Originally published in Talk of the Towns‘ September/October 2022 issue.
How municipalities, colleges, hospitals can advance toward modern sustainability goals by incorporating micro-mobility into transportation and parking plans.
Government entities, private businesses, and any organization involved in managing parking facilities knows the challenges of balancing commuter demand and the need to address sustainability. Whether managing mobility in a municipal garage, college campus, or hospital facility, forward-thinking parking management professionals can advance toward sustainability goals by creating a different mentality around garages and the modern-day commuter. Mobility trends are quickly evolving, and shared mobility (a relatively new concept) provides choices that cover many types of personal trips. Together with a public transit system, it allows people to commute to work, run errands, and get to all the places they need to go in daily life without a personal vehicle.
The Rise of Micro-Mobility
In an effort to reduce road congestion, protect air quality, and promote healthier communities, municipalities across New York and the U.S. have taken significant steps to support widely popular “micro-mobility” modes of transportation. As more and more people adopt alternative ways of getting around in their daily lives – Including e-scooters, e-bikes, rideshares, and mass transit – cities and towns are racing to implement new mobility infrastructure that accommodates residents’ preferences and helps meet broader environmental goals.
Micro-mobility has many practical benefits and is already helping numerous cities, colleges, and hospitals achieve their visions for going green by reducing dependency on single-car trips and bringing down vehicle emissions. The burgeoning community of New Rochelle, for instance, recently showcased a range of zero-emissions travel options for residents to quickly and cheaply get around the Westchester County city, spanning a diverse list of electric vehicles (EVs), bike shares, e-scooters, ride shares, and expanded mass transit.
Recognizing the many advantages of micro-mobility, including combating noise and congestion, some cities nationwide are making it easier to mobilize without cars. Seattle, for instance, closed nearly 20 miles of streets to drivers during the pandemic, providing more space for people to get around by biking and walking.
Other city centers across the U.S. are installing bicycle and scooter lanes, dedicated non-street paths, and even lightweight e-vehicle charging stations.
Micro-Mobility and Getting Employees Back to the Office
Micro-mobility has the power to impact one of the most pressing issues affecting employers and the workforce, e.g. getting employees back to the office. For starters, it helps solve the last-mile challenge commuters face when getting from a mass-transit station to their workplace. Micro-mobility also has an element of fun to it and can be thought of as an amenity or employee benefit. It might allow employees to stray further afield for lunch or save them time on the last-mile segment of their commute. It can also have health benefits and boost productivity by allowing employees to work active transportation into their daily routines.
Additionally, it allows organizations to be flexible
with parking requirements in the real estate planning process, especially for facilities located in denser urban environments. Furthermore, it improves connectivity across districts and/or campuses, reducing the need for unnecessary traffic congestion and pollution while getting around a concentrated geographical area throughout the day.
Addressing Safety Concerns
The biggest concerns for incorporating scooters, bikes, and ride-shares into garages is safety, cleanliness, and security. Safety is one of the biggest issues because users need training that is quick and efficient, while facilities need well-designed layouts for pedestrian, multimodal, and vehicle transportation on site. Safety plans should focus on a design that is universal and helpful. Every facility should be cleaned regularly and neatly maintained. Micro-mobility lanes, proper stenciling, and signage should be emphasized, as a facility that is perceived to be unsafe will probably be underutilized.
Preparing for the Garage of the Future
Supporting micro-mobility includes EV charging stations, ebikes, escooters, and emopeds and enhances critical public initiatives aimed at improving sustainability.
While traditional demand in parking structures has been for storing cars, over the past decade this trend has changed. U.S. policymakers are gearing transportation regulations to focus more on livability and multi-use components that include every mode of transportation possible, the electrification of facilities, and the appropriate management to ensure best use.
Components that afford users flexibility with high-demand equipment and facilities are favored. For instance, to empower individuals to choose alternative modes of transportation, facilities can be designed with bike barns, skateboard racks, commuter lockers, community access for showers, and in some cases, even amenities such as car washes or pickup/drop off delivery lockers.
The move to EVs brings with it a new set of customer expectations and needs that, when met, create the evolution of a garage into a multimodal mobility hub. By 2030, most cars manufactured in the U.S. will be electrified. Private infrastructure is necessary to move forward, as well as public policy and its related funding.
The modern-day garage will be EV ready; will have shared mobility offerings to include micro-mobility, car share, and ride-share; and will offer contactless payment technology and general services such as laundry, postal, and bank services. The garage of the future will no longer just be a garage but a hub, supporting not only our commutes but our communities as well.
Overall, parking should enhance the features of any cities and towns it is a part of. In the past, parking facilities were created as silos for vehicles to sit, serving a very specific role. But the purpose of the modern structure is to be an attribute that showcases the distinct qualities and features of any entity or institute. This leads back to what advances modern mobility into the future. Those facilities should be designed around the exterior of business areas, near transit centers. They should showcase businesses while providing people with walkable spaces and protected bike lanes that deliver them to their destinations. Having parking around those key areas means transitioning from single vehicle parking to mass transit to micro-mobility and makes the use of the different modes of transportation that much easier.
In turn, this reduces road use, congestion, energy consumption, and physical activity that would normally go toward parking cars. It also allows communities to focus on business and increases the general well-being of everyone that is a part of that community.
Modern parking facilities must cater to the needs of multi-modal forms of transportation, as users will continue to seek adaptive facilities that are multifaceted but fit into the context of existing neighborhoods and welcome micro-mobility users. Facilities must also utilize cutting-edge technology – such as license plate recognition, individual occupancy counting, and parking data tracking software – to continually improve and balance traffic flow between traditional vehicles and micro-mobility alternatives.
Luis Garcia is the Senior Vice President of Mobility and David Schmid is the Chief Investment Officer at Propark Mobility, a national mobility and parking management company with over 600 locations in 20 states. Schmid leads mergers & acquisitions, the real estate division, and Propark’s Cloudpark Technology Initiative. For more information, visit www.propark.com.