Local Pricing Policies

This section discusses four policy questions, based on (1) conditions for enacting policies, (2) perceptions of parking pricing policies, and (3) common conditions that would lead to successful local parking pricing policies, and (4) specific approaches for enacting successful pricing policies.

Policy Question – Conditions for Enacting Policies

Under what conditions might cities and transit agencies want to enact or enforce various priced parking policies?

Question Purpose

What is the purpose of this question, why is it important, and who is the intended audience?

Answers to this question will provide perspective and information to MTC/ABAG regarding where to effectively focus funding support for local parking policy activities, and to local jurisdictions and transit agencies regarding conditions that are likely to result in effective parking pricing strategies. These conditions range from specific locational land use and transportation characteristics, local trends regarding employment and residential growth, as well as the supply and demand factors in particular areas where policies have been implemented successfully.

Overview of Analysis

How is this question being addressed? What approach is best, given limitations?

In the abstract, an extensive inventory of priced parking policies as well as their impacts and the conditions that led those areas to enact the policy successfully would be collected to answer this question. However, because of the qualitative nature and limited project resources, key examples of policy applications are collected and they are used as examples for the basis for gathering further advice and information from our expert panel.

Background & Research

Conditions where cities or transit agencies may want to enact or enforce various priced parking policies are itemized below in Table 12. These are conditions that are directly observed through the project’s data collection or anecdotal evidence within cities throughout the Bay Area. Potential policies to address these conditions are listed along with corresponding references to further research within this report.

These will be used as the basis for discussion with the Project’s expert panel.

Table 12: Conditions and Policies for Various Priced Parking Policies

Condition Policy Background and Research
Demand is greater than supply
Implement on-street metering Policy Question #1: Supply, Demand, and Price
Implement time limits and ensure adequate enforcement reduces violation rates. Policy Question #11: Time Limits & Enforcement Hours
Price parking with meters to achieve a target occupancy rate Policy Question #11: Demand-dependent Pricing Structures

Policy Question #7: Variable Pricing

Tax or charge impact fees to private facilities, encouraging or requiring that the cost is passed on to users Policy Question #5: Taxing to Manage Private Parking
Enact parking pricing along with a Parking Benefit District Policy Question #9: Parking Benefit Districts
Facilitate shared parking agreements Policy Question #7: Shared Parking
High demand in specific areas or during peak periods is causing overcrowding
Use variable rate pricing, charging higher rates during peak periods Policy Question #11: Demand-dependent Pricing Structures

Policy Question #7: Variable Pricing

Use tiered pricing between facilities to encourage price-sensitive long-term parkers to park in areas with lower-demand Policy Question #11: Tiered Pricing Structures
Support valet parking programs Policy Question #11: Valet & Off-site Parking
There is high on-street demand for short-term, yet these spaces are being used by employees and other long-term parkers
Implement on-street metering Policy Question #1: Supply, Demand, and Price
Implement time limits and ensure adequate enforcement reduces violation rates. Policy Question #11: Time Limits & Enforcement Hours
Use increasing rates to provide discounts for the first hour, therefore encouraging higher turnover Policy Question #11: Demand-dependent Pricing Structures

Policy Question #7: Variable Pricing

Set competitive off-street rates to encourage long-term parkers to move to off-street facilities Policy Question #11: Off-street Parking Pricing
Supply is greater than demand
Lower or reduce minimum requirements to encourage development and affordable housing for individuals who are not car owners Policy Question #2

Policy Question #7: Reduced and Flexible Parking Requirements

Avoid excess parking supply and constructing new facilities when they are not necessary Policy Question #5
Implement an in-lieu fee program Policy Question #11: In-lieu Fees
Travel Demand Management policies are needed to help reduce traffic congestion and environmental externalities from subsidized parking
Require or incentivize employers to offer parking cash-outs to employees Policy Question #6
Require or incentivize employers to offer transit passes in placement of parking spaces Policy Question #6

Policy Question #7: Employee-Based Parking

Provide free parking for carsharing vehicles Policy Question #3 Flexible Parking Requirements & Carsharing
Regional Best Practice Application: 2011 MTC Parking Survey

In 2011, a survey administered by MTC asked Cities how they rank concerns relating to implementing new parking policies and also asked how certain strategies would help. Examples of concerns include: neighborhood spillover, diminished retail competitiveness, and lack of resources and leadership. Examples of support that cities ranked as most useful include grants, information sessions, and consultant assistance. Cross-analysis of concerns with research into conditions for cities to implement parking policies will help gain insight into what conditions are also barriers against policy implementation.

Data Analysis
This question includes an analysis of 25 new cities across the Bay Area, to be completed summer 2015. 

This question is addressed in tandem with Policy Question #1 and Policy Question #10. The conditions under which cities and transit agencies want to enact or enforce various priced parking policies are analyzed across the Project’s data collection within 25 areas to understand how common they are.

Within the 25 sites analyzed, priced parking policies were recommended for 13 of the 25 cities. Pricing policies are typically used to manage high demand (above 85% occupancy). These periods of high demand typically occur during specific times of days or days of week. Enforcement should align to what times and days pricing policies are most relevant. The conditions that lead to enacting or enforcing various parking policies are:

  • High demand exists throughout an area
  • A small “hot spot” of high demand exists within an area
  • High demand exists along a single corridor
  • High demand exists in an area that is unregulated adjacent or nearby an area that is priced

There are also conditions were pricing fees might currently exist, but enforcement or price is not adequate set. These conditions include:

  • High demand exists where pricing is currently enacted, suggesting that current fees are too low.
  • Pricing enforcement hours and days does not cover the periods of high demand

The analysis of 25 sites showed that there are many conditions where enacting pricing policies could improve parking management. There are also conditions where pricing policies exist but are not needed. In all of the cities analyzed, on-street pricing fees were between $0.50 and $2.00. In many cities, this price is too low for properly manage this parking. Cities where very high demand still existed in at least a portion of the priced areas include Santa Rosa, Sausalito, Vallejo, Alameda, Burlingame, and San Jose.


What (if any) impediments inhibit our ability to answer the question entirely?

There are numerous examples of pricing policies that exist today and unique conditions apply to each such as degree of political support and implementation process. The challenge in answering this question is in organizing the approach and choosing which applications are the most relevant and useful.

Potential Policy Actions

Potential region policy actions include funding local parking analyses consistent with the regional VPP project database as well as funding parking management and pricing projects including outreach for implementation plans and capital costs.

Policy Question – Public Perception

Under what conditions do individuals perceive parking pricing policies to be appropriate

Question Purpose

What is the purpose of this question, why is it important, and who is the intended audience?

Civic engagement and public outreach are important, and often very challenging, elements of implementing parking policies. However, without political or public support, policies are unlikely to become successful. This answer will help policy makers at MTC, ABAG, local governments, and transit agencies better understand the perspectives of the public and better find policies that will be acceptable. The results of this analysis will offer a resource for staff to use when considering the steps needed in order to implement a new policy.

Overview of Analysis

How is this question being addressed? What approach is best, given limitations?

In the abstract, public surveys and focus groups throughout the Bay Area in a range of different types of cities would help answer this question best. Due to limited resources, research and outreach examples, findings from surveys that have been conducted in recent years that include stated-preference responses to policy questions are reviewed. Additionally, the research to address this question includes successful examples from local jurisdictions who have successfully worked with the public to implement a pricing policy.

Background & Research

Literature Review:

Best Practice: Research from MTC’s Choosing Where We Live

MTC’s Choosing Where We Live can help pinpoint the areas and demographics where parking pricing policies may be seen more favorable. The research surveys households looking for new housing in the Bay Area, and describes the interests of various market segments. Market segments that placed more emphasis on walkability, transit access and neighborhood quality, and placed less emphasis on driving and parking convenience, are likely to be more easily attracted to TOD. 38% of respondents—“Transit-Preferring,” “Urban Double-Income No Kids,” and “Young Brainiacs”—are within market segment groups that are more easily attracted to TODs and own one or fewer vehicles on average.

This research can be used to apply strategies to attract target market segments. By considering specific conditions that transit-preferring market segments (such as travel minimization, service frequency, and walkscore), particular policies that support those characteristics can be focused on.

Best Practice: MTC 2012 Parking Initiative

In 2012, MTC gathered a panel of parking experts including developers, cities, transit agencies, academics, parking consultants and regional agencies. This panel was part of a multimedia project that included videos and posters that used compelling animations and visual graphics to promote discussions about parking reform and pricing policies. This effort won several awards from the Transportation Research Board (TRB) in 2013 annual meeting for its success in communication policy solutions (Parking Policy for Smart Growth, 2012).

Best Practice: Public Outreach
Policy Application: goBerkeley Public Outreach

The City of Berkeley’s goBerkeley pilot program (discussed in detail in Policy Question 7), included an extensive outreach and marketing component. One element of this outreach included a survey to employees who stated willingness to try alternative modes of travel to get to work. Outreach targeted these businesses and included face-to-face interviews to gather information about barriers to using those alternative modes. This allowed goBerkeley staff to create plans that provided resources for alternative mode usage that specifically addressed employee’s needs.[1] Employee Travel Demand Management Benefits that goBerkeley will provide includes free AC Transit bus passes and discounted car-share memberships.

In addition to providing incentives to employees, the goBerkeley program took special effort to communicate the advantages of parking pricing to business owners. Parking in Downtown Berkeley during peak evening periods was very difficult to find. Because City staff clearly communicated that demand-based pricing and time-limit restrictions would make it easier for customers to find parking as well as increase the number of visitors by increasing the turnover of the most convenient on-street spaces, the goBerkeley program was able to gather support from many local business owners.

Policy Application: San Mateo’s Intercept Surveys and Community Outreach

The City of San Mateo’s outreach process in 2013 is a good example showing that when the purpose of pricing policies are clearly communicated, support for these policies often increase substantially. In May 2013, the City of San Mateo conducted community outreach to understand how individuals are responding to current parking conditions. After explaining that price increases would increase availability, the survey found high support (over 50%) for increases in on-street pricing. Overall, the attitudes expressed during the stakeholder and public outreach meetings — where an effort was made to explain the concepts behind parking demand management and how pricing and enforcement effect people’s behavior and the supply of parking – were generally supportive of market-based pricing.

Policy Application: Vallejo Park and Ride Survey Analysis

Vallejo’s Curtola Park and Ride Facility’s Parking Management Plan is an example of a local best practice showing that even small-scale studies can be very informative in gathering information about conditions where users are willing to pay for parking. In July 2013, intercept surveys were conducted to evaluate pricing and amenities within the Curtola Park and Ride facilities. The survey found that 66% of parkers were willing to pay a daily fee to use the lot. Additionally, there was a high demand for additional amenities, with 72% of respondents supporting on-site security patrol with 45% of these respondents willing to pay for this service. If parking pricing were to be enacted, the survey found that Clipper-enabled pay stations were very a popular payment method among users.

Best Practice: Parking Benefit Districts

One successful public outreach tool that can help individuals understand the benefit of parking pricing policies is Parking Benefit Districts (and Business Improvement Districts, BIDs). Parking Benefit Districts can be used as an economic development, business development, and public outreach tool to use parking revenues to directly improve the people and businesses around the specific area where the parking revenues were collected. Because the funds are going directly to back to the area, such a pricing program is more transparent, increasing public support. Funds collected from public parking can be used to improve sidewalks, landscaping, and other aesthetic amenities. Alternatively, funds can be used to decrease the automobile dependence for employees by offering free transit, or eco-passes, to employees who work in the district. This will not only save employees the cost of parking, but will free up available spaces for customers. Overall, such a policy reduces the demand for parking, which will reduce the need to construct new and costly parking garages as a commercial district becomes more popular.

Policy Application: “Old Pasadena’s” Parking District

In 1993, the historic district of Pasadena, California has used funds from parking meters to revitalize the neighborhood, supporting visitors and businesses alike. One reason behind the on-street pricing was to increase turnover in front of store fronts so that parking would more likely be used by short-term users rather than long-term parkers such as employees. The residents and store owners of Old Pasadena were much supportive of the program when they were offered a dedicated funding source that could be invested directly back into street furniture, historic light fixtures, and regular maintenance. As the improvements brought more visitors to the area resulting in the need for increased maintenance, the demand for parking raised prices, bringing in more money to keep up with increased demand. All the while, businesses benefited from increased sales.[2]

Expert Analysis

A panel of parking experts—including Donald Shoup, Elizabeth Deakin, Todd Litman, and Meea Kang—were interviewed and asked to give their experiences relating to this policy question. Each expert was asked ‘What can local jurisdictions do to increase community support for local changes to parking requirements?’ A summary of responses relating to public perception is given below.

Local Perception Input – Expert Donald Shoup
Donald Shoup

Image: UCLA.edu

You will never get people to say they want to pay for parking and that it is a good idea, but you can convince people they want to charge for parking. Offer neighborhoods a ‘parking benefit district’ where you install meters and the revenue from those meters funds sidewalk repairs, installation of historic street furniture, graffiti removal, and other things the neighborhood wants then people will consider it. Old Pasadena was the first place to do this program. You cannot talk about pricing parking without thinking about what happens to the revenue. If you communicate your commitment to using that revenue to fund public services on those streets you will get more support. New technology also allows you to give residents a discount at those parking meters (i.e. Miami Beach, Monterrey).

Local Perception Input – Expert Elizabeth Deakin

Image: DailyCal.org

If you spend parking revenue on things that benefit the people in the town that will make a huge difference. Complete Streets policies are something that could use more money in California. UCB graduate students did surveys for City of Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood regarding the Complete Streets project for Telegraph Avenue – merchants were concerned customers would be driven away. What they found was the majority of customers were actually residents of the area, more people were walking or taking transit to the area, and those people were spending more money than the customers that drove to the area. So focusing on offering free parking in a business area may actually give you less money in some places. We are going to study this in other areas and we will see if the data continues to show that. When we work with other cities (Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco) to study who is actually shopping in the area and how do they get there we routinely find that merchants believe if we alter the parking people will stop coming to the area. Yet what we find is the people driving to the area and taking up parking are not spending the most amount of money, but instead it is the local area residents who are walking, bicycling, etc. and making repeated trips that are spending the most money. I encourage every city to study how people are arriving to their business areas.

Parklets may generate more business than free street parking. We are hoping to do a University/City of Berkeley partnership study of this on Solano Avenue and test the results of parklets being proposed.

Do not over react to the idea that parking supply is so critical. Spending your money on things that make your city a better place or more livable city will get you a lot farther.

Local Perception Input – Expert Todd Litman

Image: Twitter.com

Where did Don Draper end up at the end of Mad Men? California! It is time to fire a few engineers and hire more marketing professionals to sell the benefits of parking management. Redefine the issues to highlight the benefits of affordable infill housing with reduced parking requirements and make paying directly rather than indirectly for parking seem attractive.

It really is more economically efficient and equitable to manage parking efficiently. Whether you are considering strategic objectives, such as traffic congestion, air quality, building more affordable housing, we could be doing much better by applying the strategies we are discussing. It is up to us to apply a new paradigm and re-frame the questions being asked about parking.

We have positive stories about the effectiveness and benefits of the results – Pasadena, Vallejo, good case studies from non-profit organizations. We actually have positive stories to tell. How well are we doing in sharing this information to the public? Not well, and we need to do much better.

Local Policy Input – Expert Meea Kang

Image: LinkedIn.com

Pursue parking pilot programs because it helps us experiment with different options. There is no one size fits all and pilots allow you to customize and try new approaches. We often wait for the “perfect” solution instead of trying “good” options and seeing what happens. We need to take the first step. There is enough academic research and regional support with MTC and ABAG, to start pilot programs. We have a fear of change and we need to take that first step and see what happens. New York City ran pilot programs to experiment with regaining public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists by removing or streamlining areas to cars, such as Times Square, etc.

John Caner/Downtown Berkeley Association

In addition to the panel of parking experts, Downtown Berkeley Association president John Caner spoke about his experiences with the Berkeley Value Pricing Pilot project. His experiences, as stated during the Project’s expert panel, are described below:

The business community was skeptical of the goBerkeley Program (a Value Pricing Pilot project in Berkeley, CA). We initially thought it was an opportunity to increase prices and limit parking. We were thrilled when we worked with the goBerkeley team to learn the pilot focused on value priced parking and rationing and allocating a scarce resource. The main highlights were:

  • Parking demand management shifted people from the premium to the value areas opening spaces up in the inner areas.
  • Keeping it simple – by simplifying policies, improved signage, robust communication and outreach – we did not get one complaint.


What (if any) impediments inhibit our ability to answer the question entirely?

Surveys relating to this question are based on stated-preference answers and include several biases. Stated preferences may not be accurately aligned with a user’s actual reaction to an implemented policy. Location biases due to specific data collection areas do not allow for a representative sample of respondents. Additionally, attitudes are highly varied by demographics, location and lifestyle choices and they also change over time. Challenges in gathering data from local City staff and professionals arise due to time lapses between interviews and the potential change in circumstances from when the originally interviewed individual dealt with the policy issues.

Policy Question: Common Conditions for Pricing Policies

How common are the conditions that would lead to successful local parking pricing policies in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Question Purpose

What is the purpose of this question, why is it important, and who is the intended audience?

This question is to provide guidance for MTC, ABAG, cities, and transit agencies to assess the potential for local parking pricing policies to be applied to the Bay Area. The conditions that led to those policies will be assessed for application to other cities and be used to support the program and assess the potential applicability and/or success for various parking pricing policies.

Overview of Analysis

How is this question being addressed? What approach is best, given limitations?

In the abstract, the project would look at all locations that have successful programs or elements of programs from various areas, look for reasons why they are successful, look at limits to success or implementation and then look to how this could apply in our region.

This question is answered in conjunction with Policy Question 8, which assesses the specific conditions that lead to a successful pricing policy. Therefore, the answers found from the analysis for Policy Question 8, are cross analyzed with various conditions within the Bay Area to determine how common these conditions are. Methods of improving this analysis may include surveying local jurisdictions and/or making a check-list tool for local jurisdictions to use to determine how common these conditions are in their cities.

Background & Research

What information are we aware of that we can use to address this question?

Best Practice: MTC 2012 Smart Parking Workshop Survey

Policy changes require support from City staff, developers, advocates, and/or private citizens in order to initiate change. The conditions that lead to successful parking policies are not wholly based on the physical parking conditions, but largely based on political openness and readiness. In June 2012, MTC held a workshop on parking reform. A survey of local representatives (with a range of stakeholders, local representatives and citizens) after the workshop showed that 65% of respondents are likely to support parking reform in their cities. Over 50% of respondents stated that their Cities are considering and/or pursuing shared parking and employee programs.

Best Practice: Local Parking Pricing Policy Interest

In 2011, a survey administered by MTC asked 86 individuals representing 63 local jurisdictions if different parking policy actions were: currently implemented, short term interest, long term interest, or no interest. Many cities—including Sonoma, Martinez, Alameda, Mountain View, Emeryville, Hayward, and South San Francisco—stated parking pricing as a short term interest despite no current pricing policies. 49% reported updating their parking policy within the last five years. Other cities stated other indirect parking pricing policies in their short term interests. The town of Windsor, Campbell, and San Carlos, for example, stated reduced parking requirements in their short term interests. 30 respondents stated reduced parking requirements as a short-term interest for their jurisdiction, second only to walkability and wayfinding.[1]

Research & Analysis

This question will be addressed in tandem with Policy Question #8 and Policy Question #1. The conditions under which cities and transit agencies want to enact or enforce various priced parking policies are analyzed across the Project’s data collection of 25 cities to understand how common they are.

Analysis of 25 Sites

The analysis of 25 cities showed that conditions that would lead to successful local parking pricing policies are relatively common in the Bay Area. These conditions, detailed under policy question 8, include the need to manage overall demand as well as balance demand from areas of high occupancy to areas of low occupancy. Cities where implementing fees or expanding the areas of pricing would be successful are: Millbrae, South San Francisco, Hayward, Sausalito, Albany, El Cerrito, Martinez, and Emeryville. The Maps and Data section includes detailed analysis and recommendations for each city.

In addition to the conditions that would lead to implementation of successful pricing policies, there are also conditions where increasing current pricing would be beneficial to some areas. These are areas where pricing is implemented, but the fee is set too low and very high demand still exists. These areas include Santa Rosa, Sausalito, Vallejo, Alameda, Burlingame and San Jose.

Additionally, some cities have pricing or other restrictions implemented already, but are not enforcing during evenings and/or during weekends. Of the 25 cities analyzed, seven cities would particularly benefit from this: Millbrae, South San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Sausalito, Albany, San Jose, and Gilroy. For many of these cities, the peak period of demand is during the weekend or evening periods. However, enforcement of regulations or pricing does not extend to these periods.


What (if any) impediments inhibit our ability to answer the question entirely?

Many of our expert panel are experts in the field of parking policies and have a wide range of knowledge on the conditions that lead to successful policies. However, understanding the full range of where these conditions apply in the 101 Bay Area cities may not be the best use of the expert panel’s knowledge base, since it is more of a local jurisdiction issue. Land use, population and job density, as well as area-specific demographic data can help address areas that are not covered with surveys, however, this type of analysis may not be able to capture a range of attitudes—such as political acceptability towards parking pricing policies—that are important aspects of conditions that lead to successful policies.

Potential Policy Actions

Potential policies actions to address this question include establishing Parking Benefit Districts, developing and implementing an ongoing regional and /or local outreach and education program to explain the reasoning behind managing parking and addressing common questions. Another action is to expand the regional parking database to include an outlet that encourage the sharing of resources between communities to spread best practice methods for communicating parking pricing policies.

Policy Question – Specific Approaches to Parking Policies

What are the specific approaches to parking pricing programs and the components that are most important for a successful program

Question Purpose

What is the purpose of this question, why is it important, and who is the intended audience?

This question will provide guidance for MTC, ABAG, cities, and transit agencies in developing policies and programs. Understanding the specific approaches and components that are most important will support the answers to Policy Question #8, Policy Question #9 and Policy Question #10 to provide a range of information agencies may need in order to assess how pricing policies will relate to different contexts. Together, these three questions will address:

  1. Under what conditions policies are enacted;
  2. Where these conditions exist in the Bay Area; and
  3. The approaches and components that are more important for a successful program.

Overview of Analysis

How is this question being addressed? What approach is best, given limitations?

In the abstract, an extensive inventory of parking pricing policies and the approaches and components that led to those policies becoming successful would be collected to answer this question. For the VPP Parking Project, the question is answered with background research of select successful applications. A synthesis of the expert panel analysis—included in Policy Question #3, #4, #6, #7, and #9—also contribute to this question. The majority of this research is completed within the research for the Project’s wide set of policy questions. The policy applications describing successful parking pricing policies in this report include analysis in order to gain an understanding of exactly what led to its success (or prevented its success).

Background & Research

What information are we aware of that we can use to address this question?

Table 13 below provides a list of key pricing policies where specific approaches and components necessary to implement each policy will be detailed in order to address this question. For policies where background research and best practice information is not addressed in previous sections, additional discussion relating to these policies is provided below.

Table 13: Key pricing Policies and Background Research for Specific Approaches

Policy Background Research for Specific Approaches
Direct Pricing Policies  
§  On-street metering to achieve a target occupancy rate §  Policy Question 1: Supply, Demand, and Price
§  Variable rate pricing to distribute “hot spots” or smooth peak periods §  Policy Question 7: Variable Pricing
§  Use tiered pricing between facilities to encourage price-sensitive long-term parkers to park in areas with lower-demand §  Policy Question 11: Tiered Pricing Structures
§  Competitive off-street rates to encourage long-term parkers to move to off-street facilities §  Policy Question 11: Off-Street Parking Pricing
Indirect Pricing Policies  
§  Tax or charge impact fees to private facilities, encouraging or requiring that the cost is passed on to users §  Policy Question 5: Taxing to Manage Private Parking
§  Reduce minimum for unbundled and/or shared parking in residential development §  Policy Question 7: Reduced and Flexible Parking Requirements, Policy Question 2
§  Increase enforcement for time-limit restrictions to ensure low violation rates §  Policy Question 11: Time Limits & Enforcement Hours
§  Implement an in-lieu fee program §  Policy Question 11: In-lieu Fees
§  Require or incentivize employers to offer parking cash-outs to employees §  Policy Question 6: Parking Cash-out
§  Provide free parking for carsharing vehicles §  Policy Question 3: Flexible Parking Requirements & Carsharing
§  Establish a Parking Benefit District with parking pricing §  Policy Question 9: Parking Benefit Districts
Parking Technology

Technological solutions can help cities manage resources and implement pricing policies more efficiently. In addition to parking technologies such as pay stations and dynamic wayfinding signage, some parking technologies do not include costly infrastructure. For example, an online permit purchasing system can be more convenient for the user and also reduce labor needs for administrators. Permit holders can set up accounts to renew daily monthly permit pass purchases. Email reminders or information notices and changes can be sent out to permit holders. Additionally, wait list systems for permit holders can be smoothly administered.

  • Multi-space meters—including pay-by-space, pay-by-ID, pay-by-plate, and pay-and-display systems—provide one meter to collect fares for many parking spaces. Pay-by-ID and pay-by-plate systems require users to enter a unique identification number or license plate number into the payment machine. Pay-and-display spaces print a receipt that users place on their dashboard.

Infrastructure that could use Clipper Integration includes multi-space payment machines where users type in their serial number. With a customer machine, a sensor could read the Clipper serial number on the Clipper card’s embedded chip. Not just any system can use the Clipper card as a method to pay for transportation-related services. MTC must work with the proposed project in order to ensure that it will be run smoothly, and will not compromise the Clipper brand.

  • Wayfinding and parking guidance signage allows drivers to understand and navigate through a parking system with effective signage and information. Recognizable and consistent wayfinding will ensure that drivers can quickly recognize the facility as an available parking location associated with a City’s parking. A good parking signage system performs multiple functions. It provides effective information and direction for drivers to find their way to parking, communicates parking rules, and helps maintain the image of the community. Best practice examples combine branding—creating a recognizable design that represents a city—with the signage technology to create a more powerful wayfinding system.
Demand-Dependent Pricing Structures

Demand-based pricing can be implemented by applying higher meter prices to areas with higher demand. SFpark (detailed within the discussion for Policy Question #7) and Los Angeles’ ExpressPark program both work to implement dynamic pricing strategies, using pavement-embedded sensors to study which areas have the highest demand or locate “hotspots” of particularly high demand. Prices are then raised in high-demand locations and lowered in low-demand areas, encouraging parkers to shift towards adjacent blocks with available parking (Figure 5).

Figure 5: On-Street Hot spot (SFpark)[3]


While demand, supply, and a parker’s willingness to pay a certain price is not simple to measure exactly, programs that are measuring changes in demand have recognized stabilization patterns and trends that can be approximated. Therefore, raising prices on more popular streets and/or lowering prices on streets with fewer vehicles can be a feasible policy action without the costly resources required to take exact measurements throughout the day.

Parking Taxes

Parking taxes can be levied in a variety of ways to disincentivize parking supply and use. The economic concept behind parking taxes is that they impose some of the indirect costs of parking back on the owner and/or user of parking. Indirect costs of parking include foregone tax revenue, direct environmental effects such as runoff and urban heat island effects, and indirect environmental impacts associated with incentivizing private vehicle use.

In some cities, a parking tax is levied on the parking charge, such as a 10% charge on the fee paid in the City of Los Angeles. This type of policy only has an effect when there is a direct payment for parking, and therefore is limited to a subset of users in primarily urban areas. It encourages the undesirable practice of bundling of parking with rents. An alternative approach is to levy a tax on the square footage of parking lots and structures. This means that the tax is paid regardless of whether there are parking charges or whether the parking is occupied. For example, Montreal Canada has instituted a parking tax of $19.80 per square meter for surface lots in the central business district and $4.95 per square meter for surface lots in suburban areas. The tax rates can be structured to disincentivize surface parking or parking areas where a strong multimodal parking program is in place. Property owners will find parking to be a less desirable use of land and therefore consider alternative uses. If parking taxes are passed on to the end user, parking demand will be reduced according to the price elasticity of demand for parking with respect to price, which generally lies between -0.1 and -0.4. Regional entities can do the legal research to identify the potential for regional parking taxes, and promote the imposition of local parking taxes.

Tiered Pricing Structures

Tiered pricing schemes based on per-hour charges are implemented by charging higher rates for longer time stays. Several cities within the Bay Area use tiered pricing structures to help manage parking demand. For example, San Mateo uses tiered pricing, increasing metered rates for a vehicle’s third and fourth hour.[4] Therefore, unlike time-limits, vehicles have the option of parking for longer periods of time, but at an increased rate. Off-street tiered pricing schemes are administered in Redwood City, where off-street public garage parking permits are charged based on permit type and location/proximity to downtown. The lower cost permits are further from the downtown and/or cover fewer hours/days of operation.[5] Another example is exhibited in BART parking lots. BART assesses the daily fees every six months based on occupancy counts measuring the parking lot use. If the lot is less than 95% full, the daily fee will decrease $0.50; if the parking lot is 100% full, the daily fee with increase $0.50.

Off-street Parking Pricing

A common problem in many areas with congested on-street parking is that vehicles will circle around looking for on-street parking rather than heading directly to unused off-street parking. Pricing strategies can be used to make off-street parking more competitive, reducing this traffic congestion and reducing unnecessary circling. Setting on-street parking prices higher relative to off-street prices can be used to manage demand for on-street parking by encouraging longer-term parkers to utilize off-street lots.

Calthrop and Proost (2006) research how drivers choose to park on-street and off-street, given relative prices. There is a balance between having to search for on-street parking and being able to park closer to one’s destination; the relative costs and parking time-restrictions of the two parking facilities also plays into the decision. Similarly, Kobus et al. (2012) used parking data to calculate the elasticity for on-street parking prices when adjacent garage parking was available. They found that higher on-street parking prices relative to off-street garages encourage longer-duration parkers to use garages. This study found strong evidence that drivers are willing to pay additional for on-street parking, with a calculated price elasticity of demand for on-street parking of -0.4.

Figure 6: Pedestrians on the Third Street Promenade

An alternative to minimum parking requirements for individual businesses is allowing or requiring business owners and developers to pay in-lieu fees to fund public parking facilities or to pay for alternative access modes (for example, universal transit passes) rather than requiring them to construct their own private parking. Pasadena, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and Seattle are some examples of cities where developers can pay in in-lieu fee instead of providing required parking.[6]

In-lieu Fees

Often, to set the in-lieu fee amount, cities either (1) determine the appropriate fee amount based on the cost of developing parking for each project, or (2) have a uniform fee or cost per space for all projects. More often, cities apply the latter based on its simplicity, and often these costs are lower than the true costs of providing the parking (Shoup, 1999). When setting in-lieu fees, planners must be cautious not to set the amount too low or too high. A fee that is too low will encourage all developers to opt-in to the program, but will not cover the costs of constructing and maintaining the amount of parking needed to accommodate demand. The level of user parking fees must also be considered in the calculation of parking demand; a decision whether or not to subsidize parking for a particular location is an important policy question that should entail consideration of options and broader costs and benefits. A fee that is too high will discourage most developers from taking advantage of the benefits of the in-lieu fee, and rather opt to build the required parking or not develop at all.

Policy Application: In-lieu fees in Santa Monica, California

The Third Street Promenade commercial district in Santa Monica, California (Figure 6) allows developers to pay a set a “Parking Developer Fee” of $1.50 per year per square foot of floor area in-lieu of parking. This money is used to construct and maintain public parking garages behind he stores. The result of the policy has led to many commercial uses with typically high requirements to come to the area—including movie theaters, restaurants, and shops—that draw many patrons to the district. The fee, first established in 1986, has been adequate to provide parking for the area and has also resulted in creating a vibrant and pedestrian-friendly commercial district.[7]

Policy Application: In-lieu fees in Pasadena, California

The City of Pasadena implemented an in-lieu fee program for Old Pasadena so that property owners in the area could find a way to meet the Old Pasadena’s parking requirements. Therefore, new development can make use of existing parking structures instead of meeting their parking requirements. The goal of the program was not to generate revenue, but to cover the cost of constructing parking for the residents. City staff report that approximately $330,000 per year is collected from the program.[8] As of 2012 the fee was $155.00 per space per year, and is adjusted for inflation annually.

Policy Application: Land Banking in Palo Alto, CA

One policy that has been used when parking need is uncertain is land banking, which puts aside the required land for parking as public space, giving the security that it is available to be converted to parking if needed. Palo Alto, CA allows reductions up to 50% of the minimum parking requirements for land banking. The California Park Apartment development, for example, was required to build 95 parking spaces by city code, but used the area for 22 of these spaces and set it aside for a communal recreational space—including a family play area, picnic benches, and a barbeque area. None of the land banked space set aside for parking in Palo Alto has yet to be needed for parking.[9]

Shared Parking
Application: Arlington County’s Shared Parking

Arlington County, Virginia, has enacted a Travel Demand Management (TDM) program to discourage assigned parking and maximize sharing of parking spaces. In the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, Arlington County set to limit reserved parking to less than 20% of the total supply and have identified four types of shared parking to encourage as follows:

  • Complementary Hours: Shared parking within users with different peak hours of utilization
  • Off-site Agreements: Parking within facilities with more spaces than required can contract to serve another user.
  • Public Parking: Parking facilities with more spaces than required can open the facility to the public for use.
  • Unreserved Spaces: If a parking facility does not use reserved spaces, they can accommodate additional vehicles.
Policy Application: Shared Parking in the Portland Metropolitan Area

The Portland Metropolitan Area has taken several steps to increase the efficiency of its land use by encouraging shared parking agreements between businesses and within districts. A few examples are included below.[10]

  • The Lloyd District in Northeast Portland—a Business District consisting predominantly of offices with private parking and also the Lloyd Center mall—has added more than 1,000,000 square feet of commercial property yet reduced its total amount of parking in the last 10 years by taking advantage of shared parking agreements.
  • Recognizing the different peak-demand times, the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in southeast Portland has significantly reduced its on-site parking by entering into formal agreements with two local churches adjacent to the campus.
  • The Parks Bureau within the City of Portland has established shared parking arrangements with private businesses, a hospital, and a college, so that visitors and residents can use the recreation park space without having to turn some of the greenspace to concrete surface lots.
Parking Trade

One approach for shared parking includes parking trade. This allows for the retention of minimum parking requirements but allows the requirement to be fulfilled by supply within 500 feet of the project site. Shared parking facilities should be within a one-block to three-block walking distance of the proposed site (approximately 1/4 mile). Shared parking facilities may be entitled up to 1.5 spaces per off-site parking space and should be part of the conditional use permit with parking rights specified for a set period of time. This program would create incentives for new development to look for and enter agreements with existing buildings to meet their parking requirement. Furthermore, reducing the practice of dedicating parking to users, either in offices or residential, makes shared parking possible.


What (if any) impediments inhibit our ability to answer the question entirely?

In addition to a wide range of priced policies, there are many different examples of approaches and components that have led to their success. Many of these components are too nuanced to capture in a study of the policy. The challenge to answer this question is to understand our limitations while still grasping the most important elements of each policy review. This applies to both the research and expert panel review that is used to address this question.

Potential Policy Actions

Policy actions that will address this question include increasing awareness of parking issues, policies, and actions through the Regional Parking Database as well as to support full implementation plans for cities to enact pricing programs. These plans should always include the need for pricing, a forecasts for how pricing will affect parking, an evaluation of technology options, funding, a cost and revenue analysis, and a detailed outreach initiative. Regional policy actions could be to provide funding parking analysis and implementation plans, including outreach for implementation plans and capital costs.

[1] Metropolitan Transportation Commission, et al, (2011). Parking Fundamentals training session materials.

[2] http://www.uctc.net/access/23/Access%2023%20-%2002%20-%20Small%20Change%20into%20Big%20Change.pdf

[3] http://www.berkeleyside.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2013-06-11-Worksession-Item-01-goBerkeley-Pilot-Program-1.pdf

[4] Pierce, Gregory & Shoup, Donald (2013).Getting the Prices Right: an evaluation of pricing parking by demand in San Francisco. The Journal of the American Planning Association. Volume 79, Number 1, Winter 2013.

[5] Policies are currently being re-evaluated and likely to change in 2014.

[6] http://www.redwoodcity.org/bit/transportation/parking/Permits.htm

[6] Parking Best practices: A Review of Zoning Regulations and Policies in Select US and International Cities. NYC Department of City Planning Transportation Division 2011.

[7] Shoup, Donald (2005), The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press, American Planning Association, Chapter 9, p. 235.

[8] Robert Montano, Economic Development Division. City of Pasadena. Phone conversation April 24, 2012.

[9] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2006). Parking Spaces/Community Places: Finding the Balance through Smart Growth Solutions. Published by the Development, Community, and Environment Division, Washington, DC.

[10] Shared Parking in the Portland Metropolitan Area. Available at: https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/info/SharedParkingInThePortlandMetropolitanArea.pdf

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