When pricing is needed – Part 2

As discussed in Part 1, increasing the supply of parking doesn’t address the fundamental challenge of congested parking areas. When drivers can’t find convenient parking during busy hours, the challenge must be addressed with pricing. No one wants to pay for something that they’re used to getting for free. But many are tired of driving in circles and are willing to pay so that they don’t have to keep wasting their time looking for parking.

When working with a community to understand their supply and demand challenges, a parking consultant will often undertake a parking turnover survey to understand how long cars stay parked in certain areas. Below is a graphic from a turnover study on Division Street in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

Bar chart depicting length of time cars were parked at free spaces, metered spaces, and loading spaces. (Source: CMAP, 2013)

Metered parking is shown in red, loading zones are orange, and free spaces are shown in green – and the length of the bar is how long cars were parked. I spoke with a business owner on the west end of the metered section. He thought it was *great* because he would park in the free space just west of his business and leave his car all day and his customers could easily find a metered spot.

And this is the problem with free parking. You don’t get turnover.

If you have businesses whose customers want to park, a free space that they can’t use is worthless. We typically find that many cars remain parked for the entire duration of our 7-hour surveys. Maybe they are employees, maybe they are residents who only use their car on the weekend. It doesn’t matter. All those businesses in the green area have no available parking. The alderman saw this chart and quietly put meters in the easternmost block. No one complained, because it makes sense to have meters there. You want turnover.

Part 3 dives into the equity considerations of metering parking.

4 thoughts on “When pricing is needed – Part 2”

  1. Pingback: Parking problems - Part 1 - Parking Reform Network

  2. Pricing is part of it , sensors and real Time availability data is the other we just saved 2.5 minutes of hunting time in our last smart parking deployment and the missing piece of the puzzle is sensor based enforcement and patrolling to mitigate overstays. Paid parking here in Canberra has half the overstay rate compare to free — so it’s self policing — but politically unsellable in the current Covid climate for govt onstreet bays

    1. Thanks, Roger. You have a good point – pricing is usually a tough political sell. That is something that the Parking Reform Network is trying to help with. Sensors are an added investment which means more subsidies for drivers. They are helpful, but if the process of subsidizing the driver is just to maintain a free parking spot, we are perpetuating the fundamental issue that got us into the mess that we’re in today. As you point out, COVID19 is making it hard to push for reform when we’re asking people to pay for something that was free before – and they’ve got enough to deal with. At the same time, COVID is forcing some communities rethink how they allocate space in areas where we need to spread out and the only option is into parking areas.

  3. Pingback: “Won’t new meters hurt poor folks?” - Part 3 - Parking Reform Network

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