A National Parking Resources Network? Yes – Here are the What, Why and How
By Amalendu Chatterjee
Business as usual is no longer applicable for the 21st century parking industry – parking spaces should be treated as national resources.
Many articles in Parking Today and other publications shed light on different aspects of the industry. More than 13 years of my research suggest more than ever that the parking industry needs a “revolution” to be comparable with today’s other customer service industries.
#First, UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, in his book “The High Cost of Free Parking” and in subsequent work, has given an excellent synopsis of the parking industry’s woes. “We can achieve enormous social, economic and environmental benefit at almost no cost,” Shoup writes, “simply by subsidizing people and places, not parking and cars.” He explores traffic congestion, productivity loss, fuel waste, air pollution and CO2 emissions. Shoup recommends incremental reform:
Fair-market-price for curb parking– Introduce “fair pricing” for street parking to preserve land use for off-street parking.
Use increased revenue for public improvements–Use increased revenue from fair pricing to improve many aspects of city living with fewer parking regulations.
Remove ‘empirical requirements’ for off-street parking– There’s no scientific or statistical basis for approving more off-street parking spaces other than an empirical formula.
Integrate regulations for parking with public transport– Integrate parking and transportation for joint planning for efficient use of land and parking spaces.
The above only scratches the surface.
#Second, almost 2.5 parking spaces per U.S. car misuse a city’s prime lands by local governments, unfriendly regulations, industry meddling by different stakeholders, no national standards and no public/private co-operation.
A national parking resources network would make efficient use of these spaces. Such a network would bring close cooperation between public and private parking ownership reinforcing better use of land.
Other traditional woes are:
Uncivilized customer service – Court battles, fines, and seemingly unfair regulations taint public perceptions. Ticketing for one-minute violations and forced collection of escalating fines are humiliating to the industry, with its $20 billion per year in uncollected parking fines.
Proprietary hardware – Street meters and garage gates date back more than 75 years. Over the years, hardware has become sophisticated but capital-intensive, requiring high yearly maintenance. The upgrade and customization process is very clumsy.
No logic on rate increases – Arbitrary and frequent rate increases with no rationale irritate customers. Parking revenues subsidizing other city budgets is also agonizing.
Payment options – Too many payment collection options cost money to parking operators. Debit cards, credit cards, EMV, vending machine, “electronic wallet” – each adds to the overhead.
#Third, one needs to examine new social norms and other phenomena for technological adaptability and new perspectives.
New social norms – Annie Murphy Paul, for example, wrote an article on the subject for The Hechinger Report. Qualifying requirements of core education for each middle or high school student are close to 1,000 instructional hours per year, she writes. Whereas, U.S. youths ages 8 to 18 take in more than 4,000 hours of digital media content each year.
Parents, teachers and education writers debate the value of core education taught in the classroom and informal education they receive from the “blue glow” of different screens. Some argue that video games could foster the development of complex skills, such as spatial visualization and inductive reasoning.
The Internet and social media are shaping young people’s thinking, mostly in positive ways. The parking industry must keep up with their mindset while designing future parking services.
Sharing a cab – The New York Times published the article “If 2 New Yorkers Shared a Cab ...’ (Sept. 1, 2014), raising a discussion about sharing a parking space as well. A team of mathematicians and engineers has calculated that if taxi riders were willing to share a cab, New York City could reduce the current fleet of 13,500 taxis up to 40% percent. This principle is applicable to congested cities around the world.
Virtual taxi – Lyft and Uber are online ride-hailing services – the beginning of many such applications for the smartphone. They are cheaper and seem to cater to millennials.
Airbnb – The virtual service enables one to convert his or her spare bedroom into an online hotel. Security and safety of renters and guests are yet a concern but will improve over the years.
Instant, text messaging – Text messages are slowly replacing traditional voice- and e-mail services. Text messages for parking applications have potential.
Drone technology – Growing use of drone technology in business and everyday life is generating interest in academia. Universities and colleges are offering degrees in such technology. Training and courses also are offered mostly online in systems engineering, aerial photography, agricultural survey, farmland and rescue mission uses. Drone technology is projected to create more than 90,000 U.S. jobs by 2025, experts say. Areas of job creation include sensor, electronic, delivery of packages, piloting, film-making and FAA regulations. The “virtual” parking industry could imitate the drone paradigm.
21st century vehicles – Wired sensors with sophisticated software will dominate the application flexibility. Google and others have developed technology for autonomous cars – i.e., driverless vehicles.
As IBM and Apple are collaborating to transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps, announced last summer, the parking industry could think of joining the big leagues for imaginative applications.
Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology at EximSoft International, can be reached at email@example.com.