The Future is Green: Sustainability and the Impact on Transit


The Future is Green: Sustainability and the Impact on Transit

Everyone knows the struggles that the pandemic has caused for businesses. With reduced in-store capacity and forced closures, businesses are struggling to make ends meet. However, economic stressors don’t end with businesses. The transportation and mobility industry has also been severely impacted at all levels. Public transit, parking, and commuting have all been dramatically altered by remote work, physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. And with a new administration that’s prioritizing sustainability, mobility is expected to look dramatically different after the pandemic ends. In fact, the pandemic, along with sustainability goals, is expected to impact every aspect of the commuting experience. 

Public Transit

The increase in remote work, along with health concerns stemming from enclosed and crowded spaces, has had a dramatic impact on public trust in public transit systems. When the pandemic was first announced, stay-at-home orders caused public transit ridership to drop by 80 percent. Although it improved slightly as cities reopened, nationally, it still remained at 60 percent below the 2019 level through the rest of 2020. This spells trouble for the future of public transit, with the American Public Transportation Association predicting a shortfall of $39.3 billion through the end of 2023 for most agencies. Between a lack of trust in the system and low ridership causing transit agencies to reduce their schedules, many experts are predicting that this will result in an influx of cars on the road as the pandemic wanes and cities reopen. 

The new U.S. administration has promised a renewed focus on sustainability. Improving public transit is one of the best ways to achieve sustainability goals and move the U.S. towards a greener and more energy efficient economy. That’s why, despite the pandemic decimating the industry, it’s expected that public transit agencies will persevere and, ultimately, grow. Currently, there is another relief bill for public transit on the horizon. There has also been conversation about zero-emission public transit in some of the largest cities which would increase trust in public transit. 

Privately-Owned Vehicles

The American Society of Civil Engineers nearly failed U.S. infrastructure recently, giving a D rating to roads and highways. This is cause for concern on many levels, not least of which is safety. Poorly maintained roads are worse for cars. It also impacts businesses, with most companies preferring locations near well-maintained roads to make shopping and deliveries easier. As we recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, it’s important to have the infrastructure in place that supports individuals and businesses. Under the Biden administration — which has pledged to create jobs, improve mobility and reduce congestion — significant investments into infrastructure are expected over the coming years. As cities begin to reopen, commuters can expect public infrastructure projects to impact their drives. In the long run, it will help improve commutes and congestion, and will be important as we face more drivers on the road.

Sustainability is a priority for the current U.S. administration and something that will dramatically impact mobility. For example, de-paving cities has been considered. This will not only decrease the amount of road space, which could increase congestion, it would also reduce parking. This means that the demand for parking garages will only increase as car owners struggle to find a place to leave their cars; more cars with fewer parking spaces. This offers a unique opportunity for building and parking lot owners to capitalize on demand. Leasing empty parking spaces to workers can help ease the transition back to the workplace. Garage owners and managers will want to ensure that the leases are flexible and can accommodate hybrid work models where employees only go to the office part time. 

When President Biden ordered gas-powered government vehicles to be phased out in favor of electric vehicles (EVs), it signaled an important shift. Currently, EVs make up only 2 percent of passenger vehicles in the U.S. but it’s very likely that the future of private vehicle ownership is electric. Consumers’ unprecedented interest in EVs has led General Motors to recently announce a plan to phase out production of all non-EVs by 2035. With the expected rapid growth in EVs, we’ll also need to see rapid growth in electrical distribution and charging capacity. This is where the parking industry can participate in helping to meet this forthcoming need.

Increasing adoption will also likely involve benefits for those who purchase EVs and support the industry. It’s likely that EV purchasers will receive tax breaks, but similar incentives could be extended to help businesses adapt and support the EV industry. Parking garages and places that offer charging stations will likely see more demand for their services business, but may also see government support. Other businesses, such as gas stations and auto mechanics, will need to adapt their offerings to stay afloat and there will need to be financial support for this transition. By building out the infrastructure now to support EVs, they will be better prepared for the future and will be supporting the sustainability initiative. 

A Positive Outlook

The state of parking, public transport, and shared mobility may seem grim at the moment, but the future looks promising. With an administration that is focused on accessibility and sustainability, there is likely to be improved support for these industries, even if it is undergoing change. As the vaccinations become more widespread and people look to resume a normal life, we will see an increase in people commuting to work, traveling and generally moving around the country again.

Jeremy Zuker is the co-founder of WhereiPark. He can be reached at

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Jeremy Zuker
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