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Smart Growth

Some Recent Parking Policy Studies and References

Contact Valerie Knepper at if you have other studies you would like posted here.

Regional Parking Strategies for Climate Protection

MTC, January 2010

The purpose of this paper is to provide expert recommendations for immediate and longer-term regional parking policies for the Bay Area, with information about potential timing, criteria for selecting particular policies, expected effectiveness, and approaches to addressing implementation issues. While a number of communities have demonstrated the efficacy of parking management and innovation through simple reforms to local parking policies and management practices that have made a big difference, widespread local adoption of such necessary reforms is unlikely to occur without coordinated action at the regional level. There are several key reasons why voluntary local actions may not provide sufficient regional change, including the perception by cities that they need to compete for retail customers through the use of free parking, neighborhood concerns about the potential for “spillover” impacts, and the lack of local constituencies in favor of pricing parking and parking reform due to the largely hidden nature of parking subsidies. These local barriers could be largely overcome with a regional framework based approach to parking management that coordinates policies within travel corridors, levels the playing field across city and county boundaries, and facilitates coordination with other regional strategies to support more climate friendly land use and transportation, including MTC/ABAG’s station area planning, the FOCUS program, the Air District’s indirect source rule, MTC Resolution 3434 TOD requirements, and other policies to support non-auto modes of travel and supportive land uses.

A Commuter’s Dilemma: Extra Cash or Free Parking?

Legislative Analyst Office, Elizabeth Hill, Rebecca Long

This LAO report examines the factors that influence commuting behavior, with an emphasis on how free parking affects commute choices. It discusses California’s parking cash-out law, in particular, the law’s scope, its impact at specific locations, its potential impact on congestion and air quality, factors that have delayed the law’s implementation, and recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the parking cash-out law.

The study includes key studies of the impact of parking costs on travel behavior, such as at five locations in Los Angeles and Ottawa, Canada, a 1990 study of commute behavior used a case study approach to compare travel behavior among two groups:

  • Employees before and after employer paid parking was eliminated.
  • Employees in similar locations with and without employer-paid parking.

The study found that solo driving fell by an average of 41 percent among the five locations when employees had to pay to park. Additionally, the total number of automobiles driven to work fell by between 15 percent to 38 percent when employees had to pay to park.

It also cites a 2000 survey of Bay Area commuters that found stark differences in travel behavior among commuters with and without access to free parking. Specifically, as shown in Figure 2, the survey found that while 77 percent of commuters drive alone when free parking is available, only 39 percent drive alone when they have to pay to park. Additionally, among commuters with free parking, only 4.8 percent commute by transit. By contrast, among commuters without free parking, 42 percent commute by transit. While many factors—such as access to reliable transit service and travel time—influence a person’s commute decision, the magnitude of these differences suggests that the presence of free parking plays an important role.

A Parking Utilization Survey of Transit-Oriented Development Residential Properties in Santa Clara County

In the Spring of 2010, a graduate class at San José State University in Urban and Regional Planning teamed up with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to study parking at transit-oriented development (TOD) residential projects in the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area. By observing the parking utilization rates at 12 housing developments near VTA light rail and Caltrain stations, this collaborative research effort produced valuable, local evidence that the parking supply at projects of this type exceeds actual demand. And in corroborating recent research which demonstrated that other TOD residential properties in the Bay Area are also “overparked” (Cervero 2009), the study provides useful evidence to help inform decision makers that less parking can and ought to be required for housing projects that are located near rail transit service.

Are Suburban TODs Over-Parked?

Robert Cervero, Arlie Adkins, and Cathleen Sullivan University of California, Berkeley

Abstract:  A survey of 31 multi-family housing complexes near rail stations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, show peak parking demand is 25-30 percent below supplies and, for most projects, falls below national standards. Peak parking demand is generally less for less expansive projects with short walking distances to rail stations that enjoy frequent peak-period services. Case study experiences suggest that well designed, short and direct walking paths to rail stops lessen peak parking. A national survey of 80 U.S. cities with rail stations revealed that 75 percent have minimum TOD parking requirements that mandate more parking than suburban design standards and 39 percent grant variances for housing projects near rail stops.

SFpark Overview

Launching this spring 2011, SFMTA’s SFpark project is a two-year federally funded pilot of new parking management technologies and approaches. Less circling and fewer double-parked cars give us cleaner air and safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians. With less traffic, public transit and emergency vehicles move more easily.

Europe’s Parking U-Turn:  From Accommodation to Regulation

This report examines European parking management over the last half century, through the prism of ten case studies. Parking management has been an effective policy tool to improve the quality of city centers and surrounding areas, saving time and money for shoppers, residents, commuters, and business owners alike. Parking can be managed through economic and regulatory mechanisms, the implementation of certain physical designs, as well as quality of service contracting. This report examines all four of these strategies.

Evaluating Seattle Parking Tax Options, December 2010

Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute and Daniel Carlson, Aaron Blumenthal, John Lee, Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington

Abstract: This report describes and evaluates parking tax options for possible implementation by the City of Seattle. A commercial parking tax is a special tax on priced parking. A nonresidential parking tax (NRPT) is a special tax that applies to both unpriced and priced parking. Commercial parking taxes discourage the pricing of parking and concentrate impacts in a few areas. Non-residential parking taxes distribute cost burdens more broadly, encourage property owners to manage parking supply more efficiently, which tends to reduce total parking costs, reduce automobile traffic, and reduce sprawl. Although non-residential parking taxes are more challenging to implement, they tend to support more of Seattle’s strategic planning objectives.

Parking Pricing and Curbside Management in New York City

Bruce Schaller, Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Sustainability, New York City Department of Transportation

Abstract: Parking pricing is often seen as a promising way to better manage parking demand and reduce traffic congestion. New York City implemented pricing strategies for commercial loading in the dense Manhattan business district in the early 2000s, and for on-street metered parking along retail and commercial corridors in residential neighborhoods through a series of pilots beginning in 2008. This paper discusses the role of these parking strategies in the context of the varied demands on curb space in different areas of New York City, and then focuses on the peak-rate parking pilots. These pilots are among the first of recent parking pricing initiatives in major U.S. cities to show documented results. Experience from these pilots demonstrates that on-street parking pricing can be effective in achieving goals of increased turnover and availability of spaces, although in different ways depending on neighborhood conditions such as existing levels of parking demand and availability of off-street parking. The pilots show the importance of community outreach and engagement in the planning, implementation and evaluation of pricing strategies. Finally, surveys of drivers conducted as part of the pilots suggests that the widely used parking occupancy goal of 85% needs to be further evaluated.

The Price Doesn’t Matter if You Don’t Have to Pay: Legal Exemption as an Obstacle to Congestion Pricing in Transportation

Michael Manville, Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, Institute of Transportation Studies, Department of Urban Planning,UCLA
Jonathan Williams, Department of Urban Planning, UCLA

Abstract:Transportation analysts frequently recommend pricing as way to combat road congestion. Market prices for curb parking are a particularly attractive way to implement this approach, both because paying to park is a less alien idea than paying to drive, and because the travel involved in cruising for parking is almost entirely socially wasteful. However, the literature on performance-priced parking has thus far ignored the possibility that pervasive nonpayment—through rent-seeking, opportunism or fraud—will dilute the efficacy of market prices. In this paper we use an original survey of thousands of parking meters in Los Angeles to show that at any given time a substantial portion (usually over 30 percent) of vehicles parked at operating meters are both not paying and not breaking any laws. We document, in other words, a high incidence of legal nonpayment. We also show that across an entire day, vehicles that are legally nonpaying consume more meter hours than vehicles that pay or that occupy spaces illegally. The implications of this research are twofold. First, legal nonpayment costs local governments significant amounts of revenue each year. Second, and more importantly, the high rate of legal nonpayment threatens to undermine the effectiveness of policies built around market-prices for curb parking. We provide suggested policy reforms for cities confronted with high levels of legal nonpayment. Chief among these reforms is an end to the practice of granting free, time-unlimited parking to vehicles displaying disabled placards.

The ChargePoint America Program

ChargePoint America is a program sponsored by Coulomb Technologies to provide electric vehicle charging infrastructure to nine selected regions in the United States. The is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Transportation Electrification Initiative administered by the Department of Energy and the objective is to accelerate the development and production of electric vehicles to substantially reduce petroleum consumption, reduce greenhouse gas production, and create jobs.

Are TODs Over-Parked?

Robert Cervero, Arlie Adkins, and Cathleen Sullivan, University of California, Berkeley

Many apartment projects near urban rail stations, critics charge, are “over-parked” – more parking is provided than needed. This can drive up the cost of housing, consume valuable land near transit, and impose environmental costs such as water pollution from enlarged impervious surfaces. Part of the blame for oversupply of parking in TODs (transit-oriented developments) could be the reliance on parking generation figures from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). ITE standards assume that car ownership levels and parking demands are no different in traditional suburban settings than in neighborhoods that are served by rail transit. Yet some studies suggest that those drawn to living near urban rail stops do so for lifestyle reasons, prompting many not only to ride transit more often but also to get rid of a car.

The Price of Unwanted Parking

Michael Manville and Donald Shoup, University of California, Los Angeles

When a city requires on-site parking for all new housing, housing costs rise while the price of driving falls. This results in less housing and more driving. Minimum parking requirements are particularly troublesome for old, dense inner city neighborhoods. Many buildings constructed before World War II don’t have parking attached to them, and in dense center cities—where land is expensive, and lot sizes are small and irregular—parking can be extraordinarily expensive, if not impossible, to provide on-site. Thus many older in-city buildings sit unused, simply because they can’t provide enough parking to satisfy the zoning code. Measuring how parking requirements affect housing construction is difficult for a simple reason: parking requirements are everywhere. There is good theoretical reason to believe that relaxed parking requirements would result in more housing, and developers regularly say that left to their own devices, they would supply less parking. But because developers are almost never left to their own devices, the theory is hard to test.

Evaluating the Effects of Parking Cash Out: Eight Case Studies

Principal Investigator: Donald C. Shoup
University of California, Los Angeles
1 September 1997
ARB Contract No. 93-308

This report presents eight case studies of employers who have complied with California's cash out requirement. One employer is a government agency, and the other seven are private firms, with a combined total of 1,694 employees. The price of parking at the worksites ranged from $36 to $165 a month. After cashing out, solo driving to work fell by 17 percent, carpooling increased by 64 percent, transit ridership increased by 50 percent, walking and bicycling increased by 33 percent, and commuter parking demand fell by 11 percent.

California’s Parking Cash-Out Program: An Informational Guide For Employers

State law requires certain employers who provide subsidized parking for their employees to offer a cash allowance in lieu of a parking space. This law is called the parking cash-out program (Assembly Bill 2109, Katz; Chapter 554, Statutes of 1992).