Feel like the year has passed you by too? If you’ve been too busy to stay on top of the parking and traffic industry news every week – never fear! Here is our annual round-up of the highs and lows, and headline-making stories from 2012.
Parking and policy in Australia
This year saw Parking & Traffic Consultants partner up with Colliers International to release a white paper into CBD parking, exploring the demand, yield and pricing of parking across Australia’s CBDs as well as the latest technological and service trends we are seeing in car parks around the world. This year’s Australian Parking Convention was again a huge success, with over 77 exhibitors and two days of world-class international keynote speakers furthering our local industry.
In NSW and Sydney we have seen some big policy announcements this year, with the release of transport strategies, reports and policies, covering the state’s road, infrastructure, public transport and rail networks. Announced just last week, light rail is set to make a return to the harbour city along the main thoroughfare of George Street. NSW’s big transport saviour, the uniform Opal card, began rolling out this year as well; whilst census results reported that public transport usage is on the rise whilst private car usage is in decline in terms of average kilometres driven per vehicle.
Melbourne’s transport centred mainly on bicycles and bike lane infrastructure, and Perth put their money where their mouth is and announced investment in bicycle lane infrastructure and a CBD parking terminus. Brisbane saw a lot of news about the introduction of paid parking in a number of parking lots, and the subsequent need to upgrade Park and Ride transportation facilities. The Queensland State Government changed in July, on the back of public transport overhaul, including the promise of a tenth weekly trip for free.
South Australian courts upheld a government decision to charge hospital staff for parking. Adelaide was revealed to be the most car-reliant city of all of Australia, whilst in Canberra public servants saw their free parking benefits abolished.
…. and from around the world
A big push in the UK this year came from consultant Mary Portas, calling for councils to abolish paid parking to revitalise the ‘high streets’ of Britain. We published a number of opinion pieces which demonstrate how paid parking actually is beneficial to these high streets, but perhaps the best counterargument was research that showed that the best economic return for the local high street shops was abolishing cars altogether and instead converting car parking to bicycle parking.
Still in Britain, one of the biggest parking logistics challenges, the London 2012 Olympics, appeared to have dealt with the increased demand flawlessly – with the exception of several private operators who took advantage of the extraordinary events by hiking their prices by up to three times the normal rates.
Parking requirements for residential and commercial developments have been under the microscope, with many car-dependant cities reducing the minimum parking requirements. However, it’s not all heading south. As cities including Melbourne, Canberra, Los Angeles and Sacramento all look to reduce the number of car parking spaces required with new constructions, Townsville in Queensland has increased their minimum parking requirements.
Tired of paying high rates for airport car parking, residents of Decatur, Indianapolis, received approval to build their own paid parking lot near their local airport, with all the revenues going back into the community. In the UK, pre-booking for airport car parking has taken off, with the majority of all airport parking now being booked in advance. Some operators in Australia are now introducing pre-booking as well.
Following the American trend of privatisation, New York City is considering selling off the on-street parking meters in the city to address a budget shortfall (let’s hope they do their homework and research the outcomes of similar ventures in other American cities). Also on the agenda for NYC has been the consideration of congestion pricing. Numerous expert reports and recommendations in Australia are also calling for congestion pricing both to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, as well as finance other infrastructure projects.
Traffic and Transport
2012 was the year of some monumental traffic jams, with Brazil’s 250km and three hour gridlock dwarfed by Russia’s recent jam which lasted for three days, seeing drivers huddling by the roadside as a huge snowstorm closed motorways between Moscow and St Petersburg for a whole weekend.
London removed all bendy buses from service this year, whilst Sydney announced the introduction of double-decker buses. In France, cyclists were granted the right to legally run red lights, whilst Buenos Aries introduced a number of secure bicycle parking facilities to stem the tide of rampant bicycle theft.
In Atlanta, user-pay transit lanes were introduced on major freeways, whilst in the Netherlands a company will be developing and rolling out ‘smart highways’ – smart paint on the highways that give drivers information about the road and weather conditions ahead.
Transportation and urban planning
In 2012, planners turned their attention to life after cars (or at least the notion of not everybody owning a car). New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was famously quoted as saying that ‘roads are for transporting people; not for cars’, whilst The Economist published a lengthy report on declining car usage and ownership rates in developed countries around the world. Even car manufacturers acknowledged the forthcoming challenge, with talk of business diversification as population density in major cities spirals and the penetration of car ownership peaks and begin to decline.
Video has emerged as the medium for communication of key planning issues and policies. This year saw a number of great short films released on the topic, which we would strongly urge all of our readers and clients to take the time to watch. Our top three this year included:
Urbanized: a film about the design and development of cities
Saga City: a film about urban planning
And The Price of Traffic:: the first episode of a documentary series called Environmental Economics.
As always, TED contributed some great forward-thinking on the topic, with our 2012 favourite on ‘Building cities of the future’.
More than ever before, advancements in technology are having a huge impact on our industry. In 2012, apps were introduced for finding the cheapest parking, for sub-leasing private parking, for checking parking availability, for real-time parking pricing from variable parking zones and for valet parking.
Vehicle manufacturers are scrambling to be ahead of the curve, with Volvo introducing pedestrian sensing technology and airbags, Mercedes integrating Apple’s Siri voice command system, Ford introducing Traffic Jam Assist technologies and Nissan the first self-driving car.
In the US, the SFPark experiment continues, introducing the first fully variable parking rates, with the second stage of the trial seeing higher variability in the rates being rolled out. Following San Francisco’s lead, both Los Angeles and Washington DC announced that they would begin trials of variable ‘performance’ pricing this year. New York announced that they would begin testing of parking space sensors, and Westminster in London rolled out a fully automated parking sensor system.
2012’s ground-breaking technology (in our opinion) was, however, none of these. Near-Field Technology for mobile phone payments is closer to becoming a reality, and ubiquity of this technology will have a huge impact on the future proofing of access control systems being installed. Meanwhile, technology developed on the transportation side has resulted in the first tests of automated ‘road trains’, with individual cars linking up to become semi-autonomous convoys, will have a massive effect on commuting and highway traffic if it becomes a wide-reaching reality.
The environmental and sustainable movement
We’ve published many stories on alternative or sustainable methods of transport this year, as car ownership and congestion increases and reaches saturation point. Of greatest interest, the investment in electric cars by governments and private operators doesn’t seem to be stimulating the industry quite as intended, with electric car sales flatlining or declining in both the US and Australia, and a Pike Research report indicating that consumer interest is also falling.
In Australia and around the world, a bicycle renaissance seems to be taking place, with bicycle sharing schemes and investment in infrastructure (including dedicated cycleways, storage centres and security) becoming common across states and countries. At home in Sydney, the eternal debate over our cycleways may be drawing to a close, as a committee recommends completing them as a priority.
And on the lighter side…..
Our personal favourites include some great stories and photographs to wrap the year. We’ve seen some brilliant car park art, with highlights including a huge street art project in a Melbourne car park, as well as a beautiful commissioned project for a private residence in Sydney.
The Mayor of Ithaca, New York, turned his parking space into a park, a runaway kangaroo took up residence in Melbourne Airport’s car park, incredible breakdancing, a runaway car being found a month later in a car park; and even the discovery of the remains of King Richard III beneath a car park in London.
Our gong for best video of the year goes to a music video clip, set in a New York City intersection, called ‘Got More’, which we’d recommend watching if you haven’t seen the Escher-like animation yet.
On the weirder side of technology, we’ve seen foldable cars and shrinkable cars that squeeze into tiny parking spaces and a proposed ‘evacuated tube transportation system’, a capsule-based system that can transport each capsule at up to 6,500kmph. Technology that James Bond was using decades ago!
And the shortest-lived but jaw dropping story comes from the house-in-the-highway in China, where a man refused to move out of his house as protest for the low level of compensation offered. Chinese officials built an entire highway around the house, before he finally caved in and accepted government compensation to move out of his house.
To all of our readers, partners and clients, we wish you all the best for the holiday season, and we look forward to keeping you informed and entertained in 2013.
And to send the year off in style, here’s a short clip of Rita Hayworth (amongst others) dancing to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”! Here’s to living it up these holidays.