Parking Futures 

There are trends with technology that may also improve the efficiency of parking sites in the town. In particular, the emerging technology that enables cars to self-park without a driver offers a reduction of space needs per vehicle of over 15%. Not only is there no need for doors to be opened once the vehicle is in its parking spot, but some aisle widths may be reduced.

Autonomous Vehicles

A progression into Autonomous Vehicles, even if not operating on the public highway, could be used within the controlled environment of a car park. Such an arrangement will not only reap the capacity efficiencies described for self-parking, but within parking areas explicitly designed for AV access only, headrooms could be lower, ventilation and lighting reduced. Indeed, AVs that submitted to a central local controller, could double park, re-arranging themselves as necessary to release specific vehicles when required.

The longer term expectation is that the AV will see a reduction in parking demand in the more expensive town and city centres. Recent modelling indicates that AVs will drop occupants off in the city centre and then re-locate to the periphery of urban commercial areas to park in lower cost locations (Zhang 2017).

The AV may also spurn a greater use of shared mobility. The Shared Autonomous Vehicle, be that a vehicle that collects multiple trips on the same path like a bus or a vehicle that provide contiguous trip-makers with their own personal travel, like a taxi, is expected to make this option very affordable for users. With a growing reduction in the need to own a personal car and reliance on an extensive network of readily available SAVs, significant areas of land currently occupied by personal cars that are used for only a few hours each day would be released. A report by WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff & Farrells in 2016 has estimated that 15% and 20% additional developable area compared with a typical central urban layout will be achieved. Many residents will re-instate front gardens where currently they have hard-standing for their vehicle.

Impact of Ridesourcing

Technological change is also expected to drive significant changes in how people travel. Recent research estimates that one Shared Autonomous Vehicle, operating throughout the day, would effectively replace 9-13 cars (Fagnant & Kockelman 2016). The indication is that new mobility, which includes the services provided by providers such as lyft and uber, are reducing the advantage of personal car ownership. The combination of mobile devices, efficient linkage of location data between users and suppliers and the seamless billing process have made personal and on-demand travel very accessible and affordable.

The transition is not limited to personal motor travel. Improvements in real-time data availability and the technological ability to be able to process a wide range of suppliers providing transport into a simplified set of travel solutions for the user at the point of use means that bus services and other regular transport modes become more accessible and understandable.

The step-change in mass real-time data processing is also facilitating a rise in options to pool or share travel (where lower cost travel by taxi is provided based on the ride being shared with other users seeking to, or already travelling, a similar direction). This consolidation of all options is developing into what is being described as “mobility as a service”. It is expected to result in one common consolidation portal or mobile app creating and offering not only the best set of options for users across all transport modes and services available, but providing and using reliable real-time information on the status of public transport in selecting that option set.

In practical terms, taking a bus will not consist of waiting at a stop, not totally certain of its reliability or punctuality. With real-time information provided through the consolidation service, users will be able to select the best service for them based on all the transport options available and if a bus is selected, know when to walk to the bus stop so as to arrive as the bus does. The principal dis-advantages of reliability, uncertainty and clarity of public transport will diminish.

In parallel, increased values of land and space within successful urban areas could make the availability or cost of parking personal cars progressively less attractive.

This type of change in lifestyle is evident in the Parcmerced residential development in San Francisco. Tenants are provided $100 per month travel credit to not own a car. This rebate is essentially funded through the higher development densities being achieved on the site due to the reduced requirement to provide parking space.

A similar initiative was announced in the UK in June 2017 by Moda Living. They plan to provide tenants £100 per month in Uber credits if they do not require a parking spot.

Future Parking Needs in the City Centre

A key question for a regeneration strategy to increase town centre living is how we address demand for parking by residents.

For those already living within the town centre, or for those attracted to do so, there are a number of considerations that relate to the provision of parking for residents. Mitigating the impact of parking and traffic on the neighbourhood is also fundamental to ensuring a quality place to live.

At a planning stage, many authorities across the world apply minimum parking standards to new developments. Even within the UK, the global pioneer of maximum parking standards, there is retrenchment to minimums for residential sites. This requirement to include land for parking as part of the development means that the overall cost of the residential unit is increased by at least the cost of that car parking provision. Whether a prospective owner has a car or requires off-street parking, they are intrinsically required to purchase not only the residence but some aspect of cost from the requirement placed upon the developer to provide a minimum amount of off street parking.

The philosophy of bundling parking requirements into developments is based on an expectation that if residents are not provided sufficient personal off street parking then they will place a burden on their community by parking the cars that they own inappropriately. The “overspill”, that parking demand not accommodated within the curtilage of the residential properties, will become a burden on nearby streets and cause nuisance.

This philosophy embraces a key assumption that a developer must provide the parking capacity because those that purchase the property will probably own a car. Without their own parking, the responsibility for providing somewhere for it to be stored when it is not in use will fall to the community and then onto the local Council. Those residents will complain that there is no-where for them to park their cars near their homes and the expectation is that the Council must invest wider public funds to provide additional capacity and address the problem.

In the US and Canada, bylaws prohibit overnight parking on-street. Residents must find somewhere to store their cars overnight that is not on the public highway. Vehicles left on the highway overnight are towed. In Japan, it is common for residents with cars to lease home garage parking for that vehicle from third party providers. What is key is that the responsibility to find adequate storage is clearly that of the owner of the vehicle, not the state or local authority. Developers are thus not required to provide on-site parking if they deem that there is a market for those residential units without parking. Within urban areas, and within a town centre, the cost of providing parking within the site can prove considerable. Providing the option to not require any parking minimum standard thus offers residential units that are more affordable. Bringing down the entry cost of attractive historical apartments within the town centre thus supports the ambition to increase the number of people living and owning residential property in the central area.

Minimum parking standards are created to avoid parking overspill. An alternative policy is to establish clear regulation with respect to the management and acceptability of parking in the local community and streets. Properties that do not have their own parking may be permissible. This may make more sites viable for development and/or reduce the cost of purchase. Those that select to live in those properties are free to make their own choices about car ownership and the consequent responsibilities to provide or lease adequate parking for it.

To enable redevelopment of potentially marginal sites and based on the expectation that town centre locations may appeal to those without cars, this is the approach taken by North Somerset within Weston-super-Mare.

 Impact of Car Clubs

There is good reason why this approach may be appropriate. There are significant indicators that the trend for people to own cars is diminishing. In London there are already over 186,000 members of car clubs which have 2,500 cars across the capital.

Trends indicate that there will be 1,800,000 members by 2020.

This change is significant because of its impact on car ownership. For each car club vehicle, members sell or dispose of more than 10 private cars and defer the purchase of 22 cars.

Car club members have reduced their car mileage. Their travel distance by train and cycle is almost double the London average. (Carplus Annual Survey of Car Clubs 2015/16).

Ambitious young people in their 20s and 30s are Metropolitan High Flyers in the Mosaic classification. One in four car club members is in this Mosaic group. This compares to only one in ten of the London population. The indications are clear that this group, that would be a key section of society to attract to Weston as part of the ambition for a wider demographic and gentrification of the town centre, are accepting of and potentially attracted to living and mobility that does not necessary consist of, or rely upon, car ownership.

Conclusions on Residents’ Parking

There are evident trends that people are seeking a different lifestyle and it is important that the development and regeneration of the town centre is not constrained by a requirement to accommodate car storage. Councils seeking to re-gentrify and regenerate their aged centres may wish to encourage people to buy, live in and renovate town centre dwellings for owner-occupation. Part of this equation is making that choice affordable and not necessarily adding car parking provision where this creates a burden of costs. There are emerging alternatives to car ownership. While for many, car ownership may form an essential aspect of their daily lives, there is a potential number of people who will embrace and seek a contemporary lifestyle that does not rely on car ownership and places other factors, such as the quality of where they live, over access to their own car. Wherever residents elect to own cars, they must understand that it is their car and thus their responsibility to have, or pay for, somewhere to store it. Based on this approach, Councils can proceed with regeneration of the urban centre and encouraging higher density living with clear controls and policies on how and where residents’ cars are parked.