Demand Based Pricing and “Basic Human Traits”

Cities are lining up to use supply and demand to set their parking rates.  This is of course how they should be set. But there is a problem. When gas stations raise or lower prices, there are huge signs telling their prospective customers what the new price is.  That price can mean whether or not I turn in to one station or drive a few feet further to another.

When the prices for on street pricing change from block to block, will I consider walking a few more feet in order to save even potentially a lot of money. Sure, if I know about it, or if I have the time, or if I’m not lazy.

Consider the first issue — if I know about it.  We have seen that in SF PARK, the raising of rates on one block face has made little difference in the number of free spaces. This means that people are ignoring the higher pricing and parking there anyway. It could also mean that when a person get out of their car and goes to the meter, credit card in hand, and finds that it costs $4 an hour to park, they shrug and simply say ‘hell, I’ll pay it, I don’t want to go to the trouble to move. Plus, how do you know there’s cheaper parking a few blocks away?

Studies have shown that people just don’t want to walk in some circumstances, but will walk miles in others.  They won’t walk two blocks to see their dentist, but will walk half a mile to see their favorite baseball team play.  Human nature.

Will people make the decision to park a few block away and walk?  First they have to know they have a choice.  Second it had better not be raining, or snowing, or cold, or hot, or….Well you get the idea.

To change a person’s behavior, you need to have a motivation that is more powerful, perhaps, than a few dollars difference in parking charges.  Will cities have the courage to charge $30 an hour ( like in NYC) to motivate people to park elsewhere or take rapid transit?

Time will tell.


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