To be Green, or not to be: An open Q & A about parking sustainability

The topic of green and sustainable parking continues to gain steam inside and outside the parking industry. Opinions about “green” initiatives and their impact on the parking industry continue to evolve. The varying opinions span several fields, including electrical vehicle charging stations, pay-on-foot-payment technologies, lighting, car-sharing, placemaking and eParking.

Given the variety of sustainable parking options available to parking facility owners and operators, there is considerable vagueness about the advantages of going green. With that comes understandable apprehension. Many consumers already incorporate greener practices into their lives, while many parking industry professionals are still determining how they can accommodate this evolving movement. This rings true for those operating Chicago parking lots and New York parking garages.

While some of the aforementioned green parking technologies are still coming into their own, others are more widespread and are ready to be incorporated into the consumer parking experience.

Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations

Electrical vehicle charging stations are a hot topic within the parking industry, as proponents feel EV charging stations greatly reduce end-use emissions. It’s fair to question how EV charging stations can positively impact a parking facility’s bottom line. For example, many think these electric charging stations take up space that could be used by other non-electric vehicles for parking, which represents the majority of drivers. For example, New York City parking garages are primarily valet facilities with little unused space.

EV charging stations can serve as an amenity to attract tenants and garage patrons to distinguish organizations as progressive thinkers. Currently, providers of charging stations are developing innovative ways to finance their infrastructure by using stations for advertising, minimizing economic risk for parking facility owners and operators.

Pay-on-Foot Payment Technologies

How would paying on foot contribute to a parking facility owner or operator’s parking sustainability? Are patrons even aware that they should pay before entering their vehicles?

There is a transitional period that many consumers experience before they become familiar with this technology and paying on foot becomes second nature. However, with proper signage and strategically placed payment machines, this can help limit that. Customers growing accustomed to paying on foot will save fuel and increase air quality. Cleaner air – specifically within garages – can create stronger revenue control by curbing ventilation costs and electricity consumption. Pay-on-foot parking is now commonplace in the midwest and especially for daily Chicago parking or monthly parking.

Lighting

Is it worth investing in new lighting technology if you already have working lights?

According to LEEP Campaign, “State-of-the-art lighting technologies can last two-to-five times longer than traditional outdoor lights. As a result, energy costs are reduced up to 70% and maintenance costs reduced up to 90%.” This represents an opportunity to positively impact cash flow by transitioning to new lighting technology. Additionally, implementing new lighting systems can improve the lighting quality, making patrons feel more secure.

eParking

What is eParking and how can it contribute to green parking? How do parking facility owners and operators fit into this category?

Several studies reported that more than one-third of city traffic congestion is due to drivers searching for parking after they’ve already found their destination. As a result, more end-use emissions are released into the environment and contribute to pollution. With the advent of eParking, drivers book parking ahead-of-time and drive directly to their guaranteed parking spaces, eliminating extra emissions and other resources associated with circling around.

The eParking category is gaining great momentum. Some companies, such as data aggregator ParkMe, provide point-of-interest (POI) information for off-street parking locations and rates. Data aggregators do not have direct relationships with operators and typically hire independent bicycle messengers once a year to collect unofficial photos of posted pricing by parking facilities. Data aggregators display POI information through a website or app, and sell information to third parties such as GPS devices. While POI information can reduce emissions by providing information on where a garage may exist, it does not guarantee a parking space, meaning drivers can expend more emissions going from garage to garage in search of a vacant parking space.

Other companies, like ParkWhiz, work directly with parking operators and deliver real-time parking availability to consumers. These sites and mobile apps offer drivers the ability to search, book and prepay for a guaranteed parking space ahead of time before reaching their destination, whether it be for event parking (e.g. Jaguars at Colts), hourly parking (e.g. Baltimore parking) or monthly parking (e.g. New York City Monthly Parking).

Carsharing

Why would ParkWhiz encourage customers to share a vehicle and lower the amount of vehicles on the road, decreasing the demand for parking?

Less cars on the road means less energy goes into vehicle production and fuel consumption. As the mobility landscape changes and parking becomes a limited, expensive resource, carsharing companies like I-GO and Zipcar provide a steady source of parking revenue. They rent their spaces from garages and lots (on a monthly basis) and require multiple spaces. They also occupy multiple locations across a city in order to provide coverage to their users.

Carsharing can compromise revenue for parking operators, similar to EV stations. However, carsharing creates solutions for property owners that have trouble meeting current parking demands. Carsharing also develops an opportunity for parking operators and consultants to broaden their relations with parking asset owners by enabling alternative mobility solutions to their tenants. Specifically, this has offset the financial impact for Chicago parking and New York parking operators.

Placemaking

Does placemaking have anything to do with the parking business? Does this have much to do with sustainability? What if my lot is full? How can I hold an event?

While placemaking is not a core competency of the parking industry, it is an untapped opportunity for many parking locations across the U.S. While some facilities fill up, many do not, especially on weekends. Placemaking creates an additional revenue source as facilities can hold concerts, weekly movies, flea markets and other events that can put unused parking assets to work.

For asset owners, this may be an opportunity to strengthen relations with local politicians and the community. For private owners and operators, it is a chance to further connect with patrons and their community. Placemaking at parking facilities enhances neighbor vitality and helps strengthen community.

Does Green make sense for my business?

Ultimately, the decision to go green is for you to decide. Many sustainability initiatives can be drivers of revenue growth or reduce operating costs. As demand for transportation increases, green parking gives the parking industry the opportunity to share the future. It allows parking facility owners and operators to become experts on mobility and develop current parking assets into the intermodal transportation hubs of the future.

In the end, sustainability communicates to consumers, clients, community and investors that your organization is responsible, innovative and has taken an interest in being socially responsible.

For more on green parking and how you can play an active role in shaping the future of parking, contact ParkWhiz or visit www.parkwhiz.com.

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