Cities innovative in addressing parking problems
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Finding a parking space in any major city in America is stressful. In spite of the increased use of public transportation and bicycles, city parking still represents a daily struggle for workers, shoppers and visitors.
Studies show that in some cities, drivers can expect to spend up to 45 minutes searching for a place to park. The problem is growing more significant each year.
Local businesses sacrifice customers. Emissions are increased significantly. Unhappy and stressed drivers are not respectful of pedestrians. City officials are seeking remedies. One way to make some of the stakeholders happy is through a new technology, dubbed "Smart Parking."
- The City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, recently partnered with a mobile application company to integrate some elements of smart parking. Visitors to the downtown area now have access to an app on their smartphones which allows users to extend or decrease time on a parking meter from their phones. The app is provided at no cost to the city and users are charged a 35 cent fee for the convenience.
- Santa Monica, California, implemented smart parking technology with a different goal in mind - increased efficiency. The city fronted a $4 million cost to install small disks in more than 6,000 parking spaces in the downtown area. The disks are able to detect if a car is parked in the spot and is able to reset the time on a meter when the car leaves. The new technology does not allow rollover funds. Initial analysis of this new program indicates that the city will take in $1.7 million a year in meter funds.
- The City of San Francisco used smart parking technology to alter the price of parking based on demand. The city installed small sensors in the downtown area. By tracking parking usage, the technology is programmed to increase parking fees in high demand areas and decrease fees in areas of low demand. The city hopes this will encourage both the exploration of alternative transportation and incentivize parking in less busy areas.
And, there are other innovative parking options being tested. Chicago made headlines recently because of a highly controversial effort to privatize all of the city’s parking meters. Under a plan worked out in 2008, the city leased its parking meters for 75 years in return for $1.15 billion in funding that was used to pay off other obligations. The private sector firm invested in new parking meter technology, raised parking fees and began collecting revenue according to the long-term contract. As tempers became more heated, an analysis of the program revealed that parking fees generated over the life of the contract will be 10 times higher than the amount paid to the city. Many residents have voiced objections to the city initiative. Despite the failure in Chicago, however, the city of New York is using the Chicago model to implement a similar public-private partnership for the city’s parking.