All major cities experience massive struggles with providing ample parking to their residents. Individuals who live in big cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC know all too well what a difficult and time consuming task it is to search for and find a parking spot.
Major cities have historically had to deal with the chronic shortage of parking spaces, whether in garages or on the street. Moreover, in most areas of most large cities, one has to pay for on-street parking on weekdays and Saturdays, whereas parking on Sundays is free.
Looking for parking is stressful and frustrating. The usual complaints of residents and guests in big cities trying to find parking are:
• there are not enough spaces;
• spaces are too far away;
• parking costs too much;
• I did not know where to park;
• I couldn’t find any parking so I had to double-park or park in an illegal spot;
• I thought I found a good spot but as it turned out I parked in an illegal spot; now I have a parking ticket / my car has been towed;
• I could not get a parking permit; and
• the parking staff at this garage is rude.
Any city (big cities especially) needs to provide convenient and affordable parking for its residents and visitors. Additionally, looking for a spot in a big city can add about 40% to city traffic. Obviously, providing more space is paramount, and there are multiple ways to do so.
1. Parking Facilities
Creating more facilities, either government- or private-owned is a common way to increase supply. These facilities are certainly expensive to build and maintain. The price to enter and use a parking facility needs to be justified in consumers’ eyes so that individuals will want to pay to park at a particular establishment.
Naturally, building more parking facilities not only adds to costs but also takes away space available previously for building houses or offices or other businesses. City officials need to balance housing and business needs versus parking needs of their residents. Moreover, officials and businesses must weigh carefully whether the new facilities will be used effectively, i.e., to full capacity.
2. Street Parking
Another way to increase supply is to increase on-street parking. Cities and local governments can design streets with parking lanes. Alternatively, officials can elect to convert some of the traffic lanes into parking lanes. Finally, officials can choose to minimize restrictions for on-street parking. As street parking is convenient, visible, and relatively inexpensive, it can help alleviate some of the parking concerns.
Disadvantages of adding more space for parking on the streets are clearly fewer traffic lanes which might lead to heavier traffic. Big cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, DC are already in the top 10 heaviest traffic cities in the United States. Therefore, in the cities where the traffic is already an issue, there needs to be a careful balance struck between potentially adding to traffic by adding more parking.
Any big city should also devise best practices for both garage uses and street parking. In Boston, for example, most streets in the downtown area are equipped with high-tech parking meters, which are said to have increased revenue by about 34%, as fewer meters are expired.
Similarly, in New York City, the ParkSmart project introduced time-variable meter pricing (higher rates during peak periods and lower rates off-peak). This project has led to higher revenue and fewer expired meters. In San Francisco, SFpark, based on the same variable timing-pricing model or demand pricing, has proved to be successful as well.