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Parking, Schmarking: Are we wasting time trying to solve yesterday’s problem?

Rex

This morning, at a sparsely attended talk sponsored by Urban Land Institute, Gabe Klein, former transportation director of Chicago and DC, spoke of the “end of parking” coming about by car (and bike) sharing and self driving vehicle technology. These two developments have the potential to make parking demand collapse, according to Klein.

Empty parking lot, by Paul Swansen, CC

A factoid: today, cars are parked 94% of the day. predictions are that self driving cars (combined with sharing services like Uber and Lyft) could be in use 92% of the day.

Add in the major drop in car ownership and use by millenials and all the brouhaha about lack of parking is simply chasing yesterday’s problem.*

The City of Portland is about to embark on a major effort to deal with the “parking problem,” recruiting citizens to serve on yet another task force. One bad idea being kicked around is to build expensive, publicly subsidized parking garages in developing neighborhoods. Klein said that building parking garages without charging or regulating on-street parking will only result in wasted development opportunities, waste of scarce public dollars and empty garages. For some reason the City feels it has to respond to people outraged that they might lose “their” free parking in front of their homes as more apartments and businesses are built in the City.

Here’s hope that the Parking Analysis & Tool Kit for Neighborhood Centers and Corridors Project will ignore data from last century about car use and parking demand and look intently at a future where cars aren’t stored most of the day and fewer people own them to begin with. And maybe start charging rent for those who use city streets as storage for their vehicles.

*From 2007 to 2011, the number of cars purchased by people aged 18 to 34, fell almost 30%, and according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 44% of teens obtain a driver’s license within the first year of becoming eligible and just half, 54% are licensed before turning 18. source

 

UPDATE: I found the source for Klein’s assertion that driverless cars could make 80% of cars in today’s cities unnecessaryCarlo Ratti, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Urban Management and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has done research on both autonomous cars as well as urban travel behavior. The NYT (9/2/14) Science section has an article on their work examining how taxi sharing could reduce the need for taxis in New York by over 50%. 

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Why Getting to 2100? The next century will be a test: can humans use their intelligence and foresight to successfully transition from our consumption-fueled economy to one that balances the needs of humans with the Earth’s available resources. Getting to 2100 aims to be a forum for sharing of good ideas and good works. Got a good example or a new idea? Share it with the world!

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