He Disagrees, and not too Respectfully


He Disagrees, and not too Respectfully

Mark came across this article — you get the gist below… But he disagrees, as usual — his rant:

There are some absolutely classic lines in this article that are right on target and could be inserted into almost any discussion about downtown parking;
“People hate the existing system, but they’ll also hate any changes you make to the rules. No matter what you do, people are going to be very upset with you.”

“We all want to be able to park wherever we want, for as long as we want, and we want it to be free. But we might as well wish for a world of free and infinitely available ice cream. We can’t have it, and we give up a lot by trying to get there.”

“It’s not wrong to own a car, not wrong to drive, and it’s not wrong to want to park conveniently. But like all good things in life, convenient parking comes at a cost.”

While I love these quotes I disagree with the basic premise of the article, that being the idea that the best way to control parking and insure there is the desired turnover is thru dynamic pricing based on demand.

“In fact, the whole two-hour exception doesn’t make any sense at all. If you’re parking for an hour, you should pay for an hour. And if you need to park for three hours or eight hours, you should be allowed to pay for it. “

While there is no argument that higher prices can help you get to the point where you see that mythical “in a perfect world” occupancy of 85%, all you’ve really accomplished is to make sure the spaces are occupied by people who can afford to pay the hourly rate. Having an 85% occupancy rate at the on-street meters is only beneficial IF the people occupying those spaces are patronizing and spending at local businesses, and IF those spaces are actually turning over so that additional patrons can park there. Having 85% of the spaces occupied all day long by people working in nearby buildings that simply have the ability to pay the higher rates serves no purpose whatsoever.

The measurement that needs to be quantified is the turnover rate, not just the % of occupancy. If you have 100 spaces with an 85% occupancy within a particular zone, and those spaces only have a turnover of 1 time per day then you haven’t really accomplished much from the perspective of bringing more business to the area.

Having the right occupancy is absolutely, unarguably a critical component of any successful parking management strategy, but equally, and maybe even more important is the turnover rate. If the pricing strategy is creating the desired turnover then you have a successful program, but just getting to the targeted occupancy % doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved anything. That’s like loading the bases every inning but never bringing anyone home, at the end of the game your stats will look good but you still lose.

On street parking is a fixed, and very limited resource. If the goal is simply to insure that there will always be an open space then you can most likely gain success by implementing nothing other than a demand based pricing strategy. But, if the desired outcome is to generate traffic and increase the number of daily customers then you have to address the turnover issue, and that is a function of time. You can make the argument that by escalating the rate with each passing hour that issue will take care of itself, but at what point does the hourly pricing structure become nothing more than the same thing as a ticket for someone that stays beyond a posted time limit? If you don’t want cars occupying the on street spaces for extended periods of time, then eliminate that as an option right upfront. The real value of an on street space in a commercial area is determined by the number of times it turns over, not by the amount of $’s it generates.
I’ll stop now. This is what happens on a cold and rainy Saturday morning with WAY too much coffee.

Yep — Mark certainly has an opinion


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. Someone wise once told me.
    Many things in life are only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Not what people are wanting to charge for it.

    But then again people buy bottled water……..so perhaps ALL parking is worth something?

  2. The City of Bellingham has gone full circle with this. First with meters and one flat rate for all. Businesses complained of lack of turnover and wanted meters removed, and they were. However, this became such a fiasco that merchants begged for the return of metering. Parking is now priced by location; centralized is high price with lower time limits, and fringe areas are lower rate with longer time periods. This practice, in theory, keeps business owners; their employees and long term visits away from and filling the high demand, and wishfully high turnover areas. This has been the process for a few years and is still having the kinks worked out. For a city this size, it seems to work well, but for a larger system, it may not be so efficient.

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