Part 1: It’s a work in progress.
One of the persistent questions at the Parking Reform Network is what services can we provide for our newly formed community? What services will help advance the various initiatives of our members? One of the most useful tools for persuasion that advocates can use to advance their goals is comparison. “Peer city X has had success with policy Y, we too could benefit from policy Y!” But within the parking reform community, there is no standard model for comparing parking policies across municipalities. The Parking Reform Network exists for sharing information, strategies and educational materials to help support a nationwide (multi-national even- with members in Canada, Australia and Singapore) network of parking reformers. But the first task for sharing is having a shared set of criteria.
How do we compare parking management strategies? There are many other grading systems available for comparing different aspects of urban life, such as walk or bike scores, or cost of living scores, but a comparable parking score does not exist. Creating a similar parking score is a very challenging task as, much like a snowflake, each city is unique and has its own reform and regulatory needs. One city may need to reform parking to create more space for housing, another might be preparing to build more bike lanes, and some cities might simply be looking to recover parking revenues. How each of these municipalities measures the success of their parking policy will vary wildly. Who determines what parking policy is objectively “good”? What the heck does good mean anyway? In order to build a tool for comparison, first we had to determine a standard model for what “good” parking policy looks like.
Research for the project started with data collection on parking policies across several large American cities. We chose to start with the cities that have the most PRN members. The cities that we chose to collect parking policy data on were Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Madison Wisconsin (not technically a large city, but it is my hometown, and I couldn’t resist).
The first step in creating a scoring model was to gather all of the relevant sources for each city. We collected sources on residential requirements, residential parking permits Transit Demand Management (TDM) Programs, on-street meter parking, public garages and parking authorities. Then we determined that the most practical place to start was to compare on-street meter parking. Meter parking is the aspect of municipal parking policy that has the most abundant information and materials on municipal websites. It is also one of the primary places that residents regularly encounter parking policy. This is also the area of parking reform where some of the most interesting work is being done to reform parking policy changes such as dynamic pricing, parking benefit districts and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, parklets and pedestrian streets.