Reserving a Seat for Parking at the Smart City Table


Reserving a Seat for Parking at the Smart City Table

The Smart City conversation is thriving in city halls, government offices, and corporate boardrooms across the country. And they all seem to be asking the right questions about mobility: 

• What is driving the demand for dockless scooters and bikes? How can we better manage supply and demand?

• What are the barriers to purchasing electric vehicles?

• Who can benefit most from public transportation use? How do we make it accessible to them?

• How do we fight gridlock and pollution?

What Does “Smart” Look Like?

In the ultimate Smart City vision, mobility is center stage: commuters opt for green public transportation options, tourists zip through bike lanes on shared micromobility scooters, pedestrians safely stroll down unobstructed sidewalks, and autonomous vehicles roam uncongested streets and retreat when not in use. Of course, this is a utopia in which there are no barriers to technological adoption and regulation keeps pace with innovation.

In the ultimate Smart City vision, mobility is center stage.

The transformation is under way: U.S. public transportation ridership has grown 21 percent in the last 20 years, micromobility companies have raised more than $5.7 billion in global funding since 2015, and the electric vehicle industry grew 63 percent from 2017 to 2018. However, people are still reliant on personal vehicles, eScooters have regulatory and efficiency hurdles to overcome, and a lack of sufficient infrastructure is inhibiting total adoption of these new vehicle types.

That’s why smart cities want to invest in solutions that support the way we live today and help us create the safe, efficient, productive, and inclusive utopia of tomorrow.

How Do We Get There?

The challenges have been identified and the goals laid out. The next undertaking for smart cities? Finding real, sustainable solutions and acting on them.

Bringing the vision to fruition is what will set leading smart cities apart from those just ambling along.

Infrastructure is one of the first things to go under the microscope as cities determine where efficiencies can be created through public and private partnerships. Parking garages and lots, which can cover as much as a third of downtown land area, will inevitably become part of that discussion.

As vendors that own, operate, or serve parking assets, how can we shed light on the value parking has to offer to cities trying to get ahead, and how do we present our solutions to them?

The conversation starts with shared vision.

To get a seat at the smart city table, we first have to align our values with those of the smart city: encouraging economic development, facilitating movement between communities, minimizing congestion, and ensuring safety and security.

Parking assets are primed for encouraging economic development in surrounding areas. I’m sure we are all familiar with avoiding certain store locations based on a lack of parking. Businesses (especially small, local ones) can share the burden of providing parking by validating at a nearby garage or lot. The business forgoes the initial outlay of constructing parking into finite space and the garage or lot gains a consistent revenue source. Both parties are set up for success.

Although cars are still the leading mode of transport in the U.S., the percentage of people driving them dropped from 85 percent in 2017 to 77 percent in 2018, a trend that is continuing into the coming decade. As alternative modes gain momentum, garages and lots are still apt to handle “parked” time. Regardless of how people get from point A to point B, every mode of transportation needs a place to stop, service, recharge or – as we in the parking industry are most familiar with – park. Whether it be eScooters docked while waiting for their next rider or an electric vehicle plugged in to charge, the parking garage is certainly not limited to the current definition of what it means to “park.”

Congestion, very simply, is caused by too many vehicles on the road at one time. More cars in garages means fewer cars on the street, and thus, less congestion. Of course, the equation gets more complicated when we start adding in things like Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) that have to stop to pick up riders or autonomous vehicles that might not even have a passenger in the car. Now, we have to think, how can we get those versions of cars off roads and into garages? We offer them a shared value with amenities like bathrooms, food, and charging.

What is the ideal of mobility worth if we can’t do it safely? Parking garages and lots are an answer to safety and security concerns in many ways. Fewer cars on streets means fewer accidents, less congestion means less pollution, and streamlining payment transaction points means streamlined credit card security. For logistics, parking garages are well-lit spaces and are ideal for secure delivery when you add delivery lockers or in-vehicle deliveries. Even as we escalate city needs beyond the everyday to more rare occurrences like natural disasters, parking garages are some of the most secure locations in urban areas.


Develop strategic partnerships.

Now that we’ve established a few ways that smart city goals align with parking asset value, it is time to develop the partnerships that reserve your seat at the table.

Ready to deliver the value of convenient parking to businesses? You can attempt to connect with them directly and figure out how to validate and process payments through their system. Or, you can choose a 21st century parking technology provider that already interfaces with their management systems and mobile applications.

Want to offer value to new modes of mobility to diversify your own revenue while also being an asset to the smart city? You can reach out to TNCs and scooter companies to convince them to park in your garage. Or, you can invest in an operating system that already integrates with a whole ecosystem of services and brings them directly to your garage.


Monitor and respond.

At the end of the day, proving value to large entities like cities, or even big corporations, comes down to data: constantly measuring, analyzing, and strategizing. 

The smart city discussion is happening in your city and it’s happening now. Are you ready to get a seat at the table?

Neil Golson is EVP of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships at FlashParking. He can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Neil Golson
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