The idea behind the minimum parking requirements is simple. As a greater number of people started owning cars, sufficient parking space near residential areas, office buildings, and other establishments were required for motorists to comfortably find a parking spot. Today, there is a growing concern that parking lots have become overabundant and remain largely unused. In most big cities, the bulk of parking real estate remains vacant most of the time.
For instance, residential parking spaces remain vacant during workhours and office parking spaces during non-workhours. This leads to wastage of valuable real estate that can otherwise be put to good use. Thus, we’re now seeing governments rethinking minimum parking requirements. There is an on-going discussion surrounding the removal of parking requirements in major cities in an attempt to claw back the squandering of already dwindling real estate.
Although city-level data largely shows that there is a glut of parking space, the perception among the general public is quite the opposite. Ask any motorist, and they’ll tell you how their city doesn’t have enough parking. The reason is ragingly inefficient parking systems. And that’s the real problem that needs our collective focus.
Consequences of removing the parking requirements
Abandoning parking requirements may not be the best idea as parking spaces are a crucial factor in the functioning of crowded cities. And this demand for parking space is not going away anytime soon as more people are migrating to urban areas. According to the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population will be living in cities by the year 2050.
Parking lots are also important for many businesses, like general stores and restaurants. If enough parking isn’t available, it could mean poor business, which can have a cascading effect on the overall economy of the city.
Off-street parking lots play an important role in freeing up the roads. If off-street parking spaces are scarce, the vehicle owners may be forced to use on-street parking. This, in turn, will result in congestion of roads and frequent traffic jams.
Unavailability of parking lots especially affects the physically disabled since they depend on private vehicles to get around. One can only imagine the disastrous consequences of not finding a convenient parking spot during, say, a medical emergency.
The Solution – Smart Parking
Completely doing away with parking requirements can spell trouble. Instead, cities should focus on lowering the minimum parking requirements and optimizing the available parking space.
Because the real problem is inefficient and poorly managed parking systems, it is through a technological intervention that the parking problem can be solved. Smart parking systems leverage technologies such as real-time data collection and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve efficiency in parking management. The data collected from smart parking systems can then be used for scheduling purposes to iron out parking inefficiencies. For instance, colleges can plan classes according to parking space availability using the historical data from smart parking systems. City governments can also use this historical data to plan out future cities.
Another way smart parking systems can help is through dynamic pricing models to control demand. Parking lot owners can use real-time data to adjust prices according to the demand. This incentivizes people to use the parking space when it is vacant, thus increasing the efficiency of the facility.
An additional benefit of smart parking systems is that they help reduce pollution levels as motorists don’t have to drive around parking lots, hunting for a spot. Instead, they will be notified of vacant spots in the city even before they step out of their homes.
In essence, the total abandonment of parking requirements is not a pragmatic approach. Instead, cities must employ smart parking solutions to solve the problem of wasted real estate and remove inefficiencies in parking management.