Feb 27, 2019

What do Parking Planners do?

Jonathan Wicks

Walker Consultants

Parking Planners aim to provide information to make data-driven decisions and policy. They want to remove emotion from decisions which have impacts for decades. The average expected life of a parking structure, such as a podium garage beneath a building, extends well beyond 50 years. Parking Planners reach out to stakeholders to educate the community on upcoming planning or developments so the public has input on the process.

The outreach and education portions of a parking planner’s job are particularly important. For drivers, their vehicle is an extension of their personal space. Their emotions are evident in public comment sessions across the nation. Local residents will complain about strangers parking in front of their houses. From their perspective, there’s not enough parking. They see those spaces as part of the same extension of personal space as many home owners assume the public right of way in front of their house belongs to that home owner. It doesn’t. It belongs to the public. But, people using the parking in front of houses in mixed-use neighborhoods is a healthy sign. It means the mixed-use neighborhood is healthy and growing. People want to come to the neighborhood for both work and play.

Sometimes, people can’t find a place to park at their destination and therefore circle, otherwise known as parking congestion, will occur in a neighborhood. Businesses in the neighborhood won’t thrive because of the lack of available parking. Since parking is a limited and valuable resource it needs to be managed as such.

To help communities make data-driven decisions, parking planners outline various solutions to parking congestion. They use the Parking Demand Triangle to outline various tradeoffs.

What do Parking Planners do?

Free and Convenient: A free and convenient spot are spots in front of a popular location that the community does not charge to use. For example, a free parking space in front of a restaurant. If a location is popular, vehicles will rapidly fill the spaces. As a result, free and convenient spaces may not be available.

Free and Available: Free and available spots are free spots that require walking a bit farther from a vehicle to a final location. For example, a space ina surface lot behind the building. On-street spaces may be a block or two away, or on a side street. They’re less convenient than a space directly in front of a popular location.

Convenient and Available: If there’s congestion, spots directly in front of popular locations will only be available with parking controls. Parking controls include time limits and/or paid parking. This keeps the spaces turning over. Additionally, with paid parking, the choice of free versus convenient is starkly outlined for motorists. They can choose between parking for free, but farther away, or paying for the right to park in the more convenient spaces. The revenue is used to repair roads alongside other civic improvements

As part of their role, parking consultants often perform parking occupancy studies. They help communities understand how parking is being used. Parking studies involve surveying the streets to see what current parking regulations are. that regulate parking with and without controls are like in a given area. Parking studies also measure how long vehicles will remain in a particular type of spot.

A typical downtown parking occupancy study often shows a regular pattern Parking is available at the perimeter of the downtown, and not in front of the busiest spaces:

What do Parking Planners do?

In this example study, the data shows that most spaces in the core, where most of the neighborhood’s local businesses are, are full. Motorists that circle for free and convenient parking are wasting time, increasing dangerous emissions, and creating safety issues for pedestrians. They create traffic jams looking for free and convenient space. This example town is growing which is good for the businesses, but bad for free and convenient parking. Paid parking will keep spaces turning over. Visitors will be more easily able to visit local businesses. The parking consultants would recommend keeping the perimeter parking spaces free. People would have the option of parking for free, in exchange for walking a few blocks. Paid parking will also produce revenue for our example neighborhood to fund efficient parking management by paying for the cheaper, further-away alternatives. The revenue will be used to maintain and improve parking conditions. This includes enhancing lighting, fixing potholes, and beautifying the streetscape with planters. The revenue will also be used to improve the downtown core in less visible ways. It will also support the infrastructure of a paid parking program.

What do Parking Planners do?

As part of our example study, the parking consultants measured occupancy rates of two different types of spots throughout the day. The data shows that most on-street spaces in the heart of the business district are full by 10am. Some drivers who want to be in the business district may not be able find parking. This is the proximate cause of the neighborhood’s traffic jams. The parking consultant would recommend to direct drivers to the off-street parking for longer stays after 10 AM. They’d also recommend paid parking to keep the spaces turning over. It would allow drivers with short errands downtown to nearly always be able to find a space.

What do Parking Planners do?

This data further goes into types of parking and their occupancy rate throughout the day. It makes clear that on-street parking needs to designated for short-term visitors and customers, Parking consultants would recommend pushing local workers find available spots in a lot or garage. Visitors who spend money locally can find on-street spots

Parking consultants help communities grow through studies like the one above. They help balance how different stakeholders access different parts of the community, In turn, this which helps neighborhoods thrive. When you are considering plans to help businesses where you live, you should consider a parking study.

Jonathan Wicks

Walker Consultants

Jonathan Wicks, CAPP, CPP is a consultant at Walker Consultants. He is currently working on the design and implementation of several mobility systems and technology improvements for public and private entities across the West Coast. Staying ahead of transportation shifts, Jonathan is successfully navigating the balance of parking demand with curb management and access issues.