GoMetro blog parking

Recently, GoMetro was lucky enough to be featured in Real Estate Investor magazine for some of our pioneering ideas on better traffic and quality of life with less, not more, parking spaces.

It’s as the Counting Crows said it: you pave paradise, and put up a parking lot. But there’s another way… Take a look at our Real Estate Investor article here:

Empty parking lot

It seems that the innovation and disruption evolution has hit the home front in earnest, with industry practices and the old way of doing things being disrupted as never before. The latest casualty? Parking bays, according to Justin Coetzee, CEO of GoMetro, the mobility-as-a-service startup that is changing the way South Africans think about getting to work.

“Cities are starting to realise that requiring less parking space is a good thing for livable cities” says Coetzee. He continues: “City centres have become more and more congested, with a recent study showing that 30% of traffic in a CBD is due to people searching for parking.

Noting the impact that a lack of parking had on traffic, cities in the 1960s started requiring a minimum amount of parking bays for any new development. But even minimum parking standards are the wrong way to go, and cities are realising that the easy provision of parking actually increases car usage in the CBD. City authorities are now thinking of incentivizing alternative mobility solutions to massive amounts of parking bays by saying ‘we’re going to tax you for every parking bay you build and maintain.’

The “smarter way” is flexible mobility, a recent concept which is set to revolutionise the way people move around the city and how they consume transport services.

Flexible mobility, the pioneer of which was Uber, entails getting around via customised transport solutions, usually shared, that involves people being able to use various taxis, minibuses, buses, trains, and more at their convenience rather than driving their own car around.

The vehicle (car, taxi, van, bus) drops you off at or close to your destination and then moves on to serve other people – meaning you never have to apologize for being late for a meeting because you couldn’t find parking.

Property prices to follow suit 

“There’s an enormous correlation between working flexible mobility routes and the desirability or price of a property. There’s a very well-documented link between land value and transport network availability. The easier it is to access amenities, the higher yield rent will be,” explains Coetzee, citing the very popular and influential Vox video on YouTube entitled ‘The high cost of free parking’.

“My property might be 10km away from the Gautrain, but I’m going to get much higher rentals and yields and capital value and price at which the units sell by offering the building’s own link/shuttle service to a Gautrain station or a popular shopping precinct,” says Coetzee.

With less need for parking spaces, property developers would have more space to build more units or amenities, such as a residents’ gym. “A parking bay is 5metres by 3 metres. So, you end up with 15 square metres of space. So, if I take away 4 bays, that is a nice small 1 bed apt size you might be able to repurpose. What happens if you build a gym? The amenities your property offers now changes, making it more desirable. So property investors are increasing values and decreasing costs at the same time. The opportunities are endless.”

Not only that, but this new approach is more cost-effective than building parking spaces, says Coetzee.  “There’s a new way to think about space, and that’s rand per km. It makes no sense to trap all that capital, locked up in a space that effectively stores mobility. And it will save you a ton of money: to build a parking bay at current construction costs is at least R100 000 per bay, and then there’s costs around maintenance, lighting and electricity. So, to build 1 000 bays, you’re spending about R100 million. Whereas, if you decide to offer flexible mobility, you can connect a 5km service of three busses running from 6am to 6pm, every 15 minutes, and that would cost about R10,000 a day – which means you could offer mobility options to your tenants for the next 40 years for the same budget.

Future-proof

Not only would this be beneficial to all in the short term, but would also be more in line with the way the future seems to be headed. Just a few months ago, Director of MIT Senseable City Lab, Carlo Ratti told Wired magazine that the impending driverless car movement will mean 80 percent fewer cars on any given highway: “In general, fewer cars could mean vast areas of urban land currently occupied by parking lots and roads could be reinvented for a whole new spectrum of social functions.” In the same article, landscape and urban design firm SWA’s Kinder Baumgardner says that “a reduction in cars will transform urban cores, with entrepreneurs reimagining parking lots, parking spaces, and garages by converting them into housing, retail outlets, and public spaces.”

So, if that’s the way we’re all headed, then how come no one has done more of this sooner?

Coetzee admits that the idea of flexible mobility is such a new concept that the average property developer or real estate investor wouldn’t know the first thing about putting in place a flexible mobility solution for a building. Luckily, there are a slew of startups and innovators around to do just that for you: “Call us. Let us give you options. We’ll work with you, whether you’re developing, innovating or just wanting to optimise while figuring out your next move. Think of us and other companies like us as new mobility consultants, like engineering consultants for optimizing your movement.”