The cities and towns we live in are in endless evolution, designed by the infinite activities that take place in their edges and nodes. Driving and parking are among the vital happenings that have shaped North American cities since the rise of automobile ownership in the 1950’s.

Although there have been progressive benefits, the challenges that have culminated from the boom of driving outweigh the pros. From increased traffic congestion, increase in air-polluting emissions (affecting the environment and human health: climate change & the rise in asthma) and lastly – a problem not often thought of – parking.

Probing the topic of parking and its challenges makes room to explore the future of parking. There are cities pushing for sustainability and smart city growth that may be exemplary for big solutions on the horizon. The use of existing technology and creative data innovation has brought forth concepts like “smart parking”.

A Car Governed Society

Automobile ownership had evolved from a luxury to a necessity for commuting to and from work as a result of suburbanization – a product of the transportation revolution. Because of the car, cities became more spread out and less walk-able than they had once been. When we think about the effect cars have had on the way we utilize land, we might often forget about the impact parking has also had on the planning process.

The demand for parking spaces goes hand-in-hand with the boom in driving. Early on, cities and towns began requiring developers to include parking with the construction of new buildings. These policies required builders to include mandatory parking minimums, which varied by building type but included a corresponding amount of parking needed for approval.

In some places, many parking spaces do not get used and it appears to be an excessive amount of spaces but in other cases, parking is few and far between and can be pricey. Dense areas with limited space for expansion become challenging for city planners and developers to account for these parking minimums, especially when parking spaces increase the overall cost of development.

We pay for the free parking we demand as a taxpayer, as a resident, as a shopper and these rules are constricting the planning and design process as well as hurting the growth of our cities. How we utilize land is fundamental to the development of cities, so encouraging smart applications and efficient use for more livable spaces should be at the top of municipal to-dos.

What IS “Smart Parking”?

Well, it’s not as the picture above suggests. Cars cannot really drive up a wall to fit into a parking spot! Watch the video below and you’ll see what we mean. Although, it’s a great ad developed by Oakville Audi.

As we know it, the car is not going to be phased out of existence any time soon, based on the current climate of the gasoline industry and the continued heavy reliance on cars. A push in the right direction is unraveling thanks to the realization of climate change’s environmental, social and economic impacts. Electric cars and self-driving cars are some of the innovations on the rise in metropolitan areas like Japan, etc.

There can be such lure for residents and newcomers for cities to establish futuristic and efficient applications of technology for sustainability and smart growth.

Smart parking uses sensors to deliver real time monitoring of parking occupancy data which improves the livability of a community and the municipality’s management of their parking assets. Residents and out of town visitors can use an app to quickly locate and navigate to available parking spaces. This eliminates the need to circle the block reducing traffic congestion and emissions.

A municipality will be able to dynamically manage their parking assets. They will understand the usage patterns of each spot individually to ensure the number of available spots is meeting the demand for an area and that the occupancy of them is permissible.

As mentioned, this innovation aids with traffic congestion and helps residents plan their routes smarter and more efficiently. Through the use of innovative technologies like this, municipalities can stay more connected and organized which provides a valuable social experience???

What is a “Smart City”?

The word “smart city” has been a buzzword within the urban development and technology industries for over a decade and although it doesn’t have an exact definition, it is an idealistic development concept with socio-economic benefits.

A smart city can be characterized by the use of technology and innovation to create efficiencies, improve sustainability and economic growth to enhance the general life of those living and working in a city landscape. Smart parking can provide municipalities reliable information to make informed decisions with existing technology.

Special thanks to Sam Reid from QuaeNet.

(Image and video source: Oakville Audi)

Kayla M. Furlone

Kayla M. Furlone

Kayla M. Furlone is a Ryerson alumni with a passion for geography, technology and smart cities. She volunteers with Toronto Cat Rescue and enjoys practicing mindfulness and other wellness activities.

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