#
 

Planners Disregard the Facts

September 13, 2021

John Van Horn

It is of concern that civic planners, garage designers, developers, and academics concerned with the future of parking facilities seem to disregard the facts of the automobile population and the purchasing power of the millennial generation when discussing the future of the parking industry. The numbers fly in the face of pronouncements and decisions that are made by this august group.”


Although it may be trendy to attempt to replicate lifestyles found in other countries, Americans like automobiles as a part of their households.


Dale Denda is the research director of the Parking Market Research Company and certainly has the chops to make such a statement. And his numbers aren’t pulled out of the air, but come from none other than the Federal Government. The projections are stunning.


We read almost daily about the demise of the parking industry, about how garages need to be downsized, about how TNCs are going to replace private vehicles, about how the younger generations are taking public transport and simply aren’t buying cars like they used to do. But the facts on the ground simply don’t back up such statements.


First of all, notes Denda, the market research in the automotive supply chain sector shows that by 2025 there will be five million MORE cars on the road in the U.S. than there are today. There are about 279 million cars currently on the road, and the U.S. government projects that by 2025 there will be 284 million. [note: IHS Markit, based in UK is the source of this information.]


This increase is due to the ‘echo’ boomers (Millennials and their progeny) who have been and will be reaching their peak purchasing and driving age in the next 15 or so years. The projected growth in miles driven, and the resulting requirement for parking is between 19 and 29 percent, according to a recent massive U.S. government study. Just where are we going to put those cars, Denda asks? And, moreover he adds, we too often forget that off-street parking REMOVES vehicles from the roads addressing the key problem for the transportation sector, that is, congestion. 


The numbers to justify projections of a reduction in driving/parking demand simply aren’t there. And such arguments represent nothing more than notional thinking that has no factual framework.


The use of TNC (Uber/Lyft) has decreased substantially. Young people are buying cars and driving them. Look at the prices and availability of used cars. That market is booming. The demographic that is the focus of the used car marketplace is people under 35.


As for public transportation, the percentage of the public using public transportation (light rail, buses, etc.) has not increased in the past 60 years. In fact, it has dropped from 12 percent to around 10 percent of all commuting activity. Approximately 85 percent use personal vehicles, while 5 percent use bicycles, scooters, or walk to work or tele-commute.


The population numbers show that 84 million ‘new’ Millennial consumers will reach their prime purchasing age in the next decade. These Millennials have driven up the costs of homes, sustained the construction of mid-rise housing and rentals, and kept up the soaring costs of building materials. But they haven’t left car sales untouched. JD Powers and Associates has predicted that this group of 84 million are becoming the driving force in automobile purchases.


Berkshire Hathaway notes that Millennials spend twice as much on travel (and much of this is by personal vehicle) than Boomers. Forbes says that Millennials are the new financial powerhouse.


If you consider these numbers with the fact that robust vehicle use and associated parking issues are seen in communities of all sizes, and the fact that public policy on parking infrastructure often turns on funding, we can see that future parking demand may certainly outstrip supply.


There is currently a disconnect between opinion and data. Those opposed to parking construction seem to ignore the presence of vehicles in a local market. Committed opposition to vehicle use based on the climate change paradigm is fine, but it ignores the reality of vehicle usage. This is stunning given that there are no regional markets today in this country where household private vehicle ownership OF TWO OR MORE CARS is less than 75 percent and very, very few local markets where that number drops below 50 percent. 


There is an explicit recognition by the commercial establishment that its viability is tied to the availability of parking, and even the emerging plans for pedestrian dominant zones are taking into consideration peripheral parking facilities. 


Although it may be trendy to attempt to replicate lifestyles found in other countries, Americans like automobiles as a part of their households. This is reflected not only in the projected increase in vehicle driving on the road in the U.S., but also in an upward trend in the number of multiple-vehicle households. 


As much as many doomsayers predict the demise of the parking industry, the numbers don’t lie, says Denda. The population growth and surge in vehicle growth is real. In the next 18 to 20 years, Millennials will be reaching life milestones and their use, read that “need for,” vehicles will continue to rise. 


The undisputed projection by the federal government as to the 19 to 25 percent increase in driving by 2045 is real. The 45 percent increase in American population between 1980 and 2020 means we are not going backward and the spike in garage construction between 2016 and 2019 was no coincidence. There may be more than one bottom line, depending on what question you’re asking, but one them is this: Less than 5 percent of households today in the United States don’t own a vehicle–the needle hasn’t moved on that datapoint in decades.


John Van Horn is the editor of Parking Today. He may be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com



#