A feature of the American landscape is our interstate system and the concrete pastorals the system facilitates for its residents. Many Americans drive annually West or South, and vice versa to find nicer weather or enjoy time with family and friends.
Certainly, our law enforcement agencies, road crews, and navigation systems play a key role in facilitating these pathways to vacation and well-being. But another component enables our Interstate system: the Highway Rest Area.
In our case, we mean the broad stretch of public AND commercial activity occurring within a mile or so near the highway’s exit ramp.
Many know these areas quite well and the chain restaurants, hotels, and amenities that are available with shocking consistency. Each region provides a similar set of hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops.
In recent years, it is hard not to notice the disrepair of many highway rest stops. One imagines that the causes of decline stem from aging infrastructure, declining funding for rural communities, and the fading popularity of chain restaurants.
But in the age of driverless, electrical vehicles, the highway rest stop could surge back into the American consciousness. What are business models that will shape the future of American Highway Rest Stops?
Membership Models for Premium Infrastructure
Long haul truck drivers long appreciate the premium infrastructure available on the road that includes showers and bathrooms. Nowadays it is foreseeable that premium infrastructure could expand to include membership driven offices, gyms, or uniquely designed rest spaces that fill the gap between hotel and diner.
Increased Public Space and Botanical Gardens
Public space could improve to facilitate more parks and recreational opportunities near highways. Open parks and gardens offer a peaceful respite from motors and speed. Recreational opportunities offer exercise after long periods of inactivity.
Municipalities should begin preparing for a mobile and nomadic society. The increased focus on regional infrastructure development should include the highway rest areas. but development should occur with intentionality and should not seek to increase suburban sprawl. Much of the same zoning policies that encourage density in urban areas should apply to rest areas.