Industry Experts Believe a ‘Parking Revolution’ is Sweeping America

In April of this year, members of the International Parking Institute, the world’s largest association representing the parking industry, surveyed parking professionals to determine trends and gain input on parking and related topics.

The survey results found that a “parking revolution” is taking place in the United States, and that the industry is beginning to embrace a variety of new parking solutions.

“The industry is embracing a variety of new technologies that make it easier for people to find and pay for parking, and for parking authorities to better manage it,” the report stated.

Cities identified as leaders in the movement included San Francisco, Portland, New York City, Seattle, Miami, Houston, Boston, Denver, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Tampa.

Emerging Parking Trends

Cincinnati’s recently approved Parking Modernization & Lease Program appears to apply these top trends by moving toward technologies that improve access control, payment automation, and real-time communication of pricing and availability to user’s mobile devices.

These kinds of features are the new standard being implemented around the country, and are provided by Cincinnati’s lease agreement.

Parking professionals were also asked to identify the ten most progressive municipal parking programs in the United States, with San Francisco’s SFpark named most innovative.

“The SFpark pilot project provides real-time information on parking availability and cost; reduces double parking, circling, and congestion; and improves parking ease and convenience,” the report stated. “A high-caliber data management tool allows the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to make rate-change recommendations, supply real-time data, maintain optimum operational and contractual control, and rigorously evaluate the pilot’s various components.”

Respondents also said that SFpark was particularly bold in requiring city and government employees to pay for parking in order to bolster the program’s credibility before asking voters to consider sweeping changes in parking management.

Of particular interest is SFpark’s on-street rate adjustment policy.

Prior to the changes, rate adjustments were made during the budget-planning process. The goal with the pilot program is to take a demand-based approach in order to achieve parking availability targets in a consistent, simple and transparent manner.

Prior to the program, rates in downtown were $3.50/hour, $3.00/hour in the downtown periphery and $2.00/hour in neighborhood commercial districts, and were operational mostly from 7am to 6pm or 9am to 6pm Monday through Saturday. As part of the pilot program, demand responsive time-of-day pricing is split into three distinct rate periods: 9am to 12pm, 12pm to 3pm, and 3pm to 6pm for 9am to 6pm spaces.

These demand-responsive rate changes are made gradually, no more than once per month, and periodically near the first of the month based on occupancy in the previous month.

In order to maintain at least one parking space per block, 80% space occupancy is desired with rates increased when occupancy is greater than 80%, held constant at 60% to 80% and decreased with less than 60% occupancy on a per-block basis to more effectively redistribute parking demand.

In order to help users from having to cut trips short or risk parking tickets, time limits in the pilot areas were lengthened from 30 minutes/two hours to four hours/no limit.

Cincinnati’s program, meanwhile, will provide for public rate control and expanded hours of operation from 8am to 9pm in the Central Business District and 7am to 9pm in neighborhoods. The plan will also allow for limited $0.25 incremental rate increases, but there does not appear to be provisions for demand responsive time of day pricing, a target on-street block occupancy amount, or lengthened or eliminated time limits.

In addition to new technologies, the report indicates that parking is becoming more than just a place to store cars, and is instead moving towards more integrated forms of transportation planning – something that has also taken place locally through new bicycle parking provisions and parking requirement restructuring.

“Today, parking is about so much more than storing cars,” concluded Shawn Conrad, executive director for the International Parking Institute. “It’s central to the creation of livable, walkable communities. It’s about cars, bikes, mass transit, mobility, and connecting people to places.”

  • sebra leaves

    It looks as if the “parking party” may be short lived as millions of unhappy voters are preparing to override the parking programs you describe here.

    • matimal

      Where? Who? Examples?

    • Where are the “millions of unhappy voters” you’re talking about? Are they just in Cincinnati, or are they spread throughout the entire country?

      In either case, I have not heard of a situation where voters are progressing with a repeal of any of these deals. Maybe one exists, but I just haven’t learned about it yet.

    • Yes, and in Cincinnati’s case, a judge ruled that the parking deal is not subject to referendum. So voters can not “override” the deal.

  • Jules Michael Rosen

    What’s strange to me is the amount of conservative opposition that Cincinnati’s parking plan has received given its market-based approach. It seems like COAST will do pretty much anything to prevent the City from moving forward, even if it aligns with their values.

    • Exactly right. Despite the organization’s name, the group is not opposed to “additional spending and taxes,” their mission is to oppose any of the city’s efforts to do anything.

    • SFopolis

      I just posted regarding the meter issue. From a died in the wool liberal, the conservative opposition to the parking, however misinformed, is probably better for you in this incredibly rare case.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Not when it strangles our entire city. Without the additional income from privatizing parking, the City would have to make considerable cuts. Also, San Fran and Cincinnati are very different cities. I have never not been able to find parking in Cincinnati. There are spots everywhere. I would rather someone profit from parking and have it actually managed appropriately then have to park in a public garage that looks like its about to fall down, with floors that have no labeling.

    • Yes, one thing to keep in mind is that once this gets out of the city’s hands the assets will immediately become more valuable. This is because city laws prohibit it from selling advertising in the parking structures, and the lack of upfront capital resources doesn’t allow the city to invest in the new technologies that would improve revenues.

      The city is able to sell the assets with this in mind, and thus get the upfront payment for those features that add value for the investor but aren’t otherwise available to the city.

    • SFopolis

      What I would say to this is how much money do you think anyone is going to make with advertising in Cincinnati in parking structures? it’s not a jumbotron in Times Square. If it’s revenue you are looking for, just increase enforcement and towing. Voila. Lots more revenue.

    • Sure, you could generate a lot more revenue that way. But the main point as to why most of the people who are opposed to these deals are opposed to them is because of the idea of higher rates and increased enforcement.

      With that being the political reality, I would like to see a city council actually approve higher rates and stricter enforcement.

    • SFopolis

      Here is a very current article about how badly Chicago is getting screwed by selling their parking meter management:

    • SFopolis

      SF and Cincinnati are different. I lived in Milwaukee for most of the ’00s and believe I understand at some of the differences. But… Privatizing just about anything in the history of the last 30 years has not done anybody any good. Just look at Chicago’s parking, or perhaps the contracting in Iraq or Afghanistan. You are just tossing your control away for a promise of dollars with no guarantee and no track record.

  • SFopolis

    What everyone seems to miss here are some simple facts. Parking meters are not a panacea. They cause more problems than they solve whilst also screwing over the public. If you have meters, you need enforcement. If you have enforcement, you don’t need meters.

    In San Francisco, they are trying to install meters in all neighborhoods, including residential areas. When you install meters, you eliminate parking spaces. Lots of parking spaces. 15 to 20% of them. This is because of the need for a metered space to be big enough for any vehicle, rather than allow for an organic parking structure. The end result is just sticking it to the little guy.

    As silly as it sounds, the companies that are selling the meters are just trying to sell more, along with contracts for maintenance and individual billing for the visa/mc use of each meter. It is no different than Boeing or Raytheon fleecing the coffers, just on a smaller scale.

    I am a huge mass transit advocate. As big as they get. I also drive a car, because mass transit, even in SF, is not good enough to get by without one. My advocacy is driven by an ernest desire to use transit, and the notion that it bolsters our economy when done well. Gas prices are only going up, and our collective ability to pay for gas is going down. Electric cars aren’t a fix. That’s energy too…. My point is cars (especially for those least able to afford them) are going the way of the Dodo. Believing that installing “Smart” meters is going to solve problems, including budgeting for cities as well as individuals, is farce. It is causing more problems than it is solving. If you ask anyone in San Francisco what they think of the meters, and if they are improving life here, your answer will be a resounding, “No!”

    • I don’t think that anyone is viewing the modernization of parking meters and garages as a cure all solution. Personally, I do view it as smarter government, and that is progress for us in a day and age when nothing is getting done at the federal level. Cities have to make things happen on their own.

    • SFopolis

      Randy, I share your sentiment, but not in this particular case. Smarter government would be to improve / implement a better collection / enforcement system or legislate one into place (which will have to be done if one doesn’t exist now anyhow). As soon as you purchase parking gizmos that will just keep on costing the city money, your cost benefit analysis goes way down. How much do you think it costs to purchase and maintain and install and then repurchase the smart meters vs. having a few cars towed (or many) and fining the owners? Add another couple of full time Meter maids and you’ve just given work to residents in the city that is lasting and much more cost effective.
      The reason why I’m so into this subject has nothing to do with Cincinnati and everything to do with my own world in SF. (I’m on an urbanist mailing list and that is how I came across this article). I’ve spent several Years researching the parking meter thing and dealing with the people who say it will cure your ills. They hide and obfuscate and rely on unproven data over and over again. Often without ever realizing they are doing it. If you in Cincinnati can avoid the hell that we and Chicago are in the middle of, it may be a better day.

    • Eric

      Cincinnati is currently barely managing their parking infrastructure. So as compared to SF or Chi, I don’t think the big brother scenario you’re frustrated with is going to happen here. You can’t maximize parking if you’re not managing it, which the technology would allow. How the public or businesses view meters is not rooted in their historic purpose, which was to cause turnover of customers in Oklahoma City.