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How easier parking creates a greener world

Evan Goldin

We created Parkade to make parking far easier than it is today, and to build a better, greener world. While these two goals may seem in contrast, we at Parkade are firm believers that they actually work hand-in-hand. 

Parking is the glue between land use and transportation, and the way we use parking deeply (and physically) affects the built world we create, and the transportation choices people make. In most cities, we’ve built far too many parking spaces and made most of them available only to a select few, resulting in poor utilization. Jackson Hole, Wy — set among the stunning Tetons — has a whopping 27 parking spaces per household. Twenty seven! New York City is the only city in the United States with less than one spot per household. 

We can, and must, do better. Parkade can make parking easier, while also creating a world with far fewer parking spots. That’s our mission, and here’s how it impacts the environment. 

Support government action on climate change

There's a reason that nearly all Americans own cars, don't pay to park and use their automobile for most trips: Government policies have long encouraged cheap automobile travel — and storage — at the expense of other modes. From government requirements that developers build too much parking to massive subsidies for road construction to most governments providing curb parking (and providing it for free), it should be no surprise that most people drive and most people don't pay to park.

However, across the country, and across the political spectrum, cities, states and the federal government are starting to change these policies. Reforms face heavy political headwinds, though, because reform often raises concerns about parking. Concerned citizens constantly ask "but where will people park?"

Parkade can solve this problem, helping to assure citizens around that the country that we have enough parking already. We can hasten policymakers’ move to eliminate the laws, and hopefully encourage even smarter rules, like:

  • Requiring residential buildings to let residents reshare vacant spots (many HOA convenants ban this)
  • Allow businesses to decide what to do with their curbside space (parking, on-street dining or green space?)
  • Requiring the unbundling of parking at apartments and offices

Less wasted asphalt

For the second half of the twentieth century and even until just a few years ago, nearly every city in the entire United States mandated a minimum amount of parking that real estate developers must provide when constructing apartments, offices, bowling alleys or really anything else (even funeral homes). 

This has created cities with far, far too much parking. As an example of the typical American downtown, check out the parking in downtown Jacksonville, FL: 

Downtown Jacksonville, FL — with parking highlighted in yellow.

Most parking — both in that image and across the country — is private, and unshared. When a building resident is gone, their spot sits empty. When an office shuts for the night, their lot goes empty, even if it’s across the street from a large apartment building. 

We’ve built nearly 2 billion parking spaces in the United States as a result of this strategy. With concrete responsible for 8 percent of the world’s emissions and transportation another 40%, these parking spots are one of the single-largest contributors to the world’s emissions. 

Instead of 2 billion parking spaces that are only occupied 12% of the time, Parkade can create a world with fewer parking spots, which are occupied much more often. We’re already making that happen at our partner buildings, which have seen drastic increases in parking utilization (and fewer empty spots) since launching Parkade. 

At scale, with higher parking utilization, we can enable the conversion of frequently empty to other uses, or — by working with real-estate developers — less parking to be built in the first place.

Denser, more walkable cities

Most American cities have a similar landscape. Vast swaths of parking, in front of most businesses. This has created a country dominated by parking, as is the case in this area of St. Louis today: 

Suburban St. Louis has massive amounts of parking, typical of many American cities.

Aside from the pure environmental damage caused by paving over grasslands, forests and wetlands to create parking, this has created a built world where buildings — even when near each other — are far easier to drive between than to walk. That produces huge increases in CO2 emissions, and makes our cities more dangerous to navigate.

Additionally, land used for parking is land that is not used for housing, offices, retail or parkland. By reducing the amount of parking needed for every building, Parkade can change the urban design of our built world, and make it far more likely for people to walk or bike than to drive. 

This reduction in needed parking per building will also help mollify concerns of neighbors. For too long, city policy and officials have bowed down to NIMBY complaints, allowing parking to be the hot item that blocks sustainable projects and programs – from new housing to bike lanes to housing to small mixed-use infill projects like this one in Oradell, NJ, where the city denied the permit due to “insufficient parking.” Denying these projects produces more car trips and more development in the car-heavy-but-neighbor-lite exurbs of our cities.   

We don’t want to see projects denied because of parking, like what happened in Oradell. We’ll help quicken the push from a world of NIMBYs to a world of YIMBYs, as we help buildings show that fewer spots can park more cars through Parkade.

Less parking = cheaper urban housing/offices

LA Times headline about affordable housing in California costing $1m/unit
In Solana Beach, Calif., neighbors' demands for more parking meant project costs topping $1m/unit.

As Parkade enables buildings to build less parking, we’ll create a world with reduced prices for urban housing and offices.

Urban areas, in general, tend to have higher prices per square foot for homes and offices because land is more expensive, but also because creating the required parking must be done underground or in vertical above-ground structures. That’s incredibly expensive, and can contribute to up to 25% of the cost of housing or offices. 

One study found the average renter in the United States pays $1,700/yr extra in rent for each parking space. In an LA Times investigation, the newspaper found that it cost almost $1m to build each affordable housing unit in a proposed development in Solana Beach, CA, with much of the cost attributed to parking construction.

Those prices are passed off to the eventual tenants, who must then pay much more for that space than if it were in a suburban or exurban area. Often, they pay more whether they own a car or not. That’s bad for the climate, because urban dwellers produce far fewer CO2 emissions per capita than suburban or exurban dwellers, and it reduces the incentive not to own a car — since the parking has already been built, and it's bundled with most rent anyway. 

Parkade can play a key role in reducing the amount of parking built at homes and offices, making the remaining spots better utilized, and drastically cutting the cost of construction. Those savings will be passed on tenants, encouraging more people to live a low-carbon lifestyle. 

Dynamically priced off-street parking

Cities across the United States have begun rolling out dynamic pricing of curb parking. Instead of charging the same rate across all of their parking meters, at all hours, they’ve been rolling out smarter meters that adjust pricing by location, time of day or for special events. 

San Francisco has been a leader in this effort with SF Park, and many cities have followed suit. It’s worked wonders, but no equivalent really exists for most off-street parking.

Commercial garages have, for ages, charged variable rates along the same lines. However, commercial garages represent only a tiny sliver of the total parking the United States. Most off-street parking — around two-thirds — lies in homes and offices, and is either given away to building tenants for free or leased out, but at static monthly rates. 

Parkade can change this dynamic, by making it easy for buildings to lease parking to their residents or workers, and adjust prices by the month, day of week or even hour of day. In tandem with policymakers, this could offer a path to cities to better manage parking demand and reduce vehicle trips. 

This can also better meet consumer needs, as consumers would prefer to have the option to pay for additional parking — even at higher rates — rather than run out of parking because static pricing doesn’t temper demand.  

No more “cruising for parking”

More than 25% of drivers waste more than 15 minutes each day just looking for a parking spot. In downtown areas, drivers “cruising for parking” can account for more than 30% of congestion.

Double-parked cars and truck block streets constantly in American cities.

Why does that happen? Because most drivers don’t know exactly where they’ll park at the end of their trip. 

Parkade solves that problem, as we help drivers reserve parking in advance at home and at work. Instead of cruising for parking, or hoping for the best in your unassigned parking lot at work, we make lots reservable. We even enable people with long-term parking to put their spots “back in the pool” when not using them. 

This makes parking reliable, and completely eliminates cruising, thereby reducing related emissions. 

Help companies reduce the percentage of auto commuters

The old Lyft HQ parking lot, now occupied by new companies that still charge for parking.

One of the largest contributing factors to Americans’ decision to drive to work is free parking at their place of work. 

As a Boston Globe investigation found,

“Company benefit policies often ignore a brutal truth about the psychology of the American commuter: Most people are hard-wired to prefer the autonomy of driving and won’t change without powerful financial and emotional incentives. And the siren call of free or discounted employee parking has become a major contributor to the region’s gridlock.”

Boston companies aren't alone in giving away their parking. Almost every American company that has on-site parking makes it available today for free, and first-come, first-serve. In part, they do this because they don’t see an easy alternative, and assume that assigning parking spaces would inherently mean some spots idle sometimes — reducing parking utilization.

Parkade was born out of our CEO’s efforts to try something different when he worked at Lyft HQ, where he rolled out paid, assigned, resharable parking for all employees. The change allowed the company to double in size and massively reduce the percentage of employees who drove to work during that same time. Those who wanted to drive could, but they had to pay — and pay into a pool of funds that was then paid out to non-drivers.

See how commute habits at Lyft changed between 2014 (free parking) and 2015 (paid, reserved parking).

It was incredibly effective at reducing driving, and we make it easy for other companies to do the same. Through more actively managing their parking lots, they can make parking reliable for those who need it, reshareable when not in use and nudge people to lower-emissions commute modes in the process. 

Parkade will make it easy for companies to offer reservable, resharable parking at offices, while also making it easy to charge for those spots — reducing demand to drive to work.

Massively expanded access to EV charging

Electric vehicles are key to reducing emissions, but limited access to charging is one of the biggest hurdles to expanding EV ownership. Most EV chargers are privately owned and not accessible by the public, or sometimes even by other residents in the same building.

The solution to this problem is not putting an EV charger in every single parking spot. That would cost more than a trillion dollars! The solution is  expanding access to EV chargers so that fewer chargers are private and only accessible to their spot owner. Parkade enables this, while also making it possible to reserve EV parking in advance, reducing range anxiety.

As an example, we've partnered with multiple condo buildings that have EV chargers in assigned, deeded parking spots. Previously, only the spot owner could access their parking spot, but now with Parkade's help, those parking spots are regularly shared wit hand reservable by all residents in their building. This has brought home charging access to hundreds of people who didn't have it before.

Parkade can play a key role in expanding EV charging access, especially at home and at work.

Summary

At the heart of everything we do and build at Parkade, is our undying committee to a better and more sustainable tomorrow. We’ll create a virtuous cycle that, as we scale, will reduce the need for asphalt. 

We’ll make parking easier, but in doing so, create the greener world we deserve.

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