Part 2: Creating a Parking Survey
This is part 2 in a 3-part series. If you missed it, here’s part one.
This is where the wheels hit the road (metaphorically, clearly, we are trying to reduce the number of wheels on the road). Tony and Jane produced a survey to begin making a database of on-street (non-residential) parking management in our lucky top 14 cities. The survey they produced collects data on 5 categories for scoring parking management: On-street parking management, technology (single-space meters, pay stations, pay by plate, etc.), curb space allocation (loading zones, parklets, etc.), meter revenue allocation, and equity.
To kick off the research effort, Jane and Tony both filled out as much of the survey as possible for each of their respective hometowns, Portland and Chicago, to demonstrate what the finished scorecards might look like.
General information on parking management was easy enough to find. Information on hourly rates for parking is easy to come by on city webpages, and we were able to find data for all 14 cities (the most expensive parking was $7 per hour in downtown Chicago). After collecting the basic information on street-parking such as, daily meter maximums, parking time limits, and what the hours of operation are, information about street-parking becomes significantly less transparent on city webpages. Data on how meter rates are set can be hard to find. Normally the best way to find it is to search local news sources. The mechanics of who recommends rate adjustments and how often adjustments are made can be very tricky to find without an insider from each parking department to help out.
Finding which technology was used for collecting parking revenue was easy enough, but figuring out how parking occupancy is measured (manual parking survey, direct measurement by payment or sensors. Drones?) is not information that cities make readily available. Again, the best bet for finding out how occupancy is measured is to comb through local news sources on the subject.
Of the five categories we collected data on, the place where research generally hit a dead end (another road metaphor, you’re welcome) and had the least available information was Equity and Outreach. Here our goal was to find information on what different municipalities are doing to assess the impact parking policy reform has on low-income and BIPOC residents. How does the municipality reach out for consultation on parking reforms? Does the city offer discounts or subsidies for low-income residents using street parking? And how are parking violations enforced?
It is important to look at parking through an equity lens similar to other aspects of the transportation network. Like most aspects of our transportation system, inequity is built into our parking system. Most members of the Parking Reform Network see the fight against free parking as a fundamental step for fighting climate change, addressing runaway housing costs, and creating a more equitable and safer built environment, yet we also have to recognize that for many people driving a car is the only viable transportation option.
As rent goes up in neighborhoods that are well connected to jobs by various forms of transit, those who cannot afford the rising housing costs are forced into further-flung neighborhoods or suburbs where having a car is, for all intents and purposes, a must. Forcing these already over-burdened residents to then also have to pay higher parking costs just because they cannot afford to live in transit-rich areas is one of the many ways our transportation system makes being poor very expensive.
What reforms can our cities make to adjust parking prices so that those who can afford it have to pay a fair price to park their car in the city, while those who have no choice but to drive still have access to all parts of the city? And how do we make sure that parking tickets and fines are not used as a tool to collect revenues from those who are least able to afford it? In essence, a healthy parking system collects more revenue from fares than it does from fines (see Westworld blog post on healthy parking systems here). It is often the case that fines fall disproportionately on those who are least able to afford them, and this is a situation that parking agencies should address.
This will be one of the major questions we explore as we move into the next phase of data collection where we reach out to municipalities to confirm the data we have collected. If any members of PRN know any good examples of parking management strategies that address equity concerns, we would love to hear from you.
Next Step: Presenting results from Data Collection