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5 Reasons Why Parking Lots Will Disappear

Are the days of parking lots numbered? Here are five reasons why that may be the case.

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SUV in parking lotPhoto: Shutterstock

Parking Lots Will Disappear in the Future

Whether you like it or not, there are a lot of downsides to parking lots – they are expensive to build, keep car emissions at a high level and, depending on who you ask, make the city uglier. But for the first time, it seems that we’re on the cusp of an era when cities can begin dramatically reducing the number of parking spaces they offer. Here are five reasons why.

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Young professionals crossing the streetPhoto: Shutterstock

1. More People Want to Live Downtown

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, roughly 15.4 million Canadians travel to work, with four out of every five of those commuters doing so in a private vehicle.

But if you live in the city, chances are you don’t need or want to own a car. Gas costs and the growth of public transportation might have something to do with people moving downtown, but the more likely explanation is that long commutes are unpopular.

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Two hands holding a steering wheelPhoto: Shutterstock

2. Self-Driving Technology

If cars can drive themselves, fleets of them could go around picking people up and dropping them off with robotic efficiency. That could result in many choosing not to own automobiles, and a corresponding decrease in the number of parking spots that are required.

Many urban experts believe a single shared self-driving vehicle could typically replace an average of eight privately owned ones. Traffic will be less of a problem, and emissions could potentially lower by 90 per cent if cars were autonomous, electric and shared.

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Two cyclists Photo: Shutterstock

3. Millennials are Turning Against the Car

Research by Frontier Group, a transportation think tank, found that the average annual distance driven by American 16- to 34-year-olds dropped by about 23 per cent between 2001 and 2009. That means millennials are buying fewer vehicles than their parents did, which is troubling for carmakers.

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Person using Uber on smartphonePhoto: Prathan Chorruangsak/Shutterstock

4. Ride-Sharing

While carpooling has been touted for decades as a way to use vehicles more efficiently, it never took off because there was no way to co-ordinate rides on the fly. The smartphone solved that problem.

In December 2014, the on-demand ride-sharing service Uber reported that its drivers were making one million trips per day. Its latest offering, UberPOOL, matches travellers heading to roughly the same destination, resulting in a cheaper ride for everyone. The service launched in Toronto earlier this year and racked up 500,000 trips within a few months.

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Row of houses in San FranciscoPhoto: Shutterstock

5. Parklets

San Francisco could show us what a lower-parking future would look like. The city’s parklet program, founded in 2010, invites owners of homes and businesses to apply to install a green space in the parking lanes in front of their properties. There’s a similar project currently under development in Toronto.

Imagine if 90 per cent of all curbside parking spots were turned into strips of public parks, filled with greenery and urban gardening. With fewer cars circling the streets, the future of city living could be more peaceful.

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