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Cities are growing rapidly around the world, and with greater populations come more and more passenger cars which need to be parked at home, at work, while running errands and for leisure activities. The growth of cities’ populations brings with it limitations on space, and innovative parking lot solutions must be found.
As well as making parking more economical in its use of valuable city space, innovative parking lots and parking solutions can also reduce cities’ overall environmental impact, save time and therefore increase productivity for its working population, and add value to citizens’ parking experience.
These innovations make use of modern materials and new technology and technological applications, like the Internet-of-Things (IoT) which will facilitate entire Smart Cities of the near future, to solve the problem of parking in modern cities.
One of the major environmental concerns of parking lots is their biggest feature – the large area of paved land they require. When this land is paved using non-porous materials such as traditional asphalt or concrete, environmental problems such as polluted water run-off and downstream flooding can result.
Using porous asphalt in parking lots is one way of tackling this, as it allows rainwater to seep through the asphalt layer into the ground below. Porous asphalt and other forms of permeable paving gained traction in parking lot design in the US in the 1980s, and are now being used on roads with light traffic as well.Automated Parking Systems
Automated Parking Systems (APSs) utilize multi-story design and a mechanism for moving cars in and out of the parking lot to reduce the need for valuable city space. The most common type of APS uses a paternoster lift (an elevator for cars) to transport cars from the entrance area to a designated parking space. Although still a rare addition to cities in the US, APS parking lots are a common feature in Japan and parts of Europe. Approximately 1.6 million parking spaces in Japan are in APSs, and the largest APS in Europe, such as Aarhus, Denmark, can hold 1,000 cars.
As they remove drivers and passengers from the parking area, APSs can save a considerable amount of space. This is achieved with lower ceilings, narrower and shallower parking spaces, no driving lanes and no pedestrian areas including walkways and staircases. The reduced need for extra space also means APSs can be built from more lightweight materials such as steel or thin concrete. APSs also remove or reduce the need for lighting, air conditioning and ventilation, meaning they can consume less energy. Finally, drivers and passengers benefit from being able to leave and retrieve their cars from the same space, which means that handicapped drivers can park closer to entrances or street level.
In the US, ParkPlus are building an APS system in Boulder, Colorado’s new PearlWest mixed-use development. An automated robotic dolly will be able to retrieve cars in up to three minutes, and the parking lot will store four times as many cars as a traditional parking lot.
With the advent of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the horizon, future parking lots will cater specifically to cars fitted with self-parking technology such as ParkSense by Jeep and Chrysler or the BMW parking assistant.
Just as with APS parking lots, smart parking lots will enable drivers and passengers to leave their car in the parking lot entrance and eliminate the need for extra lighting, ventilation and passenger space. This also saves drivers considerable amounts of time looking for and entering parking spaces and then walking back to the parking lot entrance or street level.
Audi is working alongside the city of Somerville, Massachusetts to test self-parking capabilities as part of its Urban Future initiative. The international car manufacturer is piloting the scheme in a specially adapted parking lot in the Boston suburb with a small fleet of cars and plans to roll out a full fleet of self-parking Audi cars to the area in 2020.
Finally, cities embracing the IoT with multiple sensors, cameras, connected objects like cars and buildings, and displays can significantly reduce the time lost and space wasted through conventional parking.
Los Angeles, California, is reducing total traffic congestion (and the unnecessary pollution this causes) with its LA Express Park program. Express Park is an innovative parking strategy for an entire urban area. It uses a real-time parking guidance system with an integrated parking management system to power demand-based pricing. This spreads parking and congestion more evenly throughout the program area, reducing congestion and pollution in the most congested city in the world.