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Parking vs Mobility – Is it time to Rename an Industry

Kenzie Coulson, who runs the parking and transportation operations for the city of Park City, Utah, had an interesting discussion with Astrid at the SWAPTA meet in Las Vegas:

When you want to talk about parking, the average citizen may have one of two reactions. One common reaction is that people deny or diminish the idea that parking would require sophisticated planning and strategy.  The other common response is for people to become immediately emotional and irrational, especially if talking about paid or limited parking. Shifting the key words of your conversation to talk about “mobility” can change the interest level and emotional response to a more positive focus.

She goes on to comment that the term ‘parking’ emotes negative connotations like the very lack of it, the fact that one has to (shudder) pay for it, the fact that there is an entire part of the city work force whose goal is to write expensive citations, and the fact that it’s something that we don’t want to think about until we need it and even then it ranks somewhere with trash collection and chewing gum on sidewalks.

“Mobility” connotates movement, going places, and brings many diverse topics into the conversation like technology, shuttles, bikes, private vehicles, uber/lyft, buses, scooters, and the like. It doesn’t limit the conversation. Focus on larger picture, she says, TDM and mobility technologies has been a key in creating more positive dialogue within her Park City community.

Do we dump “parking” and replace it with “mobility”? I think it depends on the context. If someone comes up to you and asks where to put their car, I doubt if you would direct them toward the “mobility” lot.

However, if your goal is to move public policy or communicate reasons for parking rate increases or just why enforcement has been increased in a certain area, using “mobility” to craft a conversation about how people get from point A to point B in a most effective way and describing how parking rates or enforcement fits into the mobility discussion makes a lot of sense.

Often we talk about creating turnover or more parking space but seldom do we relate that space to the wider issue of transportation infrastructure, or, for instance, the ability of a bus, shuttle, or uber/lyft to find a spot to pick up and drop off passengers. Or how a new parking structure might make the local light rail easier for more people to use, or how it becomes a place where people move from one mode of transportation to another. How the mobility of an area increases in its flexibility if there is convenient on and off-street parking.

Like Kenzie, I think we must move the conversation away from the nuts and bolts of everyday parking and on to how we relate to getting people around our cities, universities, airports, shopping centers, and venues. Parking isn’t just a place for storing cars, it’s a part of a larger scheme of things that moves people from place to place.

It’s time we cleaned up our marketing act and sold the fact that we are a integral part of mobility, Maas and transportation. We do that and we will find that our industry will move up the conversation ladder. Plus we will also find that sensible decisions regarding parking will be on the horizon.

JVH

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