A More Sustainable Future, by Way of Parking
In the global fight against climate change, we are constantly looking for ways to make everyday life greener. And with the transportation sector making up 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, mobility is a key area for creating change.
The transportation industry is rife with innovation, from advanced batteries to new micro mobility tools to autonomous vehicles. But technology is moving faster than infrastructure can keep up. Our cities weren’t made for self-driving cars or entire electric delivery fleets. There is a lot of change that has to happen in our physical environment -- streets, curbsides, and parking garages -- in order to accommodate new eco-friendly technologies in a sustainable way.
Reducing congestion is the first and most direct way parking can reduce emissions and help build a more sustainable future.
Over the next few years, parking will play a pivotal role in reducing emissions and creating more sustainable ways of getting around by reducing congestion, supporting new micro mobility practices, and powering the electric vehicle (EV revolution).
Activating Sustainable Parking Practices
Reducing congestion is the first and most direct way parking can reduce emissions and help build a more sustainable future. It’s simple: when cars spend more time circling blocks, they use more energy. IBM estimates that over 30 percent of traffic in cities can be attributed to drivers searching for parking. Getting people to spaces -- and to their destinations -- faster is the easiest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with smart parking technology.
1- eParking reservations are a great way to get drivers into the best garage based on their price and distance-to-destination preferences. For drivers that don’t already have parking-specific apps, parking options that appear on Google and Apple maps or even on platforms like Ticketmaster can drive parkers to garages in less time.
2- Transparent pricing with visual displays is another simple way to get parkers off streets and into garages faster. Digital rate signage can reflect dynamic rates and ensure that potential customers are seeing the right rate at the right time.
3- Digital payment options can speed up the sometimes lengthy ingress process that deters parkers. Whether they are paying through an app or a webpage, digital payments are a new norm that makes the parking inkeep drivers moving into garages and off streets. When people can see parking on map apps, the experience of parking becomes folded into wayfinding.
4- Digital tickets and online validations can also contribute to sustainability efforts by reducing paper usage and instead encouraging digital interactions. In a post-pandemic world, touchless and paperless transactions are the new standard.
The Next Step: The Last Mile
Last-mile transit is a big concern for smart cities and their transit divisions. Public transportation is designed to be a component of many journeys rather than a door-to-door solution for just one. Even with driving and shared rides, parking or getting dropped off close to your destination is not always an option.
So, going that last mile -- or half mile -- is another factor in the modern user journey. That’s where technologies like rental bikes and eScooters come in. It’s no surprise that micro mobility has taken off with such success; it offers riders a cheap, easy, and fun way to get around.
eScooters have the potential to be a transformative sustainability technology. Today, up to half of all scooter trips replace those that would be taken by car. Of all trips taken by car in the U.S., at least 40 percent are under three miles, a distance well within the range for eScooter rides.
With ridership growing, cities have faced challenges in regulating the devices, especially eScooters. Riders all too often leave the dockless devices in the middle of sidewalks, roadways, or even in bodies of water. Cities recognize the benefit of the last mile mobility tools, but regulating where they live and how they charge has become a barrier to widespread municipal adoption. That’s where parking comes in.
For decades, the parking industry has been a specialist in where and how we park our cars. In today’s multimodal marketplace, parking can become the subject matter expert in parking eScooters and bikes, too. Companies like Swiftmile and Turvec have introduced smart charging stations where users can rent out and return their micro mobility devices. Giving eScooters a proper place to park gives riders peace of mind, gives cities the regulation they want, and gives parking assets a new purpose.
The Emerging EV Revolution
The EV revolution will be one of the biggest steps we take towards a more sustainable future. Though personal vehicles emerged as one of the first sectors within the EV market, it’s arguably the fleets of commercial vehicles that will have the biggest impact on our carbon footprint. Sweeping change across the entire automotive industry is ensuring that both will soon be a reality and that we can soon expect to see a decreasing dependence on oil, lower emissions, and cleaner air to breathe.
In order to make these grand, battery-powered dreams a reality, there are a few key stakeholders outside the automotive industry that have to help set up the right foundation. Bulking up our charging network is the logical first step. But whose responsibility is it?
The U.S. government has taken a heavy hand in inciting EV charging investment, with the recently-passed 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that sets aside $7.5 billion to build 500,000+ charging stations across the country.
But with an estimated 35 million EVs on the road by 2030, we are going to need a lot more than that. The bill focuses on Level 2 charging stations, which take longer than DC fast chargers but are ultimately more affordable and practical. Since drivers likely won’t be getting a full charge every time they plug in, they’ll need to plug in more often.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that for every 1,000 EVs, we will need 40 Level 2 charging stations. That adds up to somewhere around 1.2 million level 2 ports. To meet that estimated demand, we would need to install 380 EV charging ports each day for the next 9 years, according to Forbes.
Although government imperatives are a critical piece of the puzzle, more players need to get in the game to meet the imminent need for EV charging. If we are going to create mass adoption of more sustainable EV alternatives to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, chargers need to become a ubiquitous part of physical infrastructure.
Our existing infrastructure wasn’t designed for EVs. Gas stations are already preparing to install DC fast chargers in major highway corridors across the country. But for everyday charging, DC fast isn’t a sustainable solution and no one has time to wait around for hours while their car charges. End users need standard charging in convenient locations, like the parking garages they already park in each day.
Parking providers have an opportunity to close the gap between charging supply and demand by putting charging stations where individual drivers and fleets need them. If the parking industry can adopt EV technology and market services to the right audience, parking may very well become one of the most significant assets to the electric revolution.
The Future Parks Here
Paving the way to a more sustainable future starts today, with smart tools that use fewer resources and help drivers get to where they are going faster. Adapting everyday practices in small ways can have a big impact. And with consumer preferences changing rapidly to respond to climate concerns, it has become clear that sustainable practices are also good for business.
Today’s consumers are aware of how their actions and wallets can positively or negatively impact the environment, so parking providers that introduce sustainable technology and future-ready services have a competitive advantage that will only grow as time goes on.
The market is ready for a sustainable approach to parking and we have the technology to take us there. Adoption is the final shift that needs to happen -- and it starts with you.
Ben Davee is the General Manager and EVP for FlashParking’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org