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EVs, Parking Reservations, and Bah, Humbug…

John Van Horn

PT Correspondent Mark pointed this story in my direction. Seems three researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) are discovering that all electric vehicles, being mandated by governments far and wide, may have an infrastructure problem that can’t be solved by placing EV charging stations in public garages.

In a CMU press release (“Researchers Find Limited Residential Parking a Barrier to Electric Vehicle Adoption”), they point out that most EV charging will be done when the vehicles are at home, and that most drivers do not have permanent spots to park their cars – they park on streets or in spaces supplied by landlords – and therefore would not be able to install charging stations for the EVs. To wit:

“Analysts have ignored the barrier that parking may present to electric vehicle adoption,” [CMU researcher Elizabeth] Traut said. “We’ve seen studies that predict EV adoption as high as 80% by 2030. But to sell that many EVs, we would not only need to make them less costly and more attractive

to consumers — we would also need to address parking.

“Even if everyone wanted and was willing to pay for EVs, we couldn’t convert the whole fleet without major infrastructure changes,” Traut added. “Landlords have little incentive to invest in [EV] chargers that only some of their tenants [might] use, and homeowners simply don’t have enough dedicated parking spaces to charge all of their vehicles.”

 “... If we want EVs to be a larger part of our future transportation solution, we need to be thinking now about parking and charging availability,” [CMU researcher Chris] Hendrickson said. “Incentivizing landlords, where appropriate, and designing adequate parking and charging capability in new construction would be a start. ...”

When you think about it, the CMU researchers have a point. If you have an EV and not a hybrid, you really want a full charge when you take off in the morning, to be sure you can make it to work. Charging at work doesn’t solve that problem.

Let’s say you do charge at work, and there is enough power to make the round trip. But after work, you have to stop at the store, pick up the kids, and maybe run another errand.  When you get home, you will need to recharge your EV overnight.

If there is no place to charge, because you park on-street or in a lot next to your apartment or condo, or your garage is used for storage, then what?

These pesky little details are what governments fail to take into consideration when they make broad-brush pronouncements. (Witness the latest Health

Care Reform Mandate.)  We all know where the devil lives.

I had a most interesting discussion with Mike Harley, President and COO of SMC Software.  Among other things, we discussed parking reservations, and I gave my usual response that the whole concept was a solution in search of a problem.

Mike gave me some food for thought.  He said that we live in an increasingly complex world. He asked me if I had all the information about a trip I was to take to Tampa, Atlanta, Austin and Cincinnati. I said, yes, and Mike asked if it was all securely entered in my smartphone. 

I said, of course. He asked why, because after all, I could go to each airport and car rental place and hotel and get all the information I needed on terminals there.  I noted that having all the information at my fingertips ensured I wouldn’t make a mistake and that I didn’t have to think about it until the next step of my trip was about to occur.

Mike got an “ah-ha” look on his face and said, “Well, when you go to a hockey game, you have your tickets, your dinner reservations, so you won’t have to think about them. Why not a parking reservation, so you won’t have to think about that either?”’

Our lives are complex enough, he went on, without having to think about where we were going to park, particularly in an area with which we are unfamiliar. We can sit at our desk when we purchase the tickets and make the dinner reservation and can make the parking decisions then too. Often, we also can pay for them in advance. One little thing we don’t have to add to the hassles in our lives.

I had to admit that I hadn’t considered this, but, of course, he’s right.

When I got my plane reservations and checked, I noticed that I was TSA pre-flight approved. Those little letters (TSA Pre✓) meant that the security line nightmare at the airport was gone. It even meant I could wear some shoes that were more difficult to take on and off than the loafers I usually wear, but were much more comfortable.  Hassle reduced.

Also, the GPS in the cars I rented took tremendous pressure off.  I didn’t have to scan a map or worry about whether I could find my appointment locations.  Key it in and forget about it.  With Garmin on my smartphone, I can key in all the addresses from home before I leave. Again, less hassle.

So why not parking, says Mike. Frankly, I had to agree.

Mike Harley has other ideas about this concept and will be discussing them with you folks who attend 2014 PIE on March 16-19 in Chicago. His presentation is one I won’t want to miss. (For more information on the Parking Today-sponsored show, go to http://pieshow.parkingtoday.com.)

I read the following before going shopping for Christmas gifts. I was in a bad mood to start out with, and this sent me over the edge.

In testimony before the Washington, DC, zoning board – and advanced in his “Parking requirements aren’t one-size-fits-all” commentary on the greatergreaterwashington.org website – energy efficiency consultant Matt Malinowski ended with the following:

Rather than perpetuating the current set of arbitrary requirements based on unknowable ratios of drivers to occupants, please focus on what we do know: Land in DC is expensive, and driving is unsustainable and causes congestion. Eliminating or minimizing parking requirements allows for the market to provide parking to those who truly need it, while making it clear that free parking is not a right, and that DC values its residents and natural environment over its cars. ...

 Malinowski had just finished noting how a local charter school was seeking a variance to give up 36 of its 53 required parking spaces and replace them with gardens ... and bike racks. To wit:

Staff are expected to ride bikes, so there are 20 bike parking spots instead, and the Metro is a 10-minute walk away. ...

I guess I’m just grumpy. Sure, parking minimums are absurd, and without them many abandoned buildings could be opened for other uses, but maybe I don’t want to ride a bike or the Metro. Maybe I’m willing to pay for parking. Shouldn’t that be a decision left up to the landowner, the developer and, dare I say it, the customer?

I guess that consultants and planners have a right to their opinions, just as do I; however, it seems to me that the market would solve all these problems if it were just allowed to work.

It’s also important to remember that if you take away a person’s ability to drive, then there needs to be an alternative – such as, say, transit – or maybe planners want to have us living like Europeans, in 500-square-foot apartments stacked a quarter of a million to the square mile, living, eating, working, loving – all within walking distance.

Bah, humbug!



John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today. He can be reached at jvh@parkingtoday.com

Article Abstract from January, 2014




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