Consider driverless cars when discussing Norwalk’s future parking needs

This graphic from the Norwalk parking masterplan prepared by Fitzgerald and Halliday, Inc. shows parking issues in the uptown area.

By Jackie Lightfield, Norwalk 2.0

NORWALK, Conn. – The recent comments about Norwalk’s parking study are somewhat disappointing. Too much time seems to be spent on looking backwards instead of looking at the future. We are experiencing the most exciting but disruptive influences in how we work, shop and entertain ourselves. Ten years ago people were still driving to the video store, driving to bookstores, driving to office parks, etc.

Now big box retailers across the product segment are closing stores; we stream movies, read ebooks and carry smartphones which have more computing power than the computers used by most businesses at the top of the field a decade ago.

We should embrace planning for the next 25 years, and for that having a understanding of complex issues is important. Twenty-five years from now it is more likely that driverless cars will have changed the dynamic of how we drive. If you don’t believe that, simply look out your window on your next drive and count the number of people on their phones. We have legislation specifically banning the use of phones in the car, precisely because what people are doing is distracted driving.

People want fast, convenient, and cheap transportation to get from point a to b. Technology will make it so that people can do that, and keep entertained along the way. Driverless cars are in our future. Which means that we really have to think about how that will impact parking demands.

It would help also, to look at current studies such as miles driven and the average age young people obtain a driver’s license. In the case of miles driven, the peak was a few years ago and has been in a steady decline. Young people are not buying cars and are delaying getting a driver’s license if at all.

And from a more prosaic point, parking demand at the city’s municipal lots is down year over year. The data is there. As zoning chair, I worked on this issue and successfully reduced the minimum parking requirements. I however, was always an advocate of eliminating them entirely in the urban corridor. Zoning regulations should not be used to dictate parking requirements in a corridor that has multiple municipal lots that need revenue to be self supported. It is an economic conflict that truly needs to be addressed.

Jackie Lightfield


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