Can a Tech Generation Understand Human Behavior?
Drake Burciaga’s article is a unique combination of “old thinking” and desire for “new thinking.”
He notes his frustration with his own parking experience, leading to the consideration of the old phrase (something not said by Albert Einstein): “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Clearly, the habit of hunting for parking in Chicago has not brought a new perspective or solution to that process for him.
The truth is that technology is neither the question
nor the answer.
Burciaga writes that “The new generation takes a tech-first approach to parking.” Of course, every “new generation” has taken a different approach, as all of them came to the parking industry with a perspective created by their own environments and the technology available at the time. The question is whether this “tech-first” generation can understand existing circumstances and human behavior well enough to figure out what is really needed to make progress.
It is worth considering that the definition of “progress” in the parking industry varies widely by who is defining it. Progress, for many current planners, is to do away with urban parking, use the ground and real estate for other purposes, and encourage or force individuals to walk, ride bicycles, take transit, or use other mobility devices.
On-street parking spaces converted into eating environments, due to the Covid difficulties, are being permanently removed in many cities. Articles in numerous publications focus on how to re-purpose parking garages for alternative uses, assuming that technological and political changes will remove the need for parking.
For others, namely those in the parking industry, progress is focusing on how to make better use of existing parking and create an easier experience for those who drive to work or need parking for other activities. Plus, the issues are extremely different for large urban environments than for smaller cities.
There are many examples of both horizontal and vertical innovation among parking vendors, and the pace of change has been ever faster. Looking back over lists of vendors at conferences during the past 10-15 years shows those innovators who survived and thrived, as well as those who were acquired or could not gain traction in the industry. The municipal control of on-street parking and the regulations that have applied to parking garage design and location have also played roles in the decisions about parking, in all aspects.
Cognitive bias affects whether organizations (authorities, cities, states, etc.) adopt new technology to change their parking systems. Some may keep old technology for decades because of a comfort level and inability to fund new equipment. Others do not change because they are willing to “throw good money after bad,” rather than admit that the original decision was unwise. Some organizations jump on the bandwagon at the sight of the first shiny new thing, and others cling to the first presentation and set of ideas provided to them.
The truth is that technology is neither the question nor the answer – it is a tool for humans to use in assessing the questions and creating answers and alternatives to them. New or updated technology in parking will bring both benefits and problems, as all technology does. Some technology will be helpful, some will be irrelevant, and some will make life more difficult. But that has always been the case in the parking industry, and it will continue into the future.
As Thiel writes in his book, “The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”
Barbara Chance, Ph.D, is retired CEO of Chance Management Advisors, Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.