Parking lots are the place where drivers become pedestrians. My initial idea for this challenge was to repurpose select parking lots in Los Angeles to encourage use of public transportation and walking in downtown L.A. and other urban centers of Los Angeles county. While I personally believe there should be less outdoor parking in urban parts of the cities, it is not realistic to imagine dramatically less car usage and parking in a city like Los Angeles. So what are some small ways that parking could be less of an urban problem and even part of the solution?
My proposal, Park Here L.A., is to retrofit existing parking spaces into pedestrian-friendly information hubs that include kiosks for information, payment, and wayfinding.
A single parking space is about 160 square feet and cost tens of thousands of dollars to build and maintain. I propose that parking lots around the city reserve two spaces — one from hundreds of spaces in most lots — that will be transformed into an inviting and safe area for parking lot users to connect with other transit systems and find information about nearby places and services.
Both automobile and mobile devices urge the user to go directly from point A to point B. This system would invite the user to explore the urban environment, while providing information to arrive at their destination on time.
Earlier in the year, I worked on a multi-modal transit routing App for locating affordable parking in the outer ring of the London metropolis. As part of this work, I realized that the payment and information experience at the Park-and-Ride stations was a critical part of the user’s journey. The interchange to public transportation is one of the biggest hurdles for Park-and-Ride stations and I think the same could be said for parking that requires the user to walk to their destination. If this part of the journey can be made easier and more enjoyable, then people are likely to use mixed-mode transportation.
I realized that parking lots could be designed as micro transit terminals, which reassure the user and help them find their destination.
Software in the user’s car, i.e. a Ford Sync app, or mobile app for finding parking would provide the user information and directions to desirable parking. After the user parks, they easily pay for parking and as part of this process find useful information about the area where they have parked.
My ideas was inspired by many other existing systems and ideas in architecture, public transportation, and urban planning. I have also been inspired by more recent trends known as “tactical urbanism,” including on-street Parklets and Park(ing) Day. For the physical and interface design of the kiosks, I borrowed heavily from the Walk NYC wayfinding project and the City ID Interconnect system.
Software, You are Here
I wrote software for two kiosk applications, which can be viewed at http://la-parking.herokuapp.com:
Wayfinding Map and Info
The wayfinding map displays the user current location in relation to the nearby surroundings. I created the visual design of the scalable map using Mapbox Studio. This map will actually work for any major city in the United States. I then added several transit layers using the L.A. county GIS data portal, the LA Metro developer portal, and https://data.lacity.org/.
The software itself is a Node.js application that loads the scalable map and then fetches dynamic information for each location using the Google Places API. The idea being that popular places change frequently, so the map can be refreshed based upon Google categorization and ranking of places.
Parking Availability and Info
The parking application uses the ParkWhiz developer API to show the current availability of parking at the current location, including the current price, number of available spaces, and a list of amenities, such as reserved parking, restrooms, and shuttle service. This application would integrate with an existing payment system and in some cases accept mobile payment. An electronic or printed receipt would include the location of the parking structure and a QR code link to the information map.
Code for the project is here: https://github.com/stevepepple/la-parking