By Brett Wood, PE, CAPP
A few days ago, a post by colleague and friend Larry Cohen, CAPP, got me thinking. The synthesis of his blog was that the community around him was fighting back against constructing new parking facilities. As a consultant who travels the country trying to fight the good fight of the parking industry, this isn’t new—we hear in nearly every city and on nearly every campus that autonomous vehicles are going to take our jobs! We won’t need parking anymore because the world is changing and leaving our industry in the dust.
I’ve got good news and bad news. No, parking isn’t going away anytime soon—in fact, those who choose to believe the automobile is going away tomorrow are in for a rude awakening. Millennials (that generation that dominates everything in our lives now) are buying cars and suburban houses at an increased clip. Guess what? They are going to need to park those cars and we have to be ready to respond. But the transportation world as a whole is changing rapidly, with or without the autonomous vehicle.
While vehicle miles traveled hasn’t dipped beyond the recession-era blip of 2008 and 2009, what has changed is how people access destinations on a trip-by-trip basis. Gone are the days of buying our car and being attached to it at the hip. Instead, we may drive some days but then on others, we bus, bike, walk, ride share, or whatever means gets us to where we want to go. We crave convenience and sometimes driving (and parking!) a car is just a pain in the you know what.
So we as parking professionals have to be prepared to change with these changing times. We have to embrace shared mobility. We have to endorse holistic transportation systems for our cities and campuses. We have to be prepared to help our patrons find the most convenient and efficient access modes, even at the detriment of parking revenue. And yes—sometimes we have to stand up and defend the need to keep building parking. Just make sure we do it smart, green, and integrated. Just like we preach at IPI!
Brett Wood, PE, CAPP, is a parking and transportation consultant at Kimley-Horn.