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Parking still a necessity of foreseeable future, even with self-driving cars

Many people who live in cities are electing to forego car ownership these days. But city dwellers aren’t hitting the brakes on vehicle custody so hard that it will render parking lots obsolete in the foreseeable future, despite claims to the contrary.

With the increase in utilization of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft and advanced technology ushering in the era of self-driving cars, some apartment developers in the U.S. have been preparing to revamp parking structures into other uses for when car ownership becomes sparse and parking places expendable.

Whether it’s a private, shared or self-driving vehicle, it won’t be on the road 100 percent of the time, and parking will still be a necessity. 

The International Energy Agency forecasted the number of cars on the roads worldwide would reach 1.7 billion by 2035 – which is doubled from 2012. But a recent LA Times article contends the magnitude at which people are renouncing car ownership is leading to extraneous parking lots that will soon be repurposed.

Based on the increasing overall car ownership numbers, can things actually get to the point that parking garages are so unutilized they can be rehabilitated to serve as shops, gyms and movie theaters instead? Yes, some new apartment developments have reduced their parking space to as low as 0.6 spaces per unit in urban areas, but a further decrease doesn’t appear imminent for the foreseeable future.

It’s true the world is amidst a transportation revolution. But cars aren’t going away altogether. Why should parking facilities?

Self-driving cars have the ability to free up parking space, even if most Americans own them. If autonomous vehicles are carefully parking themselves inches apart, the overall amount of garage space required to maneuver and park would be more than cut in half, according to Christopher Leinberger, the chairman of the Center for Real estate & Urban Analysis at George Washington University.

While many articles are out there like that of the LA Times and this one in the Wall Street Journal that delve into the architectural implications of the transportation revolution, they are not exactly an accurate reflection of typical apartment community experiences.

People are still driving; people still need to park their vehicles, which probably go unused most of the time. And even if people aren’t necessarily driving themselves around in a personal vehicle, they are still traveling by car. Those ride-sharing vehicles need to go somewhere when the owners aren’t driving. And self-driving cars won’t be out and about on the roads 24/7 either.

Sure, self-driving cars take up less space, and more and more people are opting for ride sharing over car ownership. But a need for parking spaces will press on as long as global car usage continues to increase.

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