Sustainable parking? Catering to commuters and the environment

| June 4, 2013

Whether it’s a major city, popular beach or densely packed college town, sustainable parking comes down to being friendly to the environment, as well as those who work, visit and live nearby. Since parking contributes to greenhouse gasses, sprawl, erosion, and creates giant heat sinks, it’s hard to turn into a plus for the planet.

No one wants to sacrifice green space for black-top lots or garages, but accessibility is a necessity for economic sustainability, and today, that requires plentiful parking. But many cities are finding innovative ways to have their parking and green it, too, by providing a little environmental payback.

Park and parking lot

In Pittsburgh, city officials, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the city’s largest private parking lot operator collaborated to create a green oasis – by replacing the typical sea of asphalt that contributes to stormwater runoff, water pollution and the reflective heat-island effect.

 

Parking garage in Pittsburgh

A parking garage in Pittsburgh. From dmuth.

 

Trees, shrubbery and other foliage provide shade to keep the lot and cars cooler during the hot summer months, and, in conjunction with grass, help absorb rainwater and provide a green retreat in the city. Perhaps the most impressive part of this project? It didn’t sacrifice any usable parking space.

This concept is not just a recent one. In 1990, the Garage at Post Office Square opened beneath the landmark Norman B. Leventhal Park. Project Public Spaces, an organization dedicated to creating and sustaining public places, even called the project “one of the best squares and plazas in the world.”

Solar coverage

For existing vast parking lots, many cities are embracing a win-win approach that keeps lots cooler and creates energy: solar panel carports.

In Lake Havasu City, Ariz., the solar panel-topped structures were installed in four city lots. Although the structures are on city property, they are owned by Lake Havasu City Solar, LLC – which was established and financially backed by LG International. The city will buy energy from the corporation at a reduced, fixed cost.

Smarter parking

Across the country, operators of parking structures are integrating technology that helps diminish the endless circling – and carbon emissions – that comes with hunting for a parking spot or waiting in line to enter a garage.

 

automated garage

Automated garages save space – so they don’t contribute to sprawl the way traditional off-street parking does. From Lucius Kwok.

 

There are smartphone apps that tell you how many spots, if any, are available in a garage, or allow you to pre-pay. And, if you’re ready to meet the future of “green parking,” head to Hoboken, N.J., where an automated parking garage takes up half the area of a conventional ramp-style garage, according to manufacturer Robotic Parking Systems, Inc. Just drive up, park in a terminal and the robotic parking system does the rest – lifting the car into a shelving-style structure that makes retrieval just as speedy.

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Category: Municipal, Parking

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