Staying Informed — Our Industry
In last month’s article we discussed the creation of the vehicle demand we have today and the parking spaces we require to support that demand. We currently have a system built on the model that was created after the return from WWII. Transportation systems do not just come and go, they are expensive and time consuming to build.
The current infrastructure was not built to support the construction of affordable housing because, in every city in the country, there is enough room to build whatever you want. Parking does not impact the outcome of building affordable housing government and costs are the only factor. Is the system we have the most efficient system in the world? I don’t know; the definition of efficiency is difficult.
If you build super malls that require fewer car trips for the average family to shop, then the mall that requires cars can be considered more efficient. If you take the goods and services in the typical mall and distribute them into smaller shops so they can be spread efficiently over a large population, you might reduce the number of car trips but would greatly increase the number of buildings required, greatly increase the amount of time required to find your planned purchases, and greatly increase the number of employees needed to service all of the smaller stores.
It is not possible to spread the downtown offices into mini structures spread all over a 100-mile diameter city like Houston or Los Angeles. The cross-city travel required would likely result in more car miles driven. Years ago, as city planners tried to stay ahead of the growth of the move to the suburbs, we ended up with what we have.
Only people who do not have a viable solution try to blame everything on the privately owned vehicle, or POV. We are moving forward and there will be solutions in the future that will change our direction and create an even more efficient form of transportation. We, in all the transportation industries, must stay on top of evaluating where we are, where we are going, and the changes required to get there. The blame game of the Parking Reform Network will not get us there.
So, as much as certain groups want to lay blame for the large number of parking spaces on planners and city administration’s poor judgement, the reality is they designed and built a highway and internet highway system to handle the move to the suburbs and the ability to move across a very large country. For businesses to survive it was imperative to have parking for the cars people drove to work, parking for people to support the businesses in the cities, and parking for all the shopping, restaurants, and entertainment required to support the new American middle class.
The country had plenty of room to overbuild parking supply and not building enough would have been disastrous because it would have prevented people from being able to support their communities. The planners made sure plentiful parking spaces were required and built, and the result was our cities survived and thrived.
It seems to be a fairly cheap shot today to go after the POV. The challenge (and some are just not up to the challenge) is to think big, bold, and with a lot of creativity to move into the future. Attacking the POV does not get us to where we need to be in 50 years. Claiming we all need to live on top of each other in crowded spaces is not a long-term solution.
Over the last 70 years we have built cities and towns based on the needs of a very large spread-out country with a lot of space and tremendous growth from the 50s on. We have been working with huge increases in the number of cars on the road used for transportation, as well as a very deficient mass transit system. With the transportation model that was developed it was very easy for us to move around this country and we had the space to make sure that there was parking at each destination. The mass transit system we built was for cars. Cars require parking at the end of the line and if you want a successful business, you make sure you have enough parking.
Parking is a support industry. For those of us in OUR INDUSTRY, it is our job to make sure that we support business, all types of business, with the spaces they require, at a cost that is reasonable, and with a service that is outstanding based on the resources we have at the time. People like the Parking Reform Network are going after a support business (parking) as if we are the root of their perceived problem. In my opinion, it is much easier to go after a support industry than to go after the real solution to the challenge of the movement of people around a city and country.
The long-term solution will be our ability to reimagine transportation prepare the technology that will be developed in the future. Parking, if we continue to manage our “SUPPORT” role, will have a place in transportation for a long time.
It is our industry’s responsibility to provide you with the information you need to counter the attacks on the POV with the simple truth that, at this time in history, removing parking spaces, for any reason, damages our economy more than it improves the life that we and our predecessors have created. Change is inevitable, and we as an industry must always be aware of our role in selecting change, managing change, supporting change, and at the same time protecting the demands of OUR INDUSTRY.
CLYDE WILSON is CEO of the Parking Network. He can be reached at Clyde@tpnconsulting.com