Focus on On street Parking - Managing On Street Parking in a Tourist Destination City
February, 2002Who's parking on your streets? Shoppers? Office workers? Residents? Probably all three and at least 15 other groups not mentioned. But if you're responsible for parking at a destination city, you have a special demographic thrown into the mix -- tourists.
Tourists visit your town with money to spend, which is a good thing. More often than not, they're also driving a vehicle. This can present a parking office with a few challenges.
Tourists are not familiar with your city, let alone where to park. And, if they're not from your country, they might not have the correct currency to feed a meter or use a pay and display machine.
Understanding the parkers, their needs and the resources you have available will improve your on street parking program. Tracking who is parking where, for how long, and why is a start. With this information, you can begin to fine-tune your operations and determine what steps you need to take for improvement.
The city of Boulder, CO, and Canada's resort municipality of Whistler are two destination cities with unique parking needs. However, both are proactively using information management to develop special incentives and educational opportunities that help control on street parking.
Downtown Boulder is not only the home to the internationally known Pearl Street Mall; it also has a vibrant business district and a large residential population. There are approximately 1,900 short-term parking spaces found at on street meters, metered parking lots, and parking structures.
Boulder's goal is to balance the parking requirements of residents, businesses and visitors.
According to Dave Bradford, enforcement supervisor with the City of Boulder, the combination of people living, working and visiting the area requires neighborhood involvement and special programs aimed at people working downtown.
"We try to accommodate everyone," says Bradford. "We have short-term parking and long-term metered parking available in downtown, with free, timed parking available just a few blocks away."
At the core of the city's parking operation is the residential permit program, a program designed to allow on street parking for homeowners or tenants. Residents work with the city to have their neighborhood included in the Neighborhood Parking Permit zone.
"Residential permits are $12 per vehicle, with two free visitor permits per resident," Bradford says. "This reduces parking congestion."
With visible residential permit hangtags, parking enforcement officers can easily identify the vehicles legally allowed to park. Vehicles not displaying these permits and parking for more than two hours receive a citation.
Boulder's parking services department also encourages downtown commuters to leave their cars at home, freeing up even more on street parking.
"Downtown employees can get a free pass for our mass transit system," says Bradford. The city uses funds collected through parking meters to underwrite this program.
Whistler is a ski resort community located northeast of Vancouver, BC. While the city has approximately 235 on street metered parking spaces; more than 2,000 other free parking spots are available.
Balancing the needs of tourists and the local population is the focus of their parking program. At its heart is education and enforcement.
"Citation issuance at our meters has definitely led to increased compliance," says Sandra Smith, Bylaw Services Supervisor at the municipality. "With handheld ticketwriters, we are able to track repeat offenders and when we spot those, their cars are towed."
With this heightened level of enforcement, officers now issue fewer parking tickets. But the on street pay and display revenue has increased by about 45 percent.
"Our officers are still patrolling, but now they also have time to serve as community ambassadors," Smith reports.
Smith also added that visitors can buy a parking coupon and use the time at any of the city's lots. If the visitor has to go to the other side of town, that same parking coupon is honored until the time on it expires.
As with Boulder, Whistler also has an excellent public transit system and Smith hopes to get more local residents out of their cars and onto the public transit system. She is currently working with a local ski corporation to provide transit passes along with their seasonal ski passes.
Whistler has also developed a comprehensive parking communication initiative targeted at tourists. Through the local television station, the city airs information about where and how to park. They also work with the hotels to provide information to their guests.
"We're looking at a group of people that's not familiar with the area," explains Smith. "We're constantly educating and our message must be clear and concise."
Lynn Braddock is the customer support manager at T2 Systems, Inc. and has more than 20 years of parking management experience. Before joining T2, Lynn was the parking manager at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Northern Illinois University.