Shoup Weighs in on NW Parking Plan

A few years before starting this blog in 2005 I channeled my wonkery hours into serving as the lead neighborhood representative in trying to develop a parking plan for NW Portland.

I still have the scars from when that effort crashed and burned. At the time I predicted that we had poisoned the well for another decade.

Well, 10 years have passed and the Mayor is taking another run at it, with more or less the same pathologies at play.

So I was interested to see that parking expert Donald Shoup had expressed an opinion on the plan. Not surprisingly Shoup thinks his approach of dynamic pricing could be part of the solution.

Part of the disconnect in the debate is that the merchants on NW 23rd are convinced that metered parking will drive their customers away to Washington Square or elsewhere. The Mayor and others argue that metered parking will result in greater turnover and more traffic for the shops.

Shoup essentially says yes to both points of view. Pricing will create turnover, but by using dynamic pricing, if the price is high enough to leave too many spaces unfilled, it would be lowered until we hit the magic 85% occupancy point.

It’s actually a pretty reasonable approach to getting the two sides on the same page. Although my gut says that there is sufficient demand that dynamic pricing would not result in a rate much lower than downtown meters anyway.

10 responses to “Shoup Weighs in on NW Parking Plan”

  1. I’ve wanted to see this dynamic approach applied all over town. My question is: How hard/expensive is it to implement such a system, and can those costs easily be covered by increased revenues?

  2. I’d say NW 23rd is a pretty unique shopping district, and has little to fear from any of the suburban malls, even an upscale one like Washington Square.

  3. I think currently people cling to their parking spot because they’re in such short supply. Lots of people walking from shop to cafe to store, with the Prius left in the lucky parking spot, maybe for the day.

    Scotty is right; NW 23rd is entirely different from a mall. Not interchangeable.

  4. Seems to me that the way things are up here on nw 23rd are fine.

    Why do they need to mess with it at all?

    Because they want money huh?

    The city that works wants more and more money out of people.

    You know what my answer is.

  5. Wanting money may be part of it, but having lots of people driving around looking for parking is a sign that the supply/demand curve for parking is out of whack.

  6. What I would like to see is a better implementation. Now, people must park their vehicle, walk to the machine and figure it out, decide (in advance) how much time they want to buy (and only up to a certain amount), go back to their vehicle and place the receipt, and then worry about getting back before their purchased time amount expires or risk getting a ticket that cam be a hassle to deal with.

    Isn’t that hostile customer service, in that people must 1) deal with receipts 2) figure out how long they want to stay there in advance and, moreover, 3) stay at most an arbitrarily imposed amount of time and 4) possibly face a nasty penalty if they stay even a little bit longer?

    How much opposition to parking meters is not having to pay for parking but having to deal with the rigidness in the implementation?

    Instead, why not have a system where people can simply swipe their card when they arrive and again when they go? To have machines serve multiple spaces like they do now, every space would have a number that people would enter on the machine. This would also increase patrolling efficiency since the central machine could be checked instead of having to stop at each vehicle and look for a receipt.

    Moreover, instead of imposing set time limits, the amount charged per hour could increase the longer one stays to discourage long-term use. For example, charge $1 for the first hours (or even free for the first 30 minutes), but $2 or $3 an hour after three hours. This would essentially create a built-in parking ticket.

    Ideally, there would be no on-street parking, and parking would be left to the private marketplace.

  7. Jason, what you’re describing is the difference between a “pay and display” system and a “pay by space number”. Both were evaluated when paystations were first introduced downtown.

    “pay by space number” has at least one fatal flaw in NW Portland. It requires striping out and numbering spaces. In NW there is no spacing striping and people pack in as tight as they can. I actually did a study on this back in 2002. Striping spaces would on average lose one parking space per block, or more than 10% of the supply!

  8. What Jason describes is easily accomplished by parking garages, which have exit gates and can evaluate the duration of a car’s stay upon exit. But groups within NW seem particularly opposed to implementing garages.

    Personally, I’m a fan of vertical paid parking garages. They take up less acreage per space, and once you know where they are, you have a pretty high likelihood of getting a parking space if you travel directly to the garage.

    (Plus it’s interesting that a number of private lots and garages charge MORE for short-term parking than city-run garages and on-street parking. The city, it can be argued, by charging less than the private sector is in fact subsidizing parking even though customers still have to pay, much like transit.)

  9. Both were evaluated when paystations were first introduced downtown.

    I didn’t realize that. It seems that, where spaces are defined, pay-by-number can have benefits since there’s no receipts and the possibility to do things besides traditional pay-in-advance. In addition, tying payment to a specific space would provide occupancy information without the sensors that San Francisco uses.

    Also, I didn’t mention it, but I have heard about striping spaces setting capacity (I think it was brought up when they had temporary parking during the transit mall closure) and, if people are comfortable parking tightly, it would be a downside.

    Lastly, unless on-street parking is addressed, parking garages will not fully work since people like to park close to their destination.

    The city, it can be argued, by charging less than the private sector is in fact subsidizing parking even though customers still have to pay, much like transit.

    I believe there’s been some arguing over this.

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