The Conundrum of Paid Parking

We are often asked about the implementation of paid parking within a community. Citizens, business owners, property owners, employees, and employers all want to know three things:

  • How will this affect business?
  • Who is going to be accountable for the system?
  • How do you measure success?

These are difficult questions to answer, but we find ourselves trying to answer them more and more. Every community reacts differently, and the success or failure of a parking system depends on everyone involved. Your community should consider these thoughts:

The community has to support implementation. You don’t have to believe in it, but if you want your business to succeed in the new environment, it’s imperative that you educate yourself, your employees, and your customers about the benefits and use of the system.

Forget about revenue. Paid parking shouldn’t be a cash grab for the general fund. For successful implementation, everyone has to understand that paid parking is about management, providing incentives to park away from premium spots, and encouraging prime spots to turn over.

Give something back. Provide some tangible benefit to the area through benefit districts that pay for transportation and community enhancements, and tell people you are doing it. Put a sticker on every meter that tells your customers where the money goes.

Ease up on the tickets. If you implement paid parking, focus on compliance. Ease up on citations. By educating your customers about how and where to park, violations should go down and revenue should be unchanged.

Market, market, market. Before you implement paid parking, start educating your customers about it. Pilot studies are a great way to test new technology before you buy. Don’t be afraid to try three or four vendors and equipment types. Test them all at one time. Ask people what they think.

Be flexible. Provide payment options. Don’t be afraid to raise or lower rates if you don’t find the balance you like. Go into the implementation with the mindset that year one is a trial, and include your stakeholders. Because they are using the system, and they are educating your customers.

About Brett Wood, CAPP, PE

Brett Wood, CAPP, PE, is a parking and transportation planner with Kimley-Horn and Associates. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, Awards of Excellence Committee, and the Parking Matters® Committee.

Comments

  1. Jeff Bethune says:

    Thanks Brett for a great piece. These points can’t be stressed enough in our industry. Really important to educate the public on why enforcement and paid parking exist as most people feel like it is just a cash grab. If you give a tangible benefit to the customer they will be much happier and see it as a benefit to everyone. Paying by phone, extending by phone, finding parking spots via apps etc are all great benefits to the average person parking. On the enforcement side, give out warnings to tourists and first time offenders, and then escalate tickets upwards for repeat offenders. I’ve seen this work wonders in cities like Fredericksburg, VA. Revenue actually increased but there were far fewer complaints. Win-win for everyone.

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