Woe is Parking.

BY COLLEEN MCHUGH
January 20, 2010

As someone who has lived in this city for virtually my entire life, there is one thing I know for sure – parking is a pain.  Were I to calculate the total time I’ve wasted cruising for a parking space or the total amount of money I’ve spent in parking tickets, I might go insane.  However, we are not just losing our time, money, and sanity in this parking climate.  We are also increasing traffic congestion and, in the process, greenhouse gas emissions.  But how can we fix this conundrum?

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[Image: Colleen McHugh]

Last Thursday’s lunchtime forum addressed the Parking Problem on a regional scale and proposed parking reform strategies aimed at alleviating this issue as well as at incentivizing other forms of transit.  Valerie Knepper from the MTC addressed the strong need for innovative regional reform.  Among the current regional parking flaws, Valerie noted a number of parking requirements for employers, developers, and businesses that in effect subsidize driving and encourage sprawl.  Valerie suggested possible local reforms (expanding the parking cashout program for employees, charging market rates for parking in high demand areas, unbundling leases with separate rents for parking, removing minimums and setting maximums for parking requirements) and proposed ways the region can encourage such local reform (for example, by extending “indirect source” regulations to parking).  Valerie concluded her presentation with a call-out for innovative parking reform strategies that are high impact, jurisdiction-wide, innovative yet cost-effective, and support Priority Development Areas.

As an example of success, Redwood City Downtown Development Coordinator Dan Zack explained how he incorporated parking reform into his city’s downtown plan.  Some of the highlights of this reform are performance-based pricing that increases meter prices in high occupancy areas and decreases prices in low-occupancy areas with a target occupancy rate of 85% throughout the downtown area, eliminating time limits, using surplus parking revenue to improve the surrounding downtown area, and upgrading from single-space coin-operated meters to multi-space meters with more paying options.  Dan reported an overall success in the program and shared the lesson that “Good pricing creates turnovers and vacancies.”  Learn more about Redwood City’s parking reform by visiting their website.