By Jay Gajiwala, Faculty of Science, B.Sc., Spec. Hons. Biology (Biomedical Science)
Tom Arnold Scholarship in Parking Industry Advancement at York University 2014 recipient

To observe how our cities and communities change as time passes is a duty of every resident. As a resident of Canada, I would like to document what I have observed over the years in the transportation and parking industries and the direction that I hope the industries will take in the future for cities and communities across Canada. 

Over the last 50 years, the impact transportation has had on our societies is phenomenal. Cities and communities have been built with transportation in mind. At the root of the transportation is the parking industry. In the time when automobiles were a rare commodity, space was vastly available for use. However, as the population owning an automobile grew, the realization came that parking space is not unlimited. This resulted in parking facilities and technologies becoming more important than one could have ever thought.

For a long time, the goal has been to park as many automobiles in as little space as possible. To achieve this goal, we see vertical parking garages raised from the ground so that the limited land in urban areas can be utilized with more efficiency. The importance of the management of parking space is also evident in any downtown core of a city. For example, avoiding on-street parking during rush hours is a great way of using space to its full capacity. These and many other innovations have been geared towards efficient use of space.

In a growing city where parking is limited, many drivers find themselves needlessly wasting time going back and forth for parking spots. To address this, over the past decade parking spot counting systems have evolved in heavily populated areas where parking spaces are limited. These systems are used to indicate the exact amount of available parking spots in a defined space to anyone entering a parking lot and in some cases, points to the spaces that are available. When a driver enters the parking lot of a community centre, a library, or a shopping mall, the first piece of information that they can be greeted with is an information board with available parking spots in defined areas of the parking lot. This means that the driver can go directly to the location with the most available spots instead of making educated guesses and looking for a parking spot. With such cost efficient technology, drivers directly see the parking availabilities and immediately decide which next course of action to take, saving precious time and preventing the frustration that comes with looking for parking spots in normal conditions.

For a long time the focus has been efficient use of space. However, I believe the focus has changed to saving time. Technology has been advancing at a faster rate than ever before. Today, many people owning an automobile also own a mobile phone. There are tremendous benefits that the mobile technology provides the parking industry. With the sort of equipment and software available to us today, we are able to produce facilities like online and mobile parking space booking/reservation. This should theoretically save time for all drivers. With WiFi being implemented all over Canadian cities and communities, it should only be a matter of time before this sort of technology is available in most community settings to save time and space for people.

A similar approach can also be taken to produce a map of all available parking space in the city. This sort of map available in a mobile application form can make the consumer more aware of all their options in an area. Furthermore, mobile phones are now used as electronic payment systems. This has eliminated many hassles that occurred previously at a parking lots.

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I believe implementing these technologies will be a time consuming and ongoing process. 

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Probably the most difficult task for the industry will be keeping up with the technological advancements that will occur in the next 50 years. Such a case can be made for the idea of robotic or automated parking systems. The core of the concepts being developed is a system designed to minimize the area and volume required for parking cars by use of an automated parking system. In current multi-story parking garages, much space is wasted to ensure that we have enough room to get in and out safely.

However, in an automated system, such waste of space can be eliminated and more of that space can be used to park automobiles. This incorporated with mobile technology has a great potential to be a time and cost saving innovation.

Imagine a scenario where you are ready to leave your workplace to go home. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to send a message to the system so that your car is on the ground floor and ready to leave by a specific time? This would seem incredibly difficult to implement to widespread locations, but if given enough time and resources, this fairly new system could help resolve the problem of limited space and parking infrastructures in heavily urban areas.

From my experience so far, I have realized that the implementation of these ideas has been progressing in Canada, but technologies of the future have tremendous amount of potential to benefit the consumer and we must continue to push for more changes to create more efficient systems.

I would like to thank the Canadian Parking Association (CPA) for considering me for the Tom Arnold Scholarship in Parking Industry Advancement at York University.

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