On April 16, 2017, the Los Angeles Times published an article by Roger Vincent that follows what The Traffic Group, Inc. has been preaching and teaching for the last several years.
The article indicates that one of the country’s largest developers, Avalon Bay, is preparing a 475-car garage for 1,000 tenants. No big deal, right? The difference with this parking garage versus previous projects is that it is being designed for its next life. What does that mean? The garage is being designed with a 13 ft high clearance so it can be converted to other uses, such as office, health club, apartments, etc.
Los Angeles architect Andy Cohen indicated, “our world is going to change radically and we are going to be alive to see it.” Other developers, including the owner of The Grove, as well as other upscale shopping centers, are working to prepare for the arrival of self-driving cars and eventually swapping mall parking spaces for apartments, restaurants, and stores.
Gensler Architects predicts car ownerships will peak around 2020 and then start to decline. This means that more Americans will rely on some form of ridesharing – rather than owning our own vehicles – throughout the next few decades. One of the great changes in the next 20 years is going to be in the redevelopment of parking garages, according to Christopher Leinberger at George Washington University.
Self-driving cars will become commodities, not possessions. I know it is hard to understand for those of us who love our cars and love driving our cars, but people will summon them when needed, so the rate of car ownership will drop drastically. Cars will be wondering the city 24 hours a day so that you do not need to own one; you just rent it when you need it. It will be far cheaper to rent a car than to own a car.
Avalon Bay indicates they are beginning to examine this future trend, and designing accordingly. As parking demand decreases, they will have the flexibility to change the use of the garage to what is needed at that time.
Progressive developers are already factoring in the impact of self-driving cars. It is coming – it is coming fast – and we all need to be prepared for it.