#
 

Carbon Footprints and Mobility

January 12, 2019

John Van Horn

The World Resource Institute is hawking a blog that is bemoaning the fact that urban sprawl exists and therefore an individual’s carbon footprint is larger since they have things like houses, gardens, and cars, plus have to drive farther to get to work. The WRI posits that we should live cheek by jowl in cities to reduce that carbon footprint. From their blog:


Millions of urban dwellers live in private houses with their own gardens and private cars. Millions more aspire to this type of lifestyle. This cultural norm is reinforced by economic drivers, such as the lower cost of land around the urban periphery and tax policies that favor single-family dwellings.


But once housing and infrastructure have been built, it is extremely difficult to change a city’s design. The infrastructure and urban planning decisions made today can lock cities in to carbon-intensive growth patterns.


Perhaps the biggest challenge to breaking these locks is mobilizing the huge investments required to build or change transport networks. Once a city has highways, it is cheaper to extend them than to replace them with trains, for example.


Cities in North America and Australia depend most heavily on private cars. People living in these cities consequently have very high carbon footprints.


So, let’s see. Folks are immigrating to the U.S. both legally and illegally to get out of those compact cities and into places where they can have a piece of dirt, a garden and a car. 


To me this is not a bad thing, it is a ‘driver’ that lets people have a piece of the prosperity that they are creating. Somehow a 700 square foot apartment and a good pair of shoes just doesn’t cut it, at least for me.


One size doesn’t not fit all.


I was surprised when the woman in charge of “Smart Cities” for Los Angeles told me that she couldn’t get the parking department to return her phone calls. What was that all about? 


When the lauded SF Park program in San Francisco came to an end, no one wanted to say that the 24-million-dollar program failed, but it did. Was it because the underlying goal was not to park cars quickly and conveniently, but to do away with cars? When Julie Dixon holds parking networking events across California and a hundred people from cities and universities show up at each, why is “mobility” never mentioned? These folks are struggling with the problems of parking cars and enforcing parking rules.


When the largest provider of parking control and enforcement hardware and software holds a training program for its customers, more than 400 show up from cities and universities to network and hone their parking skills.


I wonder if “Mobility” might be feeling a bit of push back from the parking professionals who have the boots on the ground and need to fight the daily battle enforcing regulations and ensuring the parking asset is protected.


Is the “resistance” behind the scenes and like the “deep state”,“deep parking” is doing its job oblivious to the political pressures, or in spite of them?


The term “Mobility” has suddenly become the buzzword of the day in our industry. 


When I was having breakfast at the T2 Connect event and chatting with the folks at the table, something obvious occurred to me. They were all from cities or universities. The organization names on their shirts included “Transportation.” Every one of them were members of a “Parking and Transportation” group at their city or school. Makes sense since they are T2’s primary customer base.


That is also true of name changing IPI, of the majority of members of local and regional associations, of the “Smart City” groups that talk of Mobility, and the vendors such as pay by cell, sensor, and on street meter and enforcement companies. They all focus on municipal/university groups and hence, have concern about “Mobility” as well as Transportation, as well as Parking. Fair Enough.


But what about the tens of millions, or maybe hundreds of millions of parking spaces that aren’t controlled by cities or universities? 


Do these parking professionals who work for organizations have “Mobility” on their minds when they go to work every morning? They probably have the opposite. How do they conveniently and quickly stop the “Mobility” of vehicles and place them where they can be conveniently and quickly retrieved when needed?


Parking and Transportation groups see their mandate to provide parking, but also to provide transportation (buses, bike lanes, scooters, curb controls, trolleys, rapid transit, and the like) in an effort to see to it that congestion is reduced, fewer and fewer actually drive single occupancy vehicles, and alternatives are created.


The mandate is laudable and necessary. The Public sector has a job to do and Mobility is part of that job.


But the private sector has a job to do too. For the 85 percent of the commuters that need a place to park at the end of their trip (a number that hasn’t changed in 60 years) the private operator and owner of parking spaces must continue to fulfill its mandate.


As an industry we must not be distracted by “Mobility” even though eyes glaze over and “Parking” isn’t a buzzword. In a politically driven world, like municipalities, “Mobility” is popular. But do away with parking and see what the Mayor or City Council have to say.


Universities and Cities must keep the buses running, and bike lanes, scooters, and trolleys are important, too. “Mobility” has its place.


But at the same time, those hundreds of millions of cars need to find a place to conveniently and quickly park daily. The private sector is doing that in spades every day. And that isn’t going away soon.



#