I assumed would also find it absurd, only to find out that she was accessing such a service to take her to the airport the very next day. I spoke with one of my administrative staffers who also confirmed that it is more about the social and convenience aspect of what these services offer.

I must admit, that while these services would never persuade me to cease using my car, it is clear that there is a creative shift of social sharing that is pushing the envelope of how we look at the future of parking as an industry. I think it is sustainable and environmentally-friendly; it also offers key indicators as to what the future of parking will look like when the next generation of parking professionals takes over. I guess the old cliché, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” has been replaced with, “I will take the experience of your toys to a whole new level.”

One Size Fits All?

Dave Feehan

My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We parked in the daily garage at Dulles International Airport, and I happened to notice the growing number of very small cars in the facility–Smarts, Fiat 500s, Kia Souls, Minis, and many others. One Smart was parked next to a mammoth Suburban, and had we been looking for a spot, I’m sure we would have mistaken the Smart’s space as vacant until we started to turn in and found a very small vehicle in the 20-foot stall.

According to one city’s municipal code, “The minimum size of a standard parking space shall be nine feet wide and 18 feet long. Parking spaces within enclosed garages shall have an interior dimension of at least 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. The minimum size of a compact parking space shall be eight feet wide and 16 feet long.”

What’s a parking operator to do? Sales of subcompacts have more than doubled in the last couple of years, and given other trends in society, we can expect that more people– especially young people–will buy and drive small, fuel-efficient vehicles, to say nothing of motorcycles and bikes. How do we accommodate all of these vehicles while keeping our customers happy?

Restriping is expensive and can be problematic. Sometimes the old stripes are still visible and confuse parkers. Does a Smart need the same amount of space as a Suburban? Obviously not. You could stack two Smarts in a typical space. And to make matters even more complicated, I drive a Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid and need spaces with charging equipment. Lots more bikes, motorbikes, motor scooters, and motorcycles are looking for parking spaces. Pass the Rolaids, please. Things are going to be messy for a while.

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!