BY PAULO NUNES-UENO
Parking is out. Mobility is in.
Strolling the vendor booths at the Canadian Parking Association conference in Toronto this year makes that clear. We are all rebranding, it seems. Including me. The group I started at Seattle’s DOT, called the Transit and Mobility Division, manages transit, bikeshare, carshare, and of course, parking. Now as a consultant, I help clients retool their campus and city parking into ‘mobility’ services.
Mobility. Such a sweet word. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear…the future! Unfortunately, the transportation and ecological challenges we face won’t be solved through slogans. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Get ‘mobility’ right and we stand a chance against climate change. Getting it wrong also spells extinction for those in the parking–I mean mobility–business.
Technology changes and growth make real adaptations all the more urgent. Re-urbanization is transforming cities throughout North America. Companies that a generation ago would have happily sprawled in suburban office parks are packing into downtown skyscrapers. Witness the new Amazon HQs headed to NYC and Washington DC. We can actually see this change happening inside our workplaces. The typical office from the early 2000’s housed 3 or 4 people per 1000 square feet. Today interior designers and architects with open offices and shared workstation have managed to more than double that.
Too bad transportation can’t claim anything close. None of the innovations to date increase the capacity of roadways or parking lots very much.
Driverless cars, the next big ‘innovation’ afoot, will actually make matters worse. Though we don’t know when autonomous vehicles are coming exactly, we can be sure they will impact the urban landscape. How? Because we have experience with services that drop people off at their destination and keep going. They’re called taxis….