Please Feed The Meters
January 28, 2013 7:11 AM   Subscribe

The Next Parking Revolution

Whose Parking Regime Reigns Supreme? LA, SF, and NYC Compare Notes
Previously:
The High Cost Of Free Parking
The Price Of Parking
posted by the man of twists and turns (40 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Amen, parking lots make cities largely unlivable.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:27 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in a smallish (~10k) town and parking is a snap. I get to work early so parking is a snap.

But when I go to the library in the town where I work, it is a nightmare. The traffic. The parking. Dear lord. I want to kill all of humanity because it takes me an hour to drop off a book.

Yet Another Reason I'll Never Move To A Bigger City. Unless public transit actually becomes workable.
posted by DU at 7:32 AM on January 28, 2013


I don't know if I'm comfortable with the idea of variable parking meter rates. As with congestion-based tolling, I think it instills the idea that you can get more/better access to public services by simply paying more. There's something very democratic about having a single rate for finite resource even if there are those who are willing to pay ten times as much for the privilege of using that resource.

I also think this is the easy way out. Instead of actually investing in the infrastructure that might obviate the parking problem (i.e. more public transit), this kind of scheme leaves it to those who aren't willing to pay an increased rate for a parking spot nearer their destinations to find their own creative solutions. Sometimes market forces are good, but sometimes they end up punishing those who can't be as flexible with their routines.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whose Parking Regime Reigns Supreme?

Not Chicago's!
posted by goethean at 7:42 AM on January 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Unless public transit actually becomes workable.

Nice Nash equilibrium you've got there. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it...
posted by tychotesla at 7:43 AM on January 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yet Another Reason I'll Never Move To A Bigger City. Unless public transit actually becomes workable.

The two sizes that the US seems to get decently right are towns under 10,000 people and a few of the much larger cities (but not their suburbs). That intermediate size where the city is just big enough to have terrible traffic, but has absolutely no public transit? That sucks.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:45 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would wager over half of my city's acreage is devoted to surface parking, and I don't think we're alone in that. (I'm not really sure how I could calculate it without spending a lot more time than I care to.)
posted by asperity at 7:46 AM on January 28, 2013


Very interesting article. One thing brought up was the idea that off-street parking should be cheaper than on-street parking, which would help free up on-street parking which would help the retail stores that rely on there existing easy and available parking. However, my experience has shown the off-street parking (garages, etc.) are just as expensive as on-street, yet are farther away. Therefore, most people will still drive around looking for on-street parking.
posted by eas98 at 7:51 AM on January 28, 2013


I would wager over half of my city's acreage is devoted to surface parking

...the percentages aren't that high, but they're high enough to ruin the urban experience (which has direct negative economic consequences):

http://oldurbanist.blogspot.com/2011/12/we-are-25-looking-at-street-area.html
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:51 AM on January 28, 2013


When you think about the dimensions involved, parking is pretty insane. I can expect to find a vacant ~85 square feet to put my vehicle within a short walk of anywhere I want to go, almost always for "free". I guess expensive parking and congestion pricing are regressive but so is the status quo and I think cities would better serve their low-income populations, many of who are already car-less, by treating driving more like the luxury it is and focusing on a mission of efficiently moving people, not people strapped to 3000 lbs of metal.
posted by ghharr at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I celebrate PARK(ing) Day, where we pay the meter to allow a temporary public park.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:11 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


“The parking meter and the price of parking is a tremendously powerful tool that cities can use to see their downtowns thrive.”

A lot of these articles seem to be built on the presumption that that downtown is somewhere people actually want to go.
My particular city is in the midst of a multi-year rebuild of its downtown core. They've made (many) mistakes along the way, but one of the smartest things they've done is to remove the parking meters from a largish portion of downtown.

Congestions parking is wonderful if you've got the demand to make it worthwhile. If your city is teetering on the edge, however, playing games with the parking just makes people head out to the mall.
posted by madajb at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The parking meter is the opposite of the speedometer, measuring the rate at which the vehicle stands still.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:34 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've found Car2Go to be an awesome alternative to transit and private vehicles, for areas where neither are really practical.

Fixed-guideway transit for major commuting patterns, point-to-point carsharing for the remainder. Urban parking/traffic solved. QED.
posted by schmod at 8:40 AM on January 28, 2013


However, my experience has shown the off-street parking (garages, etc.) are just as expensive as on-street, yet are farther away. Therefore, most people will still drive around looking for on-street parking.

Around here in New Haven, you have the bizarre situation where they don't want to add another shift of street parking enforcers, so street parking is free after 9 PM (used to be 7 PM), while the garages charge all night since they only need one attendant. Plus any residents in the downtown nightlife area have an incentive to take up spots all night if they can get them, since it's cheaper than garaging your car. Quite a mess.
posted by smackfu at 8:47 AM on January 28, 2013


The two sizes that the US seems to get decently right are towns under 10,000 people and a few of the much larger cities (but not their suburbs).

I'd argue that you can restrict the second category further, to "dense urban centers that laid out their public-transit infrastructure more than fifty years ago." I don't know of a city that has installed a subway or light-rail system in the past 25 years that would be dubbed a "good" public transit system. And since the description assumes a binary state (i.e. if you have a sort-of-OK transit system, you have a bad system that no one wants to use, because it doesn't go everywhere you'd want to go or it takes 3 hours to get there), you get NYC/Boston/DC/Chicago, and you get everywhere else, because no one wants to spend huge sums of money on a public transit system that isn't heavily used.

It also borders on logistically impossible to build a new transit system today, since most of the tools that made it possible a hundred years ago (specifically eminent domain, but also a public consciousness that infrastructure spending is a good and useful thing) have been undermined so severely that I'm not able to imagine a situation where the mayor of (say) Des Moines would come out and say "we're going to spend $15 billion and tear up big parts of the city over the span of ten years in order to install a world-class subway system." The end goal would be great, but there are a half dozen ways the idea would be torpedoed before anyone broke ground.
posted by Mayor West at 8:51 AM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of the real breakthroughs in parking meter tech is the smartphone app that will guide you directly to an available parking space near your goal. I believe Santa Monica, CA has got this up and running. It turns out that a quite incredible amount of the car traffic on downtown streets is just people cruising for parks--even when spaces just a block or two away from the main downtown roads are sitting empty. I think if you could scale up a solution like that you could have an enormous impact not just on parking but on smog and carbon emissions too.
posted by yoink at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was shocked at the mindless frothing from business owners here in Dover, NH when they added parking meters a while back. I know this is New Hampshire and we're ready to revolt at a moment's notice but parking meters were The End of All Business and the Devil's Tool and an obvious effort by box stores to kill Downtown Main Street USA. I tried to engage with a local business on Facebook (almost entirely by accident as I was talking to what turned out to be a mutual friend of this madman) and was quickly reminded why politics is fucked in this country by too-sure morons defending a hill they picked without thought.

It's two years later. Downtown's still there and a friend has brought his valet service into town because enough people are trying to eat downtown on the weekend and having trouble parking.
posted by yerfatma at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2013


I know this is New Hampshire and we're ready to revolt at a moment's notice but parking meters were The End of All Business and the Devil's Tool and an obvious effort by box stores to kill Downtown Main Street USA.

And over here, it's the complete opposite.
'If you get rid of the parking meters, then our employees will park too close all day and there won't be any room for customers!"
posted by madajb at 9:37 AM on January 28, 2013


In one of the neighbourhoods of my smallish city (30,000 residents, with about 350,000 people in the region), merchants are up in arms because of militant parking fines. There's basically no parking save for about 20 spots in a revitalized "urban village", although there are a number of spaces reserved for residents up one of the secondary boulevards.

It's impossible to change the parking situation because of the opposition of a vocal minority. I guess it's a big deal because bus service to the neighbourhood, while regular, is also not all that great for people wanting to catch a play at the popular playhouse. Taking the bus there would also take fricking forever, easily 4X as long as it would take to drive.

Walking would be an option, but there's just not enough critical mass in neighbouring "urban villages" to figure out someplace else to park and walk over. It's a bit of a shame, since the neighbourhood has really been resurrected over the past decade, and is a real gem.

But if the pub or the grocery store have to close because of not enough patrons, the place could easily fade away.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 AM on January 28, 2013


I know this is New Hampshire and we're ready to revolt at a moment's notice but parking meters were The End of All Business and the Devil's Tool and an obvious effort by box stores to kill Downtown Main Street USA.

This is funny to me because I've lived places where I am 100% sure if they put in parking meters people would immediately denounce it as a Yankee way of doing things just like lotteries and charging for refills.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:43 AM on January 28, 2013


I've been watching San Francisco's variable parking with some interest. In most cases, there are areas where the parking rate has gone down, and the system as a whole is cheaper. And local variations are even more interesting. One trial area is in the Mission, along two parallel roads, Mission and Valencia between 16th and about 26th (as well as some cross streets). The whole area once had the same rate. What has happened is that rates have adjusted so that parking on Valencia (full of cool hipster establishments) is much more expensive than parking on Mission (a mostly working class Hispanic shopping street, and one with a lot of buses). Rates seem to be lower near the BART stations at the north and south ends of the pilot program. At all times, there is at least some parking at the former rate, and in mornings especially, there is much cheaper parking available (in the afternoons, it's mostly more expensive).

There's something very democratic about having a single rate for finite resource even if there are those who are willing to pay ten times as much for the privilege of using that resource.

There's an invisible cost to free or cheaper-than-demand parking, though. People driving around, circling for spots. This takes valuable time, and it creates massive congestion in the area. It hurts people who have less flexible schedules, and it adds cost in terms of wasted gas -- and also passes that cost on to people who are just passing through. Once you consider gas and time, increasing parking prices may actually be cheaper to people -- and that's not considering that prices may go down in less desirable locations. Instead of paying $3 an hour and having to circle to find a spot, some people may prefer to only spend $1 an hour and walk a block. I suppose denying them that ability is democratic in one sense. There's always a difficult balance between equity and efficiency in transportation systems, but in this case it's a massive efficiency boost (up to 50% of drivers in some places can be driving around, searching for parking) for a modest equity change. And I'm not sure that going from "everybody pays the same in terms of money and wasted time and gas" to "some people pay in money and some people pay in walking time" is actually a significant equity loss.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's something very democratic about having a single rate for finite resource even if there are those who are willing to pay ten times as much for the privilege of using that resource.

I would trade $1 parking and a nice feeling of democratic togetherness for $10 parking and 9 more dollars per space per hour to spend on public transit.
posted by ghharr at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Parking meters and concert tickets are beautiful little object lessons in how fixed prices, especially of the artificially low variety, wreak havoc on markets.

It's nice that the parking meter variety of that lesson has graduated from "failure we can't solve" to "opportunity to innovate."
posted by MattD at 11:23 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


It also borders on logistically impossible to build a new transit system today

I don't think this is true at all. In fact I would say that city planners are more interested in transit -- viewed heterogeneously -- than I can remember. Rather than the magical monorail Simpsons style, there's a broadening understanding of how transit, and particularly transit-oriented development and urban planning policies favoring density and disparate uses, can help a city thrive over the long term. In most cases I know of the obstacle is primarily funding-based.

For example, it looks like Illinois, by starting with federal stimulus funding for high-speed rail and adding some of their own, is building out from an already above-average passenger rail network to cities investing in transit hubs and multi-modal transportation visions. One of the newer concepts is bus rapid transit.

That said, I don't see why Des Moines needs a subway. They wanted light rail, but the state legislature wouldn't help them fund it. Still, they're making do. The real counterexample, though, is Houston -- supposedly the bete noire of planning and urbanization as in the UR DOIN IT ALL RONG sense -- having built a light rail system [wikipedia because their website is shouty]. I mean, if Houston can do it, probably anybody can -- the hoops are mainly political rather than practical.
posted by dhartung at 11:49 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd argue that you can restrict the second category further, to "dense urban centers that laid out their public-transit infrastructure more than fifty years ago." I don't know of a city that has installed a subway or light-rail system in the past 25 years that would be dubbed a "good" public transit system. And since the description assumes a binary state (i.e. if you have a sort-of-OK transit system, you have a bad system that no one wants to use, because it doesn't go everywhere you'd want to go or it takes 3 hours to get there), you get NYC/Boston/DC/Chicago, and you get everywhere else, because no one wants to spend huge sums of money on a public transit system that isn't heavily used.

one answer to this is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The american (usa anyway) version of this is to use any available ROW to make seperate bus lanes and if that isn't possible to incorporate bus traffic in with the regular car traffic and adjust schedules to fit any congestion. Here in the Eugene/Springfield area (Western Oregon) it is working pretty good. It cost a fraction of light rail/subway and can be built much faster. It still faces opposition but the two legs that have currently gone in work pretty well and ridership rates are higher than was expected much faster. It makes riding the bus actually not horrible. And some of the opposition seems to boil down to how dare poor people have something nice...which is unfortunate.
posted by bartonlong at 11:49 AM on January 28, 2013


And some of the opposition seems to boil down to how dare poor people have something nice...which is unfortunate.

BRT is being planned for Nashville and the proposed route would run from the more traditionally poor east side to the edge of Belle Meade, the old-money enclave. The response is...not great.
posted by ghharr at 11:54 AM on January 28, 2013


I don't know of a city that has installed a subway or light-rail system in the past 25 years that would be dubbed a "good" public transit system.

I was happy with Portland, Oregon's system, as a visitor at least.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:32 PM on January 28, 2013


And some of the opposition seems to boil down to how dare poor people have something nice...which is unfortunate.

Well, that and the remarkably undiplomatic way they've chosen to roll out the latest bit.
posted by madajb at 1:43 PM on January 28, 2013


I don't know of a city that has installed a subway or light-rail system in the past 25 years that would be dubbed a "good" public transit system.

Dubbed "good" by whom? Transit ridership per capita in Seattle (first LRT opened 2003), Denver (first LRT opened 1994) and Portland (first LRT opened 1986) are all up around 50% since 1990, are approaching the rates seen in Chicago and Philadelphia, and have passed the rates seen in Atlanta (going off your implication that rail is the only way to have a good transit system). And I'll note that Washington DC's metro opened closer to 25 than 50 years ago.

(And although it's Canadian, the LRT here in Calgary first opening in 1981 has been a success to the point that the biggest technical problem is expanding capacity to meet the demand for rides, and the biggest political problem is the two parts of the city without LRT arguing over who gets it first. Our overall ridership is now well ahead of Chicago levels, closing in on Boston and Washington levels. And I'll tip the cap to the folks in Vancouver, who have had massive success with their SkyTrain, first opened in 1985.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2013


Oh, and I was assuming you meant US city with a rail transit system built in the last 25 years, because China. And 90% of Seoul. And Singapore. (The world's 5th most used subway didn't exist 17 years ago. The 7th most used system is only 15 years old. For scale, the world's 6th most used system is New York.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2013


One of the real breakthroughs in parking meter tech is the smartphone app that will guide you directly to an available parking space near your goal. I believe Santa Monica, CA has got this up and running

Way to promote that, Santa Monica! I live and work in SM and had no idea. Admittedly I don't have to worry about parking at either home or work and I try to bike around town as much as possible, but still... this looks very useful!
posted by flaterik at 2:16 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


You have to read 85% of the article entitled "Please Feed The Meters: The Next Parking Revolution" before you actually get to the revolution (Charge fair market prices for on-street parking) - 1973 words into 2319. Surely he could have parked closer.
posted by achrise at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2013


Speaking of santa monica, I heard a SM city council meeting on the radio where they were talking about pricing the parking garages. At the time, I was paying monthly to park in the mostly empty garage just off the 10 freeway, the most inconvenient garage to park in if you were going to the main shopping areas. One presenter to the city council made the point that the most convenient hourly parking garages in the city were also the cheapest (actually free for ~2 hours), whereas less convenient parking garages like the one I used were more expensive (and had no free parking at all). I certainly played the game of knowing where the free parking was and moving my car around to avoid having to pay.

They have since reformed the system, although I no longer live there so I don't know how it works.
posted by ianhattwick at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2013


One of the real breakthroughs in parking meter tech is the smartphone app that will guide you directly to an available parking space near your goal. I believe Santa Monica, CA has got this up and running

I was at SM City parking meeting a few weeks ago and the businesses hate the new meters because you can no longer add money to an expiring meter (due to sensors I think.) One dentist had to petition the city to increase the meters on his street to two hours because his patients kept getting tickets. I live in DTSM and have monthly parking in one of the structures but I walk or ride my bike almost everywhere because it's just easier.

Also, as far as I know meters still don't refund you for time you don't use. Jerks.


On preview, they're still trying to work out the pricing problems ianhattwick spoke of. It was so below market value that they're making quarterly changes, but I think the goal is to have pricing parity with Beverly Hills and Westwood. I really hope that Expo rail will make a huge difference.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:26 PM on January 28, 2013



Yet Another Reason I'll Never Move To A Bigger City. Unless public transit actually becomes workable.

This is an odd thing to say, seeing as how many, many people live in bigger cities and exclusively use public transit- which is pretty much the definition of "workable". It may not be workable for you in whatever configuration exists in a particular city, but that doesn't mean that public transit generally is not workable.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:56 PM on January 28, 2013


People driving around, circling for spots. This takes valuable time, and it creates massive congestion in the area. It hurts people who have less flexible schedules, and it adds cost in terms of wasted gas -- and also passes that cost on to people who are just passing through.

The last time I went to SF, my friend was circling and circling around for over a half hour trying to park anywhere close to where we were going to eat before finally giving up and going home. Fun times.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:11 PM on January 28, 2013


Yet Another Reason I'll Never Move To A Bigger City. Unless public transit actually becomes workable.
You mean like most large cities in Europe and Asia? I live in London and I don't own a car.

There are probably about 3 times a year when I kinda wish I had a car. - those 3 times when say you'd like to go out to B&Q or IKEA and buy something big that will be a hassle to bring home by public transport or by courier. - Instead of buying a car I have it delivered.

Even in London I get a bit pissed off that so many concessions are made to drivers and their cars but so few are made to cyclist or pedestrians.
posted by mary8nne at 7:33 AM on January 29, 2013


MBA: The Right Price For Parking
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:11 PM on February 2, 2013


Wooing Suburban Drivers With Cheap Parking - A Losing Strategy For Cities
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:47 AM on February 26, 2013


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