“Before building a new parking lot, trying to solve the problem differently”
par Olivier Barrellier | 01.04.10
The first part of our special feature on parking in the city is an interview with Eric Gantelet, Executive Director of Sareco, a design office specialized in parking lot for over thirty years. He explains that in this field, technology must provide a solution to a more organizational innovation.
InnovCity : InnovCity: What trends do you see and emerge in the years to come?
Eric Gantelet : There is a sharp decrease in the number of new parking in city centers, which is offset by the implementation of intermediary car parks located on the periphery near public transportation stations. It works well. Communities that have adopted this arrangement have increased public transportation attendance by several points. A few car parks are even already saturated. At the same time, the sharing of car park facilities in the city goes up rapidly despite serious regulatory obstacles. It is about sharing spaces between several home buildings, offices and shops. Time of use being different, the space savings can reach 30%. Finally, in the longer term, the emergence of new practices, such as carpooling or car sharing, will require facilities at a regional range as well as specific rules which are still to invent for most of them.
These are essentially conceptual innovations. What about technological innovation ?
On these subjects, there are actually a profusion of new technologies. The implementation of some of them is immediate and obvious, such as the protection of spaces for deliveries or disabled. But for now, the most of them are in test or pilot projects. Moreover, at Sareco, we think that technology must meet a need, bring a practical solution to an innovation which is more organizational. We are also surprised to see that, in most cases, our recommendations consist in advocating a better use of existing resources rather than the creation of new ones. This is a bit our golden rule: before building a new car park, try to solve the problem differently. It’s easy to say like that, but often very complicated to implement.
Why ? What is the complexity of a parking policy ?
First, because it is very easy to be fooled by what is easy to observe. Adding spaces in a street that is continuously hit by illegal parking does rarely solve the problem. Prohibiting it either. It is important to understand interactions between users, equipment, shops, offices and public transportation. No need to precise that these parties are not only independent but also subject to constraints and different objectives. If you add environmental concerns, you get an idea of the difficulty of the exercise.
What do your customers ask for ?
We usually work for cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants and with three major categories of users : residents who live on site; commuters who come to work, and visitors, mainly customers of shops. The recurrent objective of cities is to limit to a strict minimum the number of places for residents, to dissuade commuters and to encourage visitors for short periods. Then, the proposed actions are variable but always of the same nature: carrot, stick and communication.
You claim to invest 15 % of your revenue on R & D. How can you do research into parking?
I understand that this may make laugh but it is very serious and very useful for our recommendations. From the initial stages, we perform generic studies such as the impact of parking on greenhouse gas emissions. We also collect data on the parking needs generated by the different facilities that will be reusable later regarding (Editor’s note: for example, how many spaces will be needed for a swimming pool?). We also develop mathematical computer models to simulate the impact of our recommendations. Finally, we are constantly looking for new solutions and new concepts. This involves keeping up with technological innovations abroad.
Sareco in brief
* Business: Parking engineering
* Creation: 1976
* Sales: €1,2 M
* Staff: 15 persons
* References: more than a thousand studies, from Dunkirk to Singapore.
On the same theme: Parking
Related content : parking