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Transportation

One Woman's Quest to Design Parking Lots People Don't Hate

Rachel Yoka believes parking can be more than what some might call a necessary evil.
By parking cars automatically, The Lift in Philadelphia can have twice as many stalls (220 on 8 floors) as a conventional parking structure.
By parking cars automatically, The Lift in Philadelphia can have twice as many stalls (220 on 8 floors) as a conventional parking structure.The Lift

PHILADELPHIA—Rachel Yoka pilots her Nissan Rogue through five lanes of honking cars and trucks, then down a narrow alley near City Hall. It's a densely built neighborhood, laid out in the 17th century for pedestrians and the occasional horse and buggy, not the automobile traffic that chokes the grid at lunchtime. Of course, parking in Center City is always a challenge, but that's actually why we're here.

"I love this place!" says Yoka, pulling the car into a bay at the base of an unassuming nine-story building, designated by a discrete sans-serif sign as "The Lift at Juniper Street." We climb out, Yoka swipes a credit card at a touch-screen kiosk, and in a few seconds we hear the whir of machinery as a set of doors open at the rear of the bay and the car slides through. When we race around the corner to peer through a wall of tall windows, we see the vehicle rising on a robotic dolly, a sort of elevator for cars which slips it smoothly into a narrow slot several stories up.