Minimum parking requirements - problem and alternatives

What are minimum parking requirements?
Minimum parking requirements (MPR) are laws requiring new buildings to include a fixed number of off-street parking spaces based on an assumed demand for parking generated by the buildings' use. This dates back to the early 1950s with its rapid urban and suburban development, resulting in an explosion in the number of cars worldwide and a shortage of parking. Some cities went so far as to use MPR to define the number of parking spaces for small businesses such as car washes or fruit stands, but they were more commonly assigned to bedrooms, classrooms or retail spaces. However, as urban spaces have become ever more crowded, many cities around the world are reconsidering the MPR concept.

The problem with minimum parking requirements
One of the biggest concerns with MPR is that they waste a great deal of space by applying a "one size fits all" solution to a complex and evolving situation.
In one European country, for example, theatres and cinemas were required to provide one parking space for every three seats. This is a waste of valuable land, as these venues are rarely fully occupied, plus a lot of visitors will walk, cycle or take public transport instead, meaning at least half of the parking spaces go constantly unused. City planners and developers can often identify countless examples of wasted urban land due to MPR.

Alternatives to minimum parking requirements
Increasing urban populations are demanding more living space and MPR has led to the creation of excess, poorly-distributed and under-utilized parking facilities in many European cities. Some of these have taken steps to repurpose this valuable land, e.g. Zurich and Hamburg were leaders in the revolution against minimum parking requirements. Both have frozen the number of parking spaces in their city centers, eliminating one on-street parking space for each new off-street parking space.
The Netherlands started addressing MPR in 1989 by classifying cities according to the following three criteria: 
  • Excellent transit access and poor car access.
  • Good transit access and good car access.
  • Good car access and poor transit access.
This made it easier for Dutch cities to allocate land for parking versus other uses.
Other parking initiatives in European cities include:
  • Government schemes for utilizing private parking areas for public use.
  • Adjusting parking prices to manage or redistribute parking.
  • Mandatory bicycle lanes and parking spaces.
  • Avoiding large, centralized parking structures in favor of smaller, more space-efficient parking facilities.

Efficiency is the answer
The demand for driving and parking will continue to be a challenge for decades to come and the focus of all MPR alternatives is the more efficient use of land. An example of this is by integrating parking solutions into less valuable or otherwise unusable areas. Automated parking systems like those from Skyline Parking are the key to space-efficient parking and an ideal way to solve the issue of minimum parking requirements in Europe. 


Automated Parking Systems & Electric Vehicle Recharging

A world in which the roads are dominated by all-electric vehicles (or EVs) is a dream still faced by many challenges. EVs are still a long way away from being able to offer the convenience and journey longevity of gasoline-powered cars due to the limitations of their batteries and the need for recharging. Skyline Parking has taken a leading position in overcoming one challenge: recharging EVs in a space-efficient manner.

The Recharging Challenge
In order for electric vehicles to gain wider acceptance, it must become more convenient and efficient to recharge EV batteries. In practical terms, this means EV battery recharging needs to be automatic (requiring no physical effort) and much faster that it currently is. Today's manual battery recharging process requires drivers to park at available recharging stations and physically connect their EV to a large electrical cable. Once plugged-in, the recharging process can take hours to complete.

The Solution to Recharging EVs
Parking spaces of the future will require the capability to recharge EVs automatically. Skyline Parking has determined that the future of EV recharging technology will be focused on what’s known as "inductive" or "wireless" recharging. This is the same technology that is currently used in charging pads for smartphones and electric toothbrushes, but on a much larger scale. The first major benefit of inductive recharging is the fact that it is wireless, meaning no mechanical connection is required and it’s much easier to use. Secondly, it has the potential to shorten recharging times.
Skyline continues to exchange expertise with EV OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and automotive industry experts to be informed first-hand of any developments surrounding the standardization of wireless automatic recharging systems for EVs. It’s anticipated that inductive recharging systems will be sufficiently standardized to be put to commercial use within the next few years.

Automated Parking and Automated Recharging
In addition to making EV recharging more convenient and efficient, the issue remains as to where and how tens of thousands of EVs should be parked. Conventional parking spaces are not the answer. The relatively long period required to recharge EVs and the need for recharging equipment create new paradigms for parking and parking facilities. Once EVs become commonplace, the challenge will become how to park and recharge EVs in a space-efficient manner.
As a leading provider of Automated Parking Systems (APS), Skyline Parking is developing a solution for integrating wireless automatic EV recharging facilities into the most space-efficient parking available anywhere. Whether starting from scratch or retrofitting an existing project, the Skyline APS with automatic EV recharging is the parking solution for a world filled with electric vehicles.

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Eliminating Parking Spaces

A recent article about urban development in Denver, Colorado[1] announces,
"…development boom adds vibrancy, subtracts parking". The article describes how turning numerous parking lots into building space made downtown Denver more livable and walkable. Most interesting however is the final quote of the article: "Often people will say there isn't parking, but what they mean is that there isn't parking right in front of the location they're going to. It may be three or four blocks away,…" The question this raises is whether parking "three or four blocks away" is a trivial inconvenience or merits more careful consideration.

Consolidating Public Car Parking

Eliminating unnecessary car parking spaces and parking lots frees up precious land for better uses such as residences, parks, shopping and offices. Consolidating the necessary public parking spaces into large, centralized car parks is one solution but it does require many people to walk farther.
For most people, most of the time, walking three or four blocks to their parked cars should be a good, healthy experience. However, for people with infants or toddlers, the handicapped, the elderly and others walking three or four blocks can be a struggle.

Alternative to Large, Centralized Car Parking

Inefficiencies inherent with the design generally require multi-storey car parks occupy a considerable amount of land. There is an alternative, however.
Automated parking systems (APS) are a super-space efficient way to provide parking spaces. APS typically require 70% less land area and 50% less volume to park the same number of cars as a conventional car park. Moreover, APS can fit in places that are too small or otherwise unusable for conventional multi-storey car parking.

Livable Car Parking

Having several compact in size and flexible in arrangement APS scattered throughout a community is much more in keeping with the concepts of livability than is a single, huge car park. Using multiple APS reduces the distance from car parking to destination for everyone. They are also much friendlier for the elderly, parents of small children, the handicapped, the neighborhood and the environment.

Eliminating infrequently used parking spaces and wasted space is not only a good idea it's a necessity in the face of increasing urbanization. Cars and parking spaces, however, are not going to disappear anytime soon. Designing communities around giant car parks wastes land and detracts from the character of a community. Alternatively, automated parking systems provide a much more aesthetic and livable solution for car parking. Learn more about options for creating more livable communities from the experts at Skyline Parking.

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[1] http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_27613835/downtown-denvers-development-boom-adds-vibrancy-subtracts-parking


Conveyor Systems for Automated Parking

Conveyors are an obvious choice for moving cars inside automated parking systems for many reasons. The long history of conveyors and the extensive experience in many applications demonstrate why conveyors are the perfect complement to automated parking systems.

Conveyor History
Around 1800 AD, the first conveyors were made from leather, canvas or rubber and used to transport grain short distances. Modest developments in conveyors continued through the 1800s, but industrialization accelerated technological advances starting in the early 1900s. Steel conveyor belts were introduced in 1901 and conveyor belts developed for coal mining in 1905 revolutionized the mining industry. The first patent for roller conveyors was issued in 1908 and Henry Ford introduced conveyor belts into his Highland Park, Michigan factory in 1913.

The world's longest conveyor belt system (98 km/61 miles with multiple belts) was built across the Sahara Desert in the mid-1970s. The system, visible from space, continues in service after nearly 40 years moving up to 2,000 tons per hour of phosphate. The world's longest conveyor belt (31 km/19 miles) was put in service in 2015 moving up to 2,400 tons per hour of coal in South Africa.
There are many types of conveyor systems, however, belt-type conveyor systems are very widely used in industrial applications, including material handling, automated storage and retrieval, sorting, distribution and packaging.

Advantages of Conveyor Belt Systems (CBS)
The advantages of roller conveyor belt systems for automated parking applications come from their simplicity, efficiency, durability and reliability.
It's hard to beat the simplicity of a roller conveyor belt system. The roller (a wheel and axle) is one of the five basic machines (lever, wheel/axle, pulley, ramp/wedge and screw). Rollers make it easy to move even heavy weights such as cars by greatly reducing friction.

Roller CBS also offer are efficiency of motion and energy efficiency. CBS have only two motions: the rollers and belt move in one direction or the opposite direction…that's it. There are no wasted motions such as deadheading, raising, lowering, extending, retracting, swinging, folding, etc. Similarly, energy efficiency comes in two forms: using less energy because of the greatly reduced friction (minimal force needed movement objects) and not requiring energy to lift the entire weight of the car off the ground.

Reliability and availability/uptime are the preconditions for the economical applications in many industries. The most popular solution for moving materials and objects from one point to another is the conveyor…and quite frequently the belt and roller conveyor. The reliability and availability of these systems generally results from the basic nature and low stress of individual components: low friction bearings, multiple rollers sharing weight, optimized roller spacing, etc.

Operating in hostile environments transporting tons and tons of dirty, abrasive materials such as coal, ore and gravel for decades over long distances is ample evidence of the conveyor belt systems' durability. In comparison, the use of conveyor belts to move cars in automated parking applications is far easier.

More Advantages
Beyond the simplicity, efficiency, durability and reliability, conveyor belt systems offer other advantages.

Without wasted motions and movement, CBS tend to be much faster than other types of transport technologies used in automated parking systems. They also tend to utilize common "off-the-shelf" components, which leads to increased reliability, durability and parts availability as well as lower costs and inventory.

To be fair, conveyor belt systems are not nearly as interesting to watch as robotic and other transport systems that move like an elaborate mechanical ballet. The CBS just keeps doing the job dependably, very fast, year-after-year and decade-after-decade. 

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Emerging Trends in Car Parking: Livability

According to the International Parking Institute's 2015 Emerging Trends in Parking survey, respondents said the most significant societal change most influencing the parking industry was the desire for more livable and walkable communities: "livability" for short. Livability is not the same as sustainability (which ranked #4 in the survey). In fact, sustainability is a subset of livability. But, what is livability and how does car parking factor into it?

There are many definitions of and ways that people understand livability. The magazines, Monocle and The Economist (EIU), offer annual rankings of "livable" cities around the world. The world's largest human resources consulting firm, Mercer, rates more than 200 cities for livability based on 39 criteria including political, economic, environmental, personal safety, health, education, transportation and public services. A 2014 study sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies and conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science investigated livability in 155 European cities by looking at the dynamics between the urban form and urban society.

While all of these reports are valid and important, their different methodologies and nuances make them difficult to use to understand the impact of car parking facilities and solutions on livability. Fortunately, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) provides a more usable and useful measure to assess car parking and livability. This measure comes in the form of the AIA's guidance for livability: "10 Principles for Livable Communities":

  1. Design on a Human Scale – compact and walkable communities
  2. Provide Choices creating lively neighborhoods for residents of different stages of life
  3. Encourage Mixed-Use Development for vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and diverse communities
  4. Preserve Urban Centers – restoring and revitalizing to promote stable neighborhoods
  5. Vary Transportation Options – reduce congestion, act sustainably and encourage activity
  6. Build Vibrant Public Spaces -citizens need welcoming public places for public events
  7. Create a Neighborhood Identity giving neighborhoods unique character and creating pride
  8. Protect Environmental Resources – offering a well-designed balance of nature and development
  9. Conserve Landscapes open space and wildlife areas are essential for a variety of reasons
  10. Design Matters excellence is the foundation of successful and healthy communities
There are many ways to interpret and satisfy these principles, but it seems quite clear that the thrust is to minimize the negative impact of buildings and urbanization through the more efficient and conscious use of public, private and natural areas.

Livability is such a broad topic relative to car parking that we explore it in more detail in later pieces. For now, we'll simply point out that livability means making car parking facilities as convenient, safe and non-intrusive as possible. How to achieve these goals becomes the larger question. These happen to be some of the primary advantages of automated parking systems.

Automated parking systems (APS) from Skyline are ideally suited to address to concept of livability by being super space-efficient, very flexible in design and application, inherent safe and secure and providing industry-leading car parking and retrieval performance.

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