Believe it or not, having more and more parking spaces for our cars is not always a positive thing, and the US knows it very well. In addition, in a future in which autonomous cars will be dominant, we will need fewer and fewer dedicated parking spaces and even fewer personal cars. "Practicality" will be the key to future mobility in hyper-connected cities.
More parking than buildings
According to a 2017 statistic, in the USA there are on average eight free parking spaces for every car in circulation. Just think that, for example, the new Apple Park in Cupertino had to be flanked by an area reserved for parking (outside or underground) practically larger than the "park" itself.
This is caused by laws (also present in some regions outside the US) known as "mandatory parking minimums". In a nutshell, depending on the use of the building that you plan to build, you have to assign a relative amount of free parking that generally follows a rule similar to this one:
X parking spots per 1000sqm
The "X" in the equation varies considerably depending on the activity that will be carried out in the building. For example, it could be three parking spaces per hole on a golf course for every 1000sqm of the course itself; another example could be a cinema where one parking space could be required for every four seats in the auditoriums for every 1000sqm built.
The problem is that parking spaces occupy a considerable area. In France (according to NF P 91-100) the minimum width of a car parking bay varies between 2.20 and 2.30m while in the UK the width is 2.40m. You will immediately understand how the area dedicated to free parking spaces quickly and easily exceeds the size of the building to which it is assigned.
More parking, more problems
Obviously, these parking lots are free for the city but they are not for those who are obliged to build them, the land and the building itself are certainly not paid for by third parties. This not only results in hidden costs for customers of commercial buildings or extra costs when buying a house in the building in question, but also causes a number of other inconveniences.
One of the problems with these mandatory minimum parking requirements concerns the distance between buildings. As the parking area increases, the distance between the buildings themselves logically increases, prompting us to drive and take more public transport while at the same time leading us to walk less. Moreover, paradoxically, in every city that follows this type of regulation, there is more parking space than there is for people, such as housing or green parks. The city of San Francisco published the results of an internal census on parking in 2010: 441,541 parking spaces, and more than half of them were empty.
Parking spaces near houses are empty during working days and parking spaces near work are empty during days off and at night. What a waste.
The mobility of the future is the solution
The future of mobility has already begun to manifest itself before our very eyes and we have written about it often in recent months. Major companies such as BMW and Mercedes have now joined forces by unifying Car2Go and DriveNow into a single carsharing service. Cities are being invaded by electric bicycles, e-scooters and e-mopeds that can be rented for a few euros through apps. Cars are becoming increasingly autonomous and smart.
Anyone living in a big city will know exactly where I'm going with this. Personally, a couple of years ago I went from a tiny reality (a town with just over 3,000 inhabitants) to a metropolis like Berlin. I have completely changed my car-dependent habits and I have never even felt the need to get behind the wheel thanks to the excellent alternative transport systems.
Even if you want to drive, buying a personal car is out of the question: if you can rent several vehicles such as Mini, BMW and Mercedes if necessary, does it really make sense to worry about all the expenses related to owning a car in addition to the cost of the car itself?
In the near future, autonomous cars will populate the streets of cities connected by communication technologies such as 5G C-V2X or special Wi-Fi protocols. Even those who do not want to give up and decide to own their own car will be able to be get out of the vehicle, which will then independently go to find a parking space and, why not, refill the hydrogen tank or recharge the batteries. Goodbye to stress from difficult parking or parking too far away from your destination. We can let ourselves be dropped off at the door by our personal virtual driver.
The huge expanses of concrete will be emptied or used in a more intelligent way (no wasted parking spaces due to bad parking) thanks to the precision and collective intelligence of the systems that manage cities and cars.
How do you imagine the future of urban mobility? Do you think this is just a utopia or that we're going in the right direction?