September 25, 2018
by Ian Todd, Director of Automated Parking Systems, Westfalia Technologies, Inc.
For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population is living in cities. With more people living in urban areas, residents often spend more time looking for available parking. According to USA Today, the typical driver spends, on average, 17 hours a year searching for open parking spots. Add an anticipated increase of 40.6 million motor vehicles on the road by 2021, and convenient parking will become even more critical to the success of urban development projects.
Developers and architects now have the challenge of providing sufficient parking to accommodate a growing number of vehicles while facing strict parking regulations and the limited availability of larger land plots in urban areas.
In many cities, developers are faced with strict parking regulations. In Los Angeles, for example, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, the city requires each single-family and two-bedroom home to have two designated parking spaces, while studio apartments require one parking spot. This causes constraints for housing developers, as they need to find ways to maximize square footage in condensed areas.
According to the International Parking Institute, cities are struggling to keep a balanced ratio of population to parking spaces. As urban development grows, parking must also increase. However, the challenge is in determining the right amount since too little parking could affect further growth and too much is wasted land that could be used to benefit the economy. Each on-street parking space is valued at $20,000 per year in revenue to the local economy, so it is essential to find the balance.
High costs, small plots
Of America’s urban land, 48 percent is packed into five major cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Chicago. According to a recent study by economists at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan, the combined value of urban land across the entire country is worth $25 trillion as of 2010. With the high land values, it is extremely difficult to sacrifice land for parking spaces in densely populated cities. In addition, since many of the larger plots in urban areas have already been developed, the development of smaller plots are challenging architects to meet parking requirements with less space.
Today, many downtowns and cities are devoting between 50 and 60 percent of their real estate to parking, which could be put towards building more houses, stores or parks. In effort to fully leverage their space, cities like San Francisco are redesigning the use of their land. San Francisco has created a futuristic plan to take advantage of new and upcoming transportation options and minimize the amount of space that has been devoted to cars. By designing smaller streets and fewer parking options, San Francisco would be able to do more with their land, like build more houses to increase their population.
Developers who are looking to make the maximum use of their space might consider a smarter, more innovative solution—automation. Automated parking garages are a strong alternative to traditional garages and lots for architects who are tasked with limited space in urban areas. These garages present developers with several benefits over traditional garages, including improved space utilization.
A high-density, palletless automated parking garage can store, on average, 30 to 50 percent more cars in the same volume of space as a traditional parking garage. These structures generally require 60 percent less building volume and 40 percent less area than traditional garages. Since automated parking structures are not intended for people to enter them, developers are not confined to the same regulations that limit traditional garages such as ventilation, lighting and floor area ratio requirements. The lack of restrictions allows an automated parking garage to conserve costs, which can be put back into the project’s budget.
Providing adequate parking will continue to be a challenge, even with the rise of car sharing services like Uber and Lyft, as well as autonomous vehicles. However, leveraging automation can enable developers across all industries to confidently handle any volume of cars within a given space. An automated parking garage gives drivers peace of mind that they don’t need to spend time looking for parking, and they can rest assured knowing that their car is safely stored within a reliable system.
Ian Todd serves as director of automated parking systems at Westfalia Technologies. In his role, he leverages his 15 years of experience in the automated parking industry to guide business development activities, as well as product design. www.westfaliaparking.com – Itodd@WestfaliaUSA.com