By the year 2000, cars will no doubt be smaller and more fuel-efficient, but a parking space will continue to be necessary when you get to where you are going. Since virtually no one jumps in the car to go somewhere for the joy and thrill of parking it, future parking spaces will continue to be at locations such as work, home, school, shopping, and business. Other trips go to recreation and social locations, and the future may deem that work, shopping, home, and recreation will be closer together.
In major metropolitan areas, mini-cities will develop outside of downtown. Built in large complexes, they will include apartment housing, office buildings, shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants. Parking garages with many thousands of spaces may be necessary to support such mini-cities, and they will be controlled with computers to keep the parkers sorted out.
Daytime office workers along with in-and- out employees will be kept track of by computer and the company or individual parkers billed only for the hours they actually park rather than for a certain space by the month. Apartment residents will come and go in the morning and evening, be handled by the computer, and have their parking added into the rent rather than having a free space. Shoppers and business visitors will pay by the hour, while delivery trucks and service vehicles will be kept account of separately.
Mass transit people will push harder to integrate park-and-ride facilities. Parking lots will be stationed near subway and bus lines to intercept commuters. However, this will only be in cities of more than 750,000 in population. In smaller cities, there is little possibility that transit ridership will increase significantly.
Park-and-ride systems, car pools, van pools will have minimal effect on transportation as we know it. The average driver does not want to park his car in a location where it cannot be reached by walking back to it. Once he becomes dependent on a bus, a friend, or some other ordered travel mode, he has lost the freedom of movement that no one wants to give up. Future parking spaces, like most of those today, will be at the trip destination rather than far removed where the driver and passengers must rely on something or someone else to get them back to their car.
Parking lots will change, too. A municipal parking lot that is now staffed with a forest of parking meters will probably have several centrally located machines. The parker will insert several quarters for a few hours of parking and be issued a time-stamped card showing when the parking expires. This card will be placed on the car's dashboard, and the meter maid will read this time rather than the red flag on the meter. Old reliable parking tickets will be issued for violators.
At pay-on-exit parking lots, the exiting parker will give a magnetically encoded ticket to the cashier, who will insert it in a reader which determines the elapsed time and the parking fee due. This will relieve the attendant of counting on his fingers and the customer from wondering whether or not he was charged the correct amount.
It is assumed that the future car will be smaller in physical dimensions and will therefore take up less room to park. Future American garages and lots will look more like European versions where a third more cars can be parked in the same area. The cost of new lots and garages will be less since you can park more cars in the same area, and it would be reasonable to assume that parking rates could be reduced accordingly. However, general inflation will keep rates up, so parking fees will continue to be priced at whatever the traffic will bear.
There will be little change for the single- family homeowner when he arrives home and parks in a driveway or garage. But for big- city dwellers, where many homes have been refurbished in older congested neighborhoods, there well may be a different style of parking. Residential parking programs will restrict on-street parking to one or two hours for nonresidents, but residents will be allowed to park without restrictions.
This type of program can effectively run on commuters, college students, and workers who inundate residential areas and make them virtually inaccessible to the residents. The residential parking program can be a pain for out-of-town visitors, dinner party guests, and friends just dropping by. If they are going to stay over an hour or so, it may be necessary for them to stop by the police station, get a temporary parking permit, and stick it on the car so they do not get towed off just when everybody is having a good time.
Some transportation planners want to enact regulations controlling the development of parking spaces in an effort to force people into mass transit or reduce congestion. However, it is unlikely anyone will be able to legislate the American out of his automobile.