San Francisco’s SFpark pilot project created a model for demand-based parking prices. Using flexible pricing and smart parking meters, San Francisco’s goal is for there always to be one available parking space per block.
In areas where parking is difficult to find, rates will increase until at least one space is available. In areas where open parking spaces are plentiful, rates will decrease until almost all the parking spaces are filled, or until rates bottom out at 25 cents per hour.
Drivers can find available spots using their smart phones and can pay using cash or credit at meters. Combined with extended time limits, these factors make parking and paying easier, and help drivers avoid tickets.
The average price of parking declined with SFpark, because so many parking meters had been overpriced in the morning. Seventeen percent of all meters’ prices went down to the minimum of 25 cents per hour in the morning, due to the large number of unused spots.
“The city council never votes on parking prices there,” Shoup said. “City council decides the occupancy they want to see, and they leave it up to the parking administration to set the price to attain that occupancy.”
“It’s a mistake to believe, as I admit I did, that this model causes parking prices to go up,” Shoup said. “They did not.”
On top of lower parking prices for drivers, sales tax revenue got a boost, because more people were able to park close to businesses, and fewer tickets were issued because fewer people double-parked.
University of California, Los Angeles
Parking meters at UCLA charge four different prices during the daytime. The price of parking rises the longer a driver wants to park their car. The first hour is three dollars and the second hour is four dollars.
This approach is more sound than having rigid time limits because people often feed the meter to park longer, even when there is a limit. With this model if a driver is willing to pay, the city gets more money, and the driver benefits from the convenience of being able to park longer without having to repeatedly feed a meter.
Using this model, there was one space available 60 percent of the time, two spaces available 27 percent of the time, and zero or three spaces available a small percentage of the time.
“This is the right price for parking,” Shoup said. “Parking is well-used, but if you want to park, there is a space waiting for you.”
Parking is well-used, but readily available. That’s the right price of parking.
Unfortunately, most drivers are opposed to paying for parking and merchants are opposed to making drivers pay for parking because they believe it’s bad for business.
To make on-street parking prices more palatable, Shoup says local governments should spend the revenue in a way that’s socially justifiable.
Credit: Mike Linksvayer/Flickr
In Old Pasadena, California, merchants and property owners immediately agreed to install meters only when the City of Pasadena offered to return all parking meter revenue directly to Old Pasadena.
The city uses the money generated by the parking meters in Old Pasadena for new sidewalks, streetlights, graffiti removal, street cleaning and the like, within Old Pasadena. This system is called a parking benefit district.
Old Pasadena’s parking benefit district has transformed its main street. Cleaner, safer streets now draw more visitors who spend more money at local businesses and pay for more parking, creating even more revenue for improvements.
Property owners have made improvements without help from the city, because it is finally economically viable to do so.
Now Old Pasadena is a beautiful place to visit in Southern California, drawing over 20,000 visitors on the weekend, according to Shoup.
Parking benefit districts proved to be more than a transportation management tool; they’re an economic development tool.
Meters yield $1.2 million a year for Old Pasadena’s 15 blocks, about $80,000 per block.
Removing or reducing off-street parking requirements makes room for something new and beneficial to take its place.
“If the government would let it happen, wonderful things would happen,” Shoup said.
Parking lots could be replaced by office buildings or job-adjacent housing.
Cities would have to start charging for curb parking (see recommendation #1), but with the density of the neighborhood, people could live without a car.
Removing off-street parking requirements would have economic benefits, because, as Shoup points out, free surface parking lots don’t create jobs.
New development would create jobs and housing, and it would allow people to live closer to work. Commute times would decrease and people would spend less on cars and fuel. Traffic congestion and air pollution would also decrease.
Freedom from parking requirements will allow higher density and make it easier to find new uses for old buildings.
The lesson: Remove off-street parking requirements to make room for new uses and amenities.
The parking reform trifecta
All three parking reforms used together would be the most beneficial, and they can receive support from all political persuasions.
[Liberals will see that it increases public spending.
Conservatives will see that it relies on markets and reduces government regulation.
Environmentalists will see that it reduces energy consumption, air pollution, and carbon emissions.
Businesses will see that it unburdens enterprise.
New Urbanists will see that it improves urban design and enables people to live at high density without being overrun by cars.
Libertarians will see that it increases the opportunities for individual choice.
Property-rights advocates will see that it reduces regulations on land use.
Developers will see that it reduces building costs.
Residents will see that it pays for neighborhood public improvements.
Affordable housing advocates will see that it reduces the cost of building new housing.
Neighborhood activists will see that it devolves public decisions to the local level.
Local elected officials will see that it reduces traffic congestion, encourages infill redevelopment, and pays for local public services without raising taxes.]
*text within brackets extracted from Donald Shoup’s powerpoint presentation.