Ditching The Driver: Assessing Ridesharing's Impact On Commercial Real Estate
Disruptive technologies such as Uber and Lyft and driverless cars aren't just fun for users; they're slowly changing the way architects and developers are approaching projects. Gensler principal Peter Merwin says they could have a major impact on commercial real estate. Since parking can affect as much as 50% of a project's infrastructure, any efforts to reduce or eliminate the need to park cars would be a real estate windfall of epic proportion. Peter says developers that get the parking changes right will have a huge advantage and be able to offer projects for less capital. He thinks we'll see radical infrastructure shifts from ridesharing, etc., in the next three to five years, with broader adaptation in the five- to 10-year window. Architects will likely take a hybrid approach to mixed-use developments with shared-use parking for office workers until 5pm and spaces for diners and shoppers to accommodate the after-hours and weekend crowds.
The Energy Corridor District has already started implementing ridesharing. GM Clark Martinson says they're affecting the District's master plan, which aims to embrace natural landscapes, invest in and integrate transit service, encourage bicycle use, promote environmental design and activate what the district calls “neighborhood streets” within the Energy Corridor. The master plan calls for smaller streets and smaller blocks with high-density development, including offices, hotels, restaurants and retail that are accessible without needing a personal vehicle.
Clark tells us that with the rise of Uber, Lyft and, in the future, driverless cars, there becomes less need for developers to build large parking garages in these high-density developments. People could walk or ride their bikes to work, and the District has partnered up with Enterprise CarShare to offer car rentals by the hour. Clark says ridesharing is happening in the downtown areas right now and is starting to drive higher density in the suburbs as well.
Energy Corridor District transportation manager John Nunez says the District received federal grant pilot funds aimed at introducing carsharing incentives in order to reduce automobile trips as a way to reduce overall traffic congestion. While we are still years away from drivers abandoning their autos, John says more tenants in the corridor are clearly warming up to the idea of embracing alternative transportation options like ridesharing, carsharing and vanpools on their morning and evening commutes. Its Enterprise membership is up 28% over last year. Over a period of time, the District definitely should start seeing a shift to alternative modes of transportation.
Eldridge Oaks (1080 Eldridge Pkwy) launched one of the CarShare vehicle locations last July. Transwestern senior property manager Donna Callan says CarShare eliminates a huge obstacle for people hesitant to try vanpooling, carpooling or other alternative ways to get to work because they don’t want to feel stranded. They also love the program because it encourages environmental sustainability.
Resource Data GIS programmer/analyst Matthew Silski has been a CarShare member since March 2014 and says it's been invaluable to him as a commuter. He sometimes will bike to work because he knows the cars are available if he wants to complete errands.
Pictured: A rendering of the Energy Corridor District master plan.
Clark says StreetLevel Investments' planned redevelopment of Texas Instruments' 200-acre Stafford campus is the perfect example of the type of mixed-use development that could benefit from ridesharing and driverless cars. StreetLevel is building 350k SF of retail and restaurants, 2,400 residential units, Class-A office space, two hotels and a park. Could they, like the Energy Corridor, turn to ridesharing to cut down infrastructure costs?