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Parking & Pollution: The Correlation and The Solution

By January 26, 2022February 23rd, 2022No Comments

Historically, the impact of parking on pollution hasn’t gotten as much attention as day-to-day commuter driving and long-haul logistics. This is partly due to the focus on the minimal driving involved in an isolated parking maneuver.

Stakeholders often neglect the wider picture of parking lot planning and distribution, and the ripple effect of the search for parking on surrounding traffic patterns. In that respect, we are going to examine the various factors affecting parking, the subsequent correlation between parking and pollution, and the feasible solutions available to us:

Parking space shortage and inequitable parking distribution

  • For starters, scarcity of parking spaces means more cars spend more time stuck on the road or driving around lots. In some city areas, this protracted search for parking accounts for up to 30% of driving.
  • The result is more emission of exhaust fumes into the atmosphere as cars spend more time with their engines running. Furthermore, these circling cars will spread greater volumes of unburnt fuel in one small area as opposed to those speeding on a highway.
  • Slow and concentrated motor vehicle traffic in areas with limited parking space exacerbates the urban heat island effect. Subsequently, air quality is worsened by the heightened production of ozone, and water quality is decreased too since warmer waters stress surrounding ecosystems.
  • Parking spaces also increase sulfur dioxide and soot prevalence. A study called “Parking infrastructure: energy, emissions, and automobile lifecycle environmental accounting” conducted in 2010 by Mikhail Chester found that these pollutants contribute 0.5% to 12% of total estimated life cycle energy consumption and greenhouse emissions, and 25% to 81% of other air pollutants, depending on vehicle type and situation.


7 Smart Solutions To Solve The Problem

        1. AI Parking Availability Predictions

          Using Parknav, motor vehicle users can reduce parking time by up to 42% thanks to the intelligent real-time parking assistance solution – making the process of circling around looking for a vacant spot more efficient. Parknav is at its best when parking is scarce, managing to comb through numerous data points and improve average parking time by 38%.
          On top of the valuable time saved, the emissions from reduced total driving time can also be reduced by an impressive 11%. The solution that Parknav offers is founded on rigorous statistical modeling based on a variety of data points it collects, enabling the solution to offer up to 85% accuracy in parking prediction. Nonetheless, plenty of other factors affecting parking availability change constantly, and therefore access to real-time data can improve accuracy by a whole 10%.
        2. Implement Parking Sensors

          Parking AI is one of the most significant when it comes to smart city solutions and can still be effective even without installing sensors. However for a municipality to get the full benefit, installing sensors allows for a wider range of data to be collected.
          This is why the relevant authorities would benefit even more from installing parking sensors to help make parking prediction more precise, and also involve local businesses in the solution process.
        3. Obtain More Accurate Parking Data

          They also need to work on databases that are regularly updated with all pertinent parking data that is not only accessible but also made clear to drivers, clear of any confusion or room for misinterpretation. People need to know which spot is a loading zone, which one is a handicap space, which one is free and which one comes at a fee.
          Such databases also come in handy when there are construction works in an area or high-profile events and convoys that trigger traffic rerouting. With a robust database system in place, those ‘what-if’ scenarios can be run in order to plan ahead and know better which actions to take for all kinds of parking situations, as well as which aren’t worth the effort.
        4. Make This Parking Data Accessible

          Parking restrictions data can be made more accessible to drivers through intelligent applications like Parknav to reduce scenarios of tire clamping and car towing for illegal parking, and by extension, the carbon footprint of the teams doing this work. For city planners, Parknav’s city dashboard tool also helps to reduce these situations.
          When we consider the larger picture, Parknav can help to achieve up to 8.5 tons in CO2 emission savings, as for every 100,000 cars enter a busy city like New York or London per day (driving at 16-20Km/hour and emitting CO2 at a rate of 160 gr/Km, with 2 minutes’ drive saving per car per day).
          With about 300,000 private cars entering central London daily, 600,000 entering Manhattan, and above a million entering Los Angeles, these CO2 emission savings quickly add up.
        5. Led Lighting & Solar Stations

          Contractors can rely more on LED lighting for parking lots and their RGB variable message signs. They can also install solar-powered options for gates, multi-space parking meters, vehicle detection systems, and other devices/machines that need power.
          Firstly, these LEDs dissipate less heat and the solar alternatives also help reduce the urban heat island effect in parking areas and their surroundings. Secondly, solar systems usually cost less to maintain, hence a reduction in the carbon footprint associated with maintenance teams driving to and from the lots.
        6. Pedestrian Friendly Parking

          Parking lots can be designed with curbs that are more pedestrian-friendly, covered, shaded, and well-maintained. By doing so, drivers are enabled to park in designated areas and walk to their final destination.
          Parking lots should be made more accessible for cyclists in order to reduce the number of people who feel the need to take their car wherever they go. This effort can be further refined by introducing strategically positioned “park and ride” lots where people can leave their cars as they enter heavy traffic areas and complete their last mile using buses, bikes, trams, scooters, or other means.
          Prior communication of designated parking spaces for concerts and other large events like trade fairs. Free shuttles should also be provided by the organizers of the event to the location to reduce parking congestion.
          Parking lots can be designed with complementary facilities like solar-charging stations, shops, Wi-Fi, and restrooms to limit additional driving in the search for these facilities which could increase traffic jams and emissions in surrounding areas.
          Authorities should enforce more stringent rules on the minimum number of parking spaces that business premises of varying scales should have.
          Different parking spaces can be pooled into a central parking repository where both public and private spaces can be shared based on their availability and proximity to those in need of them.
        7. Regular Cleaning Of Lots

          Parking lot management teams should also put more emphasis on the regular cleaning of parking lots to reduce the prevalence of pollutants in these areas. This effort isn’t just about pollutants from cars like unburnt fuel.
          It also extends to any trash that comes out of these cars such as non-biodegradable product packaging, and even the cleaning agents used in parking areas. There should be clear signs directing people on how to dispose of different materials when in parking areas.

In conclusion, there’s no doubt that combatting the effects of parking on pollution requires a data-driven approach. From population size to workers commuting, customers visiting businesses, residents visiting public services, and tourists visiting attractions, there’s a multitude of metrics to keep tabs on.

Therefore, smart city solutions and other cutting-edge technologies will play a significant role in mitigating the pollution attributed to parking. This is why it is prudent to adopt solutions like Parknav that already harness the power of artificial intelligence, IoT sensors, and other revolutionary technologies.


Simon Arazi is the Head of Product for Parknav. He has over 20 years of experience in working with large companies, international environments (North America, Europe and APAC) and a variety of industries (Staffing, Manufacturing, Medical Equipment, Telco’s, Utilities, Transportation, Manufacturing and more). He is a leader in innovation and creativity in the company, passionate about creating value for the customers via the products.

Simon Arazi

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