By Don MacGillivray

Few things are more complicated than Parking. There is never enough of it, and everyone who drives a car is a self-proclaimed parking expert. Change is often uncomfortable, but change is a fact of life in a dense urban city.

Automobiles are perhaps one of the least efficient transportation systems in our society. There are two billion parking spaces in the United States of America and twenty percent of the urban land is reserved for auto usage.

Considering that cars are in use only five percent of the time and eighty percent empty when in use, only one percent of their capacity is utilized. Sharing cars and using alternative transportation, we can improve this efficiency and reduce the cars on the road as well the need for parking.

With greater personal income, there is increased ownership and use of cars. Poor people are less likely to own cars and are more likely to be frugal with their use. Cars are a mark of status and intimately associated with one’s identity. The media, especially advertising, stress speed, power, glamor, and luxury, but the complications of parking and gridlock are rarely presented.

Parking affects the cost of housing by increasing the rent and the value of homes. Apartment owners will add $100-$150 a month to the rent when off-street parking is available. It is best to separate parking from the rent for housing so tenants would be charged extra if they want an off-street parking space for their car. Soon there will be space dedicated for shared cars at apartment buildings.

Residential parking permits give the user a license to hunt for parking. Clearly the number of permits must be consistent with the number of parking spaces and the fees must be set at the cost to administer the parking program and no more. Driver’s needs must come first before other issues. It is best managed so that there is always at least one or two parking spaces available at all times.

Another strategy to reduce parking and driving is to park in a central location and walk to all nearby stores and services. Not only does this saving car usage, but walking is healthy exercise and a pleasurable experience when the street-scape is attractive and efficient.

Off-street parking is expensive. Surface parking is $5,000 – $7,000 per space, structured above-ground parking is $20,000 – $25,000 per space, and structured underground parking is $35,000 – $45,000 per space. Managers of parking facilities must resist the temptation to make money from parking. While profit is very possible it reduces the attractiveness of surrounding businesses and becomes a hardship for many. It is important that parking structures appearance fit the surrounding neighborhood context. Stacked parking is an option to save space in multi-level parking structures.

The use of one shared car, whether it is a taxi or similar type of vehicle, can take from seven to twenty cars off the road.  As options increase, the need for a second car is reduced. The younger generation is much more comfortable using alternative transportation than baby boomers that have been tied to their automobiles all their lives.

The Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) has 18,000 employees, 3,000, residents, 3,000 customers and therefore needs 24,000 parking spaces. Unfortunately the CEID has only 14,000 parking spaces, about 10,000 short.

Current uses of warehousing and heavy manufacturing are welcoming new and emerging creative technologies, food and entertainment establishments, and educational facilities. Beginning in 2010, a stakeholder advisory committee representing the Central Eastside property owners and others worked with the Portland Bureau of Transportation to develop a parking plan in the CEID.

A subcommittee determined a new parking zone should be added to the existing zone in the industrial area. With an existing shortage of both on and off street parking, the district is challenged to meet future parking demands of new employees and customers. The new parking zone will take effect late spring to meet the need for more parking in the CEID.

Launched in 2014, NavSeattle is a pilot program designed to connect multifamily developers and building managers to transportation information, resources, and services to inform residents of travel options and residents have more transportation choices as innovative options develop. Those most likely to use alternative transportation will have the best information about navigating the inner city.

There have been recent additions to Portland’s mix of transportation options such as Zipcar and Uber. Others recently added to this mix are Lyft and Car2Go.

Lyft, the car with a mustache, has drivers using their private cars matched with passengers requesting rides through a smart-phone app. Both drivers and passengers rate each other after the ride. Headquartered in San Francisco, Lyft currently operates in sixty-four cities.

Car2Go has 500 vehicles strategically distributed around Portland. The 35,000 members can use a vehicle parked nearest their location. Only half the size of a normal car, they are easy and fun to drive and park. They may be left at a destination or continue further on the way to the next stop. After paying a small registration fee, the usage charge is $0.41 per minute.

These are just a few of the new companies in the shared economy. More will undoubtedly appear in our changing future such as delivery drones and driver-less cars. They are just around the corner.