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Demand responsive parking pricing is awesome!

One of the key initiatives in Auckland Transport’s Parking Discussion Document is the expansion of “demand responsive parking pricing” beyond just the city centre and out into places where people struggle to find a parking spot at the moment. Here’s how it’s described in the document:

As Auckland grows, the demand for the limited supply of on-street space will intensify. It is important that this demand is managed to ensure customers can access parking and to avoid congestion. This is especially the case in centres, where pressure for on-street space will be most acute.

Internationally, 85% peak parking occupancy is the accepted benchmark that provides the ideal balance between use and availability. It means that the parking is well used but some spaces are still available (one in seven spaces should be vacant) so that vehicles do not cruise the streets looking for parking, thereby adding to congestion. Time limits will be sufficient in some areas to achieve this level of occupancy. However in busier areas priced parking will be more appropriate.

Prices make people consider their use of parking and encourages turnover. The use of prices without time limits is also more convenient for users as it gives customers the choice to park for as long as they need. Since people are able to pay for the time they require evidence shows that there will be a reduced likelihood of infringements.

This idea is based on the analysis of parking guru Donald Shoup. Under this approach the goal is to achieve a level of parking availability that’s around “one spot per block” (applied as 85% by Auckland Transport) and to use pricing as the key tool for achieving this level of availability.

There are a number of clever things about this, including:

  • It’s very clear how pricing is being used as a tool for demand management rather than a revenue raiser.
  • If the price is too high and it’s putting people off parking, then it will drop down over time so that utilisation returns to around the 85% mark.
  • If there are no parking spots available regularly, then the price will rise but only so far as to free up a few spots so that once again it’s possible to find a parking spot.

As noted above, Auckland Transport has been using this approach in the City Centre for quite a while now – and it’s been pretty successful, perhaps particularly in reducing the clutter of signage that was previously used to show where and how long you can park. The system still seem pretty low-tech, especially when compared to where San Francisco is going with their SFPark scheme – which shares many similarities with what’s proposed in the Parking Discussion Document:

Another approach that has been used internationally to grow support for demand responsive pricing is the reinvestment of money raised in the very communities where the parking charges occur. This is exactly what happened in Old Pasadena, in Los Angeles – as nicely described in this article - which essentially highlights how the parking revenue pretty much saved and revitalised the town centre. Providing local business associations with the revenue from paid parking, or clearly hypothecating the revenue to streetscape upgrades where the money is raised seems like a great way of growing support for the changes too.

For now though, what’s proposed in the Parking Discussion Document is a great start – as clearly the current approach to parking in Auckland doesn’t work well in those areas with highest demand.

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