Parking Research and the University

Casey Jones over at the Parking Matters Blog brings up a good point. The Feds are investing a few million in transportation research. It is assumed that parking will be a part of that research. A number of major universities are being invited to participate. So far so good.  It is Casey’s hope that parking pros at these universities will be asked for input. Certainly a laudable thought.  My comment — Don’t hold your breath.

By definition, university research is insular. The egos involved with the PhD’s who run the research are huge. NIH (Not invented here) is present in spades.

When UC Berkeley ran a program a few years ago to study parking trends associated with the BART (San Francisco Light Rail) local parking folks were left at the starting gate. And of course, the study, which any parking person could have given the result in a nano second, was completed with the results exactly what parking predicted. The study was funded, we need to do the study. Logic be dammed.

The IPI has been calling for cities and universities to involve parking when decisions affecting them are made. This is beginning to happen, as the organizations have discovered to their peril that ignoring parking input can be disastrous.  Of course, that is in the real world. Research can be different.

Government funded programs often take on a life of their own. The mission is lost in the activity that is the body of the research. I notice that the Mineta Transportation Institute is tasked with ” “transportation research, workforce development, technology transfer and education.” I don’t see parking listed at all.

“Transportation” is sexy. It infers light rail, airplanes (San Jose Airport was named after Secretary Mineta), automobile technology, and the like. Parking is not. Parking can be mundane, dirty, and shutter, profit oriented.

I agree that parking should ‘demand’ a place at the table. But I think that it might be more successful if some of our more learned parking pros like Barbara Chance, PhD, and Bob Harkins, Ed.D, involved in the process. The work they have done to acquire their doctorates can be an entry into the halls of academia, plus they are really smart folks.


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6 Responses to Parking Research and the University

  1. It’s interesting that JVH would note that the Mineta Transportation Institute doesn’t do any research regarding parking. If he (she?) had visited our web site and done even a rudimentary search of our research documents, at least three recent studies would have popped up immediately:

    Residential On-Site Carsharing and Off-Street Parking Policy in the San Francisco Bay Area, by Dr Charles Rivasplata, et al

    Amenity or Necessity? Street Standards as Parking Policy, by Dr Zhan Guo, et al

    Carsharing and Public Parking Policies: Assessing Benefits, Costs, and Best Practices in North America, by Dr Susan Shaheen, et al

    MTI also has conducted public meetings regarding parking issues, including one where the presenters asked if free parking is really free.

    We are sure that this was a small oversight on JVH’s part, but he or she is welcome to access these reports. All of them are free to download.

    • JVH says:

      Hey Donna — I didn’t say that MTI did no research in parking, I said that the word “parking” wasn’t in your name. As an industry we always seem to be lumped in with something else, whether its transportation, or urban affairs, or parks and recreation. Our industry hasn’t reached the point where it stands on its own.
      That being said, the point of the post was that researchers at universities never seem to reach outside their disciplines to find people what have real world experience. The list of papers you note above proves my point. All the authors come from academia.
      PS — I am a “he”.

    • JVH says:

      Oh and one more thing — Two of the studies you list have little or nothing to do with parking, but have to do with car sharing. A laudable pursuit, but they don’t really touch on the issues of on street parking, its relationship to congestion, and the use of different models, including pricing, to alleviate the parking problems in urban settings. Nor do they address the problems of minimum parking requirements and how they affect the upgrading or renovation of blighted central cities.

      • Thanks, JVH, for the clarification. Your original post did read as if MTI did nothing with parking: “I notice that the Mineta Transportation Institute is tasked with ‘transportation research, workforce development, technology transfer and education.’ I don’t see parking listed at all.” Our mission statement also doesn’t mention buses, bicycles, pedestrians, transit security, funding/finance, emergency management, etc etc. But all of those are implied under the “transportation research” umbrella. A mission statement, by definition, is condensed.

        Parking is part of transportation. And parking problems can be alleviated with car sharing, I’m sure you’d agree. Several people sharing one car reduces the need for parking several cars. And if you read the biographies of these researchers, not all are strictly academics. But if they were, why is that a problem? The purpose of a research institute is to provide unbiased data that can be used by those who create policy, planning, legislation, etc. Researchers (who often are academics) compile data in a way that can be scientifically verified as accurate. It is up to the practitioners to use that data in the best way possible. This is what is meant by “technology transfer” — that an organization provides (or transfers) the information necessary to create a finished product. We do not create that product ourselves.

        Thanks for the discussion.

  2. Parking is one the industry with the less number of analytics available. It would be interesting to know the outcomes. There is a lot of roam for improvement in the processes and reduce the operating costs. Not sure, if there is any comparative study available to look at the parking business model.

  3. To San Francisco it takes a lot more public parking

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