Why your vehicle has Shrunk its parking space: feeling the squeeze


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What’s that? You thought the infrastructure would only adapt to your own customer preferences? You mean how the jeans you bought five years ago have magically adjusted to your expanding waistline, or the way in which the circumstance you bought on your iPhone 4 pops snugly around your new Samsung Galaxy?

Come on, motorist!   You know that is not how bigger and better functions.    

Whatever you are driving today, the exterior lots and indoor garages you park in to go to work, shop or take in a picture were likely built   to accommodate everything you and your neighbors were driving 20 years ago.  

And while the motoring public’s constant migration from passenger automobiles to crossovers, SUVs and trucks is   very good news for automakers, whose profit margins tend to expand in tandem with sales of larger vehicles,  it is a growing conundrum for companies whose employees and clients need someplace to stash their rides while they work, dine or shop.

Where three’s a bunch

You already suspected this, of course. Your suspicions grow each time you notice a new ding on your rear fender, find yourself shimmying to the driver’s seat through your passenger, or drive past a vacant parking location rendered unusable from the super-cabs parked on either side,

It is not your imagination: There is a growing disconnect between America’s automobile preferences and the spaces in which we’re expected to park vehicles.

The more things change, it seems, the more space we will need to save them.    

Walker Consultants, which describes itself as a global leader in parking solutions, claims that the normal modern parking structure is designed around vehicles in the 85th percentile, size-wise, of what Americans are now driving.

Thirty years ago, the automobile in that sweet place has been a passenger automobile; today it is a Buick Enclave, and Mary Smith, an Indianapolis-based vice president Walker, states it is virtually certain to continue growing for the foreseeable future.

New wine in old bottles 

Smith says most parking garages in use today were constructed in the 1970s, nearly half a century past, and have not been substantially re-engineered since. Garages and surface plenty both repaint their lines from time to time.   But almost nobody changes the measurements of the standard parking area, Smith states, since zoning regulations typically require retailers to conserve the identical amount of stalls.  

She states the typical wingspan allotted to each stall — about 81/2 feet, in the majority of municipalities, though garages in the core of urban centers like Detroit or Ann Arbor occasionally comprise snugger stalls — has not changed since 1980, despite the motoring public’s growing attachment for SUVs, pick-ups and crossovers.

And even in the event that you’ve never ceased driving passenger automobiles, you are probably part of the issue, since nearly any type of automobile on the road now is longer and wider than it had been 20 years ago.

“A  midsize pick-up like the Chevy Colorado is nearly as large as a full size Ford F-150 has been a generation ago,” Free Press Auto critic Mark Phelan observes. The same goes for passenger automobiles: In 70.8 inches, the 2018 Honda Civic is about a half-inch wider compared to its big brother, the Honda Accord, was in 2000.

Even the 2018 Accord, incidentally, is a full 3  inches wider round the beam compared to its 2000 predecessor.

According to Smith, a majority of these new vehicles that the national government classifies as compact automobiles now won’t fit to the “compact-only” stalls most people parking garages set aside for smaller vehicles.  

And even in the event that you’ve downsized —  into some Ford Fiesta  state, or even a Chevy Spark —  that the growing percentage of  larger vehicles on the road means it is more likely than ever that your frugal econo-box will discover itself sandwiched between 2 full sized trucks or SUVs.    

Making space for technology

Who is to blame this vehicular waistline creep, a happening that apparently afflicts every category of passenger car on the road? It is not only that we need more space to stretch out in or accommodate our 65-inch TV purchases, clarifies Lindsay Brooke, editor-in-chief for Automotive Engineering, the journal of the Society of Automotive Engineers; it is that producers need more space to accommodate the airbags, collision avoidance devices and other security features that customers and regulators  demand. Hence that the technology that makes our cars safer in movement makes them harder to store.    

But robotic technology also provides the most promising prospect for relief from the parking squeeze. In Dusseldorf’s international airport, then some robo-valet stashes vehicles to storage slots too narrow for human motorists to negotiate and utilizes real-time flight data to retrieve them with motorists’ yield flights. Similar automatic car parks Boost the use of space by eliminating any need for driver access in the storage facility.    

Along with the advent of self-driving cars will make it possible for motorists  to ditch their own vehicles how that they call a cab or a Uber now, allowing vehicles to drop their owners off and recover them farther from the centers in which they independently themselves throughout the day.    

As usual, the very first to experience relief is going to be the wealthy who pony up for access to cutting edge tech — along with  younger workers whose dependence on public transport or ride-sharing services spares them the proprietary privilege of circling a public garage for hours and hours.  

Meanwhile, the growing  problem of getting in and from our commodious vehicles could possibly be the inevitable price of the comfort and safety we all encounter once we’re safely within them.

Contact Brian Dickerson: bdickerson@freepress.com


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