Urban solutions accelerator City Tech Collaborative is helping to transform a 3.8 million-square-foot underground parking facility in Chicago, known as Millennium Garages, into the Millennium Gateway Innovation Lab.
The lab will be a "cross-sector consortium" to implement new tech solutions that will utilize parking facilities like Millennium Garages — the largest downtown public parking system in the United States — to address today’s pressing urban pain points like congestion and EV charging infrastructure.
City Tech, along with founding partners Millennium Garages, SP+ and Arrive, hope the initiative will help to re-envision how other parking facilities can be used to connect people with new transportation modes; charge electric vehicles (EVs); create freight and logistics opportunities; and more.
The Lab’s first project will gather real-time information using sensors at EV charging stations. With that information, garage managers can communicate the availability of parking spaces and track occupancy to help with pricing and capital investments.
Parking garages shouldn’t be thought of as solely places to park cars, but as facilities to access services, Millennium Gateway Innovation Lab Manager Firas Suqi told Smart Cities Dive. Millennium Garage's location in downtown Chicago, for example, has access to public transit, jobs and schools all nearby, he said.
"Physical spaces – like parking garages – hold infinite potential to be an asset to cities beyond their current use," Millennium Garages CEO Rick West said in a statement.
Failing to meet Chicago's evolving mobility demands could be costly. By 2030, Chicago residents could experience 25% more passenger miles traveled; a 50% drop in commutes using mass transit and a 15% increase in congestion if the city doesn't leverage the latest technology and solutions, according to McKinsey & Company.
Chicago was recently ranked as one of the top five worst cities for congestion in the U.S.
To help address the myriad of new mobility issues, City Tech also launched a solution in February to help Chicago manage its curbside traffic. Along with parking, curbs are increasingly being viewed as a valuable asset for cities. City Tech's curb solution helps cities maximize the value of that asset by understanding how the space is used and its value for different competing groups like restaurant delivery, public transportation, freight providers and personal vehicles.
City Tech isn't alone in its work to repurpose parking garages into multi-purpose hubs. Parking management company FlashParking raised $60 million in January to help expand mobility hubs to 40% of U.S. cities in the next three to five years, or about 22,000 hubs.
The new solution will use data on economic activity and curb usage to model curb demand and value for the different groups competing for that space — whether it's a delivery service, public transportation, freight providers or personal vehicles. The group will build tools for cities to manage operations at the curb with pricing, data and other technology.