A comment on Dynamic Pricing from “apahk inguy”


A comment on Dynamic Pricing from “apahk inguy”

I blogged below about variable rates and monitoring of individual spaces. I received this response from “a parking guy”:

What about the drivers of delivery, passenger vehicles, taxis and limos that sit in metered spaces every day? What about disabled permits, official business placards and exempt vehicles like fire, police and emergency services? In a typical downtown, the fancy sensors will be lighting up all across grid with “space occupied – unpaid” messages with these vehicles in the mix. Will the rates be adjusted based on availability, payment or a combination of both? It’s inherently unfair to raise the rate for a paying customer when there are spaces taken up on the same block by non-paying vehicles. If you’re going to dispatch enforcement for “space occupied – unpaid” situations you will have your enforcement staff chasing their own tails and eventually they will disregard the dispatch messages. As for the “price messaging” aspect, I seem to recall that there have been lawsuits filed for deceptive practices when the rates on some single space meters were twenty-five cents for seven and one half minutes but the displays were incapable of displaying seconds. Depending on the manufacturer they either displayed a 7 or an 8. Those who received a 7 message after payment felt they were being ripped off for thirty seconds of time. There’s always a lawyer or elected official looking to get some face time with the press.

As for dynamic signs on each block displaying the rate in real time, it will be fun to watch cars zigzag from one side of the street to the other in order to try and get the cheaper space. Don’t think it will happen?


I think “guy” makes some good points. Placards are a problem – I say do away with them and let the disabled and those on “official business” pay or be cited. If appropriate they can be reimbursed by their department. Who knows, might make them more efficient. As for cops and firemen – Please…

I’m not sure the concept of “space occupied, unpaid” and immediately dispatching enforcement is where this program is going. Most cities who are considering sensors say they will use overstay information for statistical purposes and “target” enforcement into areas where overstay seems to be rampant, rather than to specific spaces. That to me makes more sense in the long term. It is also true, that enforcement should be able to ‘read’ the sensors in areas that are “time limited” only so they are on the scene when a car overstays.

Technology will handle the “second vs minute” issue above, and I don’t expect dynamic signs to be springing up on every corner. That goes to my argument that rates need to be set and held for a minimum of a few months, so drivers will get used to the costs, which will be displayed on meters. Note that few cities now actually display the hourly rates on signs where drivers can see them.

Hopefully drivers will move (zig zag) quickly to off street parking, once they understand that on street rates are higher than off street.

As was noted on our Facebook page yesterday, this will be an ongoing educational program and we should expect results instantly.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. See if I can add some solutions here to the problems he suggests.
    Placards- Thing of the past. If you are using the sensors, and I am right now using them on 50 spaces as a pilot, you will, if you don’t already, have an app that you can pay with. Pull in, tap “pay” and go on your business. You can also pay by cell. I have placards in this town, now i will just create an account that the permit holders can “charge” their parking to. Want to bet they only do that while the are on official business? Because now this is a record and with records comes accountability. Why were you in the bar district at 1am??????
    I was almost strung up in town square when people thought that we are going to be “dispatching” officers to violations. It is NOT operationally efficient to do so in most situations. JVH nails it, the true value, and its value is not comprehensible, is the data. Never before have I been able to see trends change so quickly and where my issues are. Right now I am staring at 4 spaces where the cars haven’t moved in 4 hours. I called the PEO and its public works doing some repairs, there is some value in this. I see stuff and can react without walking around downtown. I have two monitors on my desk with the map of the sensors up all day. The data is golden, now we just have to get people to buy into us parking managers using the data to shape policy and practices without going through the sometimes painful bureaucratic process. Trust us that we want the best for our downtowns. We don’t have customers, our customers are someone else’s customers. If businesses fail, we lose money. End of story.
    Cops and Fireman- If they are staying in space for long periods of time then there is a damn good reason for them to be there. Not a concern.

  2. CJD
    Wow a whole 50 space pilot? What are you going to do when you have tens of thousands (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.)? Placards also apply to disabled vehicles and ADA regulations so you can’t just arbitrarily make them a thing of the past. Try telling the 80 year old grandmother that she needs to get an app for that. Cops and Firemen not a concern? Really? Have you read about whats been going on in New York? While the data may be golden we live in the real world not a digitally produced statistical model. Politics and parking go hand in hand and no amount of data will ever change that.
    Now let’s talk about your costs. What are you going to pay for your sensors? I’ve heard $50 per sensor tossed around in addition to monthly telecommunications fees, back office software fees, etc. What is the lifespan of your sensors? Again the number I’ve heard is 5 years but under what conditions? Batteries inside a puck installed in cold climates between a layer of macadam and permafrost will be hard pressed to provide optimum operating current in sub freezing temperatures let alone last 5 years.
    “Once they understand that on-street rates are higher than off-street”. Can you name me some examples where this is true? Again, naming the big three, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago none of those fit the criteria. Simply saying that once they understand vastly simplifies the complexity of getting them to that point of understanding.
    “…enforcement should be able to ‘read’ the sensors in areas that are “time limited” only so they are on the scene when a car overstays” But how will they know that the car registering as overstayed is not an authorized vehicle or simply a cabbie waiting for a fare?
    Come on JVH, I’m as much of a Shoupista as the next guy but there is a big difference between the classroom and the harsh reality of putting theory to practice.

  3. Come on, parking guy — with your cynical approach, we would still be wondering if we should cook meat because, after all, we might get burned. I’ll let Charlie defend a 50 unit test. Yes, you have correctly described the problem with pricing on and off street parking. Why is it so difficult for you to believe it can’t be reversed. Cities are clamoring for income. Here’s a great way to increase it. In NYC, $8 an hour on street would be more expensive than a $50 day rate in an off street lot. And I think that operators would love to suddenly find themselves underpriced. (NYC,and the other top 5 majors probably aren’t good examples, but frankly Shoup has studied many neighborhoods in Manhattan and found that dynamic pricing would work well.) I’m sure that garage owners would take about five milliseconds to figure out how to tell drivers that off street is cheaper than on street. As for sensors I say “Huh” An enforcement officer walks, drives, cycles down the street and his hand held tells him if a car has been in the space longer than allowed. If it has, he gives them a citation. If its a police car or a fire truck, he doesn’t.
    Cities are arbitrary every day. Somewhere, I think Charlotte, has already said that handicapped parkers aren’t free. That change is coming. The more cheating, the more the disabled will want their spaces to be made available by charging for them. As for other placards, like for city workers, teachers, police in private vehicles, and the media — why shouldn’t they pay for parking. If its a legitimate expense, great — they get reimbursed. Problem solved.

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