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The Definition of Parking – A Full Circle Journey

The Definition of Parking - A Full Circle Journey

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Back in 2019, ParkHub discovered, via Michele Richmond’s article, “The Etymology of Parking,” the original meaning of “parking” had nothing to do with cars – and much more to do with trees.

Ever wondered why “parking” included the word “park”?

Turns out, it’s no coincidence that the word “parking” includes the word “park.” According to Richmond, in 1870, parking described the “planting of trees, grasses, and flowers along the side of roadways and the creation of sidewalks for pedestrians.”

In the article, Richmond describes the first “parking” campaign. More than 70,000 trees were planted in strips that lined the roads of Washington D.C. Those trees happened to be prime sources of shade, and horse-drawn carriages tended to settle between the “parked” trees once they reached a destination.

Later, with the birth of automobiles, cars lined these roadside strips for the same purpose – a temporary place to stop. Eventually, the word “parking” became synonymous with storing a vehicle in a designated location, which redefined the meaning altogether.

What happened next?

As vehicle ownership became widespread, so did parking. Despite the often-held opinion that there aren’t enough available parking spaces, it has recently become clear that cities were actually producing an excess; dedicating valuable urban real estate to transient parking options.

In 2018, a study, by Eric Scharnhorst of the Research Institute for Housing America, used data from satellite images, the U.S. Census, property tax assessment offices, departments of transportation, parking authorities, and geospatial maps to generate parking inventories for five cities – New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Des Moines, and Jackson, Wyoming. These were the findings:

CityNew YorkPhiladelphiaSeattleDes moinesJackson, WY
Total Parking Spaces1.85 million2.2 million1.6 million1.6 million100,119
Parking density per acre10.125.329.728.453.8
Parking spaces per household0.63.75.219.427
Total replacement cost of parking$20.1 billion$17.5 billion$35.8 billion$6.4 billion$711 million
Parking cost per household$6,570$29,974$117,677$77,165$192,138

So, parking is a problem - what do we do now?

With the excess of parking availability backed by research, but not understood by users, this raises some obvious questions:

  Where are these parking spaces? Are they convenient? How far are they from my destination?

  How much do they cost? Are they affordable? Can they compete with the cost-effectiveness and ease of other mobility options? How do I measure that?

  Are they available – right now, or whenever I need them to be? How can I be sure?

These questions sum up the struggle of the parking industry and its consumers. It’s also the core of our team’s ultimate purpose – to regulate, quantify, and communicate parking “LPA”. 

ParkHub’s founder and CEO, George Baker Sr., tapped into the dissonance between parking perception and reality in a Forbes article titled, Meeting the Demands of the Connected Consumer:

“Parking is an illustrative example because the parking transaction is cumbersome and rife with friction. As I have seen in my line of business, consumers want to know a parking spot’s location, pricing and availability – often referred to as LPA – and will likely dismiss parking options advertising an inflexible rate pinned to the highest, profit-driving price point the market will tolerate. Parking operators have historically struggled with delivering the LPA to their potential customers and offering dynamic pricing based on availability. Consumers ultimately interpret the static and unfriendly data as a lack of parking availability.” Read the full article here.

Parking can, and really must, be valued as a commodity. After all, it is real estate. In order for parking owners and operators to provide an accessible, useful commodity to the public, parking inventory needs to be better understood, better communicated, and better utilized.  And if data proves an excess of unnecessary space, that space can then be knowledgeably reappropriated.

When the parking journey goes full circle.

A few days ago, our friends at D Magazine posted this article discussing how parking lots are being replaced with parks.

I started working downtown in 2001 and rarely did I see people walking down the street.,” said Amy Meadows, CEO of Parks for Downtown Dallas in the article. “We’ve seen huge changes. Parks just make it a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience to walk from one side of downtown to the other, especially in the heat we experience here in Texas. These greenspaces provide cooling, they’re helping with our air quality, but they also make it much more attractive and safe-feeling. It causes a lot of folks to say, ‘I think instead of taking my car across downtown, I’ll walk today.’”

Meadows’ insights demonstrate the growth and changes that are occurring in urban development across the globe. This progression has been happening for years.

As a parking technology company, one might think ParkHub would be holding fast to an OG way of thinking for the sake of our business. It couldn’t be more opposite. We’re deploying technology to quantify, optimize, broadcast, and augment the value of our space on this earth. With our insights, we hope to not only solve the issues of today, but those of tomorrow; aid consumers, businesses, and communities in the process; and then go, really, wherever the journey takes us.

Posted by ParkHub on May 12, 2021