How to improve parking management in cities

According to a recent piece by The Economist (see article), the way parking spaces are managed in cities may just be a waste of their potential in terms of money and urban development. Discounted rates for residents and lots of free parking spaces may, in fact, not be the right solution for enhancing the urban mobility and environment.

As the author puts it, it all comes down to a vicious circle of supply and demand: in most cities car drivers can park on streets at low cost or even free of charge, so they'd rather go round and round looking for a space than pay a higher price for a garage. Traffic jams caused by such behavior have mostly been tackled with the creation of even more parking lots, which only added to urban chaos.

This is a perfect example of induced demand: the more the supply of a good increases, the more that good is consumed. This means that widening roads will not reduce traffic, but rather push more people into travelling by car rather than by bus or train. As a consequence, public transport will become more expensive for users and less attractive for investors, ultimately leading to the so-called Downs-Thomson paradox.

The paradox states that "the equilibrium speed of car traffic on a road network is determined by the average door-to-door speed of equivalent journeys taken by public transport". In short, the longer it takes for a bus to cover the distance from A to B, the longer it also takes for a car.

Praiseworthy efforts have been made by cities to improve public transport operation, but if they are coupled with an increased availability of parking lots, they will not make commuters leave their car at home. This is exactly what the paradox aims to demonstrate.

The solution suggested by the author is rather simple: introduce or raise parking tariffs and charge everybody. Revenues would increase and local governments could invest them in public services such as, precisely, public transport or green spaces.

Higher and more evenly distributed parking rates, we might add, could also lead to an improvement of the parking experience itself. Many parking meter manufacturers are already equipping their machines with quicker payment systems, and car park managers are promoting user-friendly tickets carrying relevant information or content via QR codes or in printed form, which can be used on multiple means of transport.

Tecnocarta has been long committed to providing users with smart, communicating and tamper-proof travel documents specifically designed for a more efficient mobility and a fast-moving urban community.

To know more about how we can improve your ticket, just click here!