By David Feehan

I happened to read TimHaahs’ brochure,“The Debate is On: The Future of Parking” and another article on changes in parking, and they reminded me of an article I wrote in June 1993: “Privatization: Kalamazoo’s Autopark—Proof it Works!” Reading the first two and then reading my 1993 essay caused me to reflect on just how much the world of parking has changed in 25 years.

In 1993, Kalamazoo was pioneering the concept of customer-friendly parking. We were featuring free battery jumps, flat-tire assistance, and lock-out aid in our garages. We offered car washes and oil changes to our customers along with a host of other services. We proved that a downtown organization can manage a municipal parking system well enough to produce outstanding results—reduced parking tickets, reduced complaints, increased revenues, and improved violation collections. Today, many of the services and policies we pioneered are considered standard practice in many systems.

But the questions TimHaahs raises are more fundamental to the industry. Will the future demand an increase or decrease in demand for parking spaces? Will car- and ride-sharing reduce the demand for car ownership? Will driverless technology eliminate the need for parking and car ownership? Will car ownership actually decline?

David Milder, who writes an intriguing blog called the Downtown Curmudgeon, has been writing for a couple of years about the advent of autonomous vehicles and the impact they will have on downtowns. Several posts recently have explored the movement of millennials back to the suburbs as they begin to marry and have children and as the price of housing in many cities exceeds their budgets. These factors will certainly affect parking.

As I think back to the summer of 1993, I would never have predicted many of the changes that have occurred. And yet, those of us in the parking industry have to build parking structures that will last at least 50 years, and we have to anticipate parking needs over many decades. How do we anticipate the changes that might occur in the next 25 years? That’s a question that I’m sure everyone involved in IPI is thinking about.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consulting, LLC.