Be Positive – Do Away With TDM
Most of my “parking” working life has been primarily about trying to optimize a parking operation by getting as many people into a well-run and attractive facility as possible. The single aim has been to achieve a high occupancy level, with a “tipping point” of too many customers demanding spaces, because the facility’s promotion and operations were too successful, then triggering a price rise.
That tipping point meant I could then put prices up and start the process of marketing all over again. It doesn’t always work that way, because occupancies and prices can go down too.
This is in a commercial environment and not a municipal environment that might not enjoy the freedoms from community outcomes that private facilities might. The commercial environment supposes you run each garage as a separate business and not as a single synchronous entity, and I have found that this has more pros than cons.
Transport Demand Management is about synchronizing not only each individual space and facility, but also each and every part of the transport program being – public transport, road corridors and parking. This tends to run against the ethos of competition between sites and companies, which means that it is doomed to failure straight away.
It supposes firstly that all parking operators will work together to achieve the lofty goals of TDM (they won’t). Secondly, it supposes that all parts of the TDM paradigm are working efficiently (they aren’t). Thirdly, it supposes that TDM will deliver more benefits to the community than competition does (it won’t).
TDM could be called – tongue in cheek – a type of socialist transport..
I tend to think of TDM as a “flow.” It deals with the flow of people into the city each day, almost like a river. At its source, the river starts quietly, gently working with gravity to go to a destination. As it picks up volume as more tributaries and estuaries join in, it is squeezed by its banks and forced to go where the banks want it to go.
The river may get a blockage every now and then, causing all sorts of flooding and chaos, as the river works its way to its destination. It can’t be stopped without major construction or investment. At the destination, the river is large and the combination of the collection of smaller flows all settle into the vast peaceful ocean.
Imagine how surprised I was when I started to work in a city environment, being surrounded by traffic engineers and transport planners who spoke about using parking as a transport demand management tool. To the layperson, this means artificially fiddling with the price at a facility or destination to discourage customers from parking and consequently to force them to take the bus, train, bicycle or suffer the fake prices.
In other words, they want to dam up the river as it flows to the sea.
Being a glass-half-full person, I could never understand how a city might successfully try to force people to travel by a transport mode through penalty and punishment, rather than the positive outcome of enticement, incentive
People will always travel where the incentives point them. Penalties require enforcement automatically, which means there will need to be a large administration of the punitive regime. Incentives require no such level of administration.
In Wikipedia, “transportation demand management, traffic demand management or travel demand management (all TDM) is the application of strategies and policies to reduce travel demand (specifically that of single-occupancy private vehicles), or to redistribute this demand” to other methods of travel.
I get this. I really do. This should be about encouraging a different method of travel through incentives, attractiveness of the product and lifestyle, or even competing values, not about hitting people over the head with the blunt mallet of pricing for parking.
In practical terms, this means that if people won’t use the bus
service because it is a poor option, then the city will force
us to use that bus service by hiking up parking prices through local taxes, the forced reduction of parking supply or redesigning road corridors to make car
Whatever method used, this is not acceptable to most people.
The answer is very simple. Run an awesome bus and train service, reconfigure the on-street parking to allow for transport options to flow smoothly through the Road Corridors (e.g., no on-street parking impediments), and then let parking operations respond to the left-overs in a well-run, efficient manner that offers a great service to those who must use a car. Incentivize those who use public transport with a faster, smoother and cheaper service, where a person’s “time-value” is revered.
Symptoms of a poorly run and designed public transport system and poorly configured road corridors are easy to spot. They are spiralling parking costs, circulating and double-parked traffic, and road corridors at a standstill during the peak hours – all due to rising parking demand.
Parking demand is the cleanest method of determining how well your public transport systems and road corridors are working and thought of by
This is an issue that should be solved in other areas upstream, so to speak, such as road corridors design and operations or in public transport operations, not parking operations. It feels very much like the upstream road corridor, public transport design and traffic operations have not been able to do their jobs well enough, and the result is to flush it on to parking operations to clean up!
This is designing a system to run inefficiently on purpose! A city municipality owes it to the taxpayers to run parking operations well, not to artificially run them poorly, on purpose.
Another challenge to TDM is the arrival of self-driving cars and the now increasing growth of electric vehicles. Self-driving cars may actually double the traffic into the city, as parking in the city not only competes with the time values of sitting on public transport, but also the costs of sending a car home or to a cheaper lot in the suburbs, awaiting the call to come into the city and pick up the owner. Cars could make four trips a day instead of the current two.
On the other hand, electric vehicles should be encouraged, as they don’t belch greenhouse gases. TDM is a blunt instrument that will not filter out desired vehicles, rather punish them all, missing the chance to incentivize the right behaviors.
In the coming modern world, “congestion charging” or “road tolling” – where users are charged based on when, where and how much they drive – is a better way of controlling travel demand. Why? Because electric vehicles can be singled out as those who can be incentivized to encourage this type of transport, while four-trip-a-day self-driving cars or fossil-fuelled cars will be discouraged.
However, the best methods of encouraging the type of behavior a city wants is to improve public transport, design better road corridors and allow the inner-city parking stakeholders to compete and be run efficiently.
Be positive – do away with TDM.
Kevin Warwood, a Parking Operations Designer based in New Zealand, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.