Implementing a Parking Strategy
By Cristina Lynn
The basic premise in thinking about implementing a parking strategy is simple: There is a limited parking supply and a growing (often uncontrolled) demand for parking. So how do we achieve order from Chaos?
The first thing to determine is whether there really is a problem:
Do we have a “chaos situation” that needs solving?
Is the problem real or perceived?
Often we at Australia-based Parking & Travel Consultants find that cities, universities, hospitals and shopping centers alike succumb to pressure by residents or clients: (There is not enough parking).
But when we start digging around and carrying out surveys, we find that the problem can be limited to specific times of the day or days in the week; whereas, the rest of the time sufficient parking spaces are available.
There is also the issue of the relative distance between the driver’s final destination and the nearest available space; this being subjective, it can result in a mismatch between different people as to what actually constitutes a problem.
To address the first issue, therefore, the most important thing is to “Do the Research”: Conduct regular occupancy and turnover surveys (at different times and on different days; and if you are in a tourist area, for example, in “high season” and low); engage with the customer base by conduct surveys to understand needs and behaviors; and consider not just the current situation, but the future across a 5- to 10-year time frame.
No action can be adequately undertaken without actually knowing what problem needs to be solved, if any. How often have we witnessed clients investing a significant amount of capital only to “turn off the system,” because it didn’t work (i.e., it did not solve the “problem”)? This is not only wasteful, but it sends a message that we don’t know what we are doing and are just throwing money at a situation.
Companies that supply systems and “solutions” need to engage with the client in order to ensure that its investment is worthwhile and provides measurable results; otherwise, what does it say about our industry? That we are willing to sell something that does not work just because someone is willing to pay for it?
Sorry, but that is unprofessional and unethical, and therefore unacceptable.
The second issue is one of priorities:
Who needs to use the available parking supply?
What are the relative needs and priorities?
How can the allocation be made in a fair and equitable way?
The chart above provides a list of the potential conflicting users
While the chart is for a city environment, a similar “pyramid of needs” can be built for universities, airports, hospitals and shopping centers.
When considering the implementation of a parking strategy, we at P&TC normally recommend three areas of study:
Improve use of current supply.
Consider travel demand management.
If all else fails, and only then, consider increasing supply.
Improve use of current supply
Review time restrictions: the usual rule of thumb is that the closer the destination, the shorter the parking time allowed and the longer the stay the further away the parking supply should be located.
Assess efficiency of current enforcement measures: parking strategies are only successful when appropriately enforced; the type of technology depends on the situation (electronic or manual chalking, LPR, perimeter control, etc)
Review pricing strategy: timing of implementing paid parking is critical since paid parking in off street car parks will not work whilst there is available unrestricted parking on street – this will lead to displacement onto outlying streets (domino effect). Appropriate pricing measures will increase turnover and can be used as a demand management tool.
Signage and wayfinding: location of available parking is not always well known, especially for non-frequent users; maximising utilisation entails the provision of reliable and up-to-date information through the use of dynamic signage, mobile phone parking apps, etc.
Travel Demand Management
Consider the deployment and expansion of measures such as:
Free shuttle buses (to and from remote parking areas for staff or to facilitate people moving around within a district).
Promoting walking and cycling for local trips (work with the local schools and other community groups, because the education process should start as early as possible).
Provide incentives to staff who take public transport instead
Don’t forget that more parking equals more traffic, more congestion and more stress.
The possibility of increasing supply may be affected by planning controls and the limited available sites. The issue of location is most important, because the construction of a multi-story carpark within a campus-style site (e.g., university or hospital) or within a local government area will be unlikely to satisfy the demand for parking by all users within that area.
Walking distances, weather issues, topographical terrain, and existing traffic flow and capacity constraints will all play a role in the successful location of new parking supply.
And, last but not least: Who pays? Carparks are expensive to build and maintain, and often result in the loss of public space and other alternative uses.
Preparing implementation plan
Once the parking strategy has been designed and approved, an implementation plan needs to be prepared. For each item in the strategy, the action items need to be documented, inclusive of allocated responsibilities and costs. A timetable of “Quick Wins,” “Medium Term” and “Longer Term” activities needs to be prepared and constantly reviewed.
Constant measurement and refining of the parking strategy and action items are essential steps that are often ignored (or understated). Outcomes need to be measured against predetermined benchmarks. Surveys need to be carried out to verify that the desired outcomes are achieved before the next steps are implemented.
Small forward steps are better than rushing to the end by expensive and hard-to-reverse mistakes.
This article is based on a presentation made by Australia-based Parking & Traffic Consultants Owner and Managing Partner Cristina Lynn, and colleagues Senior Consultant Kelvin Worthington and Consultant Mary Seymour, in mid-August,
at the inaugural Outlook Conference organized by the Parking Australia association. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.