Tuesday night. Gavin Newsome, former mayor of San Francisco, current lieutenant governor of California, possessor of the kind of hair Mitt Romney and Rick Perry wish they had---seriously, Matthew McConnaghey isn’t good-looking enough to play this guy in the movie---on the panel discussing making big cities more livable and sustainable, wants to talk parking.
Ok, he wants to talk about a lot of things or, really, a lot of people.
“Three per cent of the world’s population in 1800 lived in urban areas. In 1900, it’s about thirteen per cent. And about five years ago, we reached for the first time in human history more people were living in urban areas than wer living in rural suburban areas combined, fifty plus per cent. Interesting points of fact, in 1950 there were eighty-three cities around the world with populations north of one million, 1960 a hundred and eleven, around 2007, 2008 we started to break three hundred, now there’s roughly 468 cities with a population north of one million. Now we have the advent of these megacities, ten plus…five to ten plus million, and mega-regions, cities bleeding into regions.
So the challenge is self-evident, how can people live together, advance together, and prosper together across every conceivable and imaginable difference, how can you support this mass urbanization of a million, a million and a half people moving into cities every single week? How can we reconcile the fact that now China alone has 120 plus cities with a million plus people, and Africa the mass urbanization, Latin America the mass urbanization? Therein lies the twin challenges: the challenge of resource allocation, sustainability, the issue of water, sanitation, health, transportation,education, and the like. But then the twin opportunity, which is hardly a challenge, but the opportunity to allow people to live their lives out loud and build the new economic paradigm that’s being built around the world. And it’s important to consider that in America that economic paradigm is an urban paradigm. Ninety per cent of the GDP in the United States already emanates from cities.”
That’s a lot of people, a lot of economic activity. “This is our fate and future,” Newsome says, and all those people are going to need places to park.
Well, ideally most of the people won’t need cars to get around these megacities. But no matter how walkable and bike-friendly you make a place, no matter how good a job you do designing and improving mass transit, some people are going to have to drive and you’ve got to keep that traffic flowing, and that’s tricky if you’ve got all these cars circling the block looking for open spaces and frustrated drivers giving up to double-park.
Wouldn’t it be useful if people could find out where there was open parking before they set out?
Turns out they can. In some cities, San Francisco being one, there are weight sensors by the meters and in parking garages that tell computers how many cars are parked around nearby. And commuters can access that information on their smart phones and tablets.
You mean there’s an app for that?
Why, yes, there is.