It's not the most pressing urban issue today, but many cities rely on leaner and more sophisticated parking garages to deal with their growing pains.
Asian and European projects increasingly use parking carousels, says Walker Parking Consultants' David Vander Wall, and the trend is rubbing off on U.S. projects. "They're expensive, but it all depends on the size of the site and if you don't have enough room to turn around a car to go up a ramp," he explains. "They can also help maintain the character of urban environments."
Other advances include access control and pay station technology, says Richard W. Kinnell of Rich & Associates. Pay-on-foot stations are catching on quickly, as they allow patrons to pay at an automated kiosk before leaving, helping to reduce exit times.
"Another development is improved user recognition," Kinnell says. "Some employers and operators use proximity readers on car dashboards to automatically open gates and record time in and out." Vehicle-recognition systems, such as video-camera scanning of license plate numbers, is another trend.
Still, the most critical urban parking dilemma is a matter of sheer math, notes HNTB's John Burgan: most new urban garages are built on surface lots, so they eat up parking space, too. "You have to analyze cost per net space gained to determine the actual cost per space," he explains.