Parking Management Joint Subcommittee


At the meeting of the TRB TDM Committee in 2004 it was agreed that there was sufficient interest and need to set up a Parking Management Sub-Committee.  The PM Sub-committee is required because there is currently no TRB committee dealing with the issue, and yet there is a pressing need for research in many areas related to parking, as shown in the research problem statement in the second half of this document.

While the TDM and certain other TRB Committees may on occasion deal briefly with such issues, there is no Committee within TRB that act as a coordinator for all those with an interest in parking, nor that deals with parking as its central theme.  There are other organizations that deal with aspects of parking, and it is important that duplication is minimized, and collaboration facilitated where appropriate.  Such collaboration would only be of benefit to TRB.  The Transport Economics and Pricing Committees have also noted their interest in parking management and expressed a desire to be co-sponsors of any sub-committee.

Mission of the Joint Subcommittee

The mission of the new Parking Management sub-committee should, in short, be:
“To promote, facilitate and disseminate research on all aspects of parking management, but especially parking behavior and demand management, to the TRB community.”
As a first step in achievement of this mission, and in view of the high numbers of papers submitted on parking issues, the sub-committee convened very successful “mini-sessions” at TRB Annual Meetings 2006 and 2007, and has a listserv in operation.
The new sub-committee would relate closely to its parent committees, in that parking pricing and rationing are key TDM tools, a commonly-used form of user pricing, and a management tool that clearly has economic implications, both in terms of user responses, and in terms of the economic value of the parking industry.  The existence of the parking management sub-committee will ensure that these links are better understood, and so there will be benefits for the TDM, transport economics and pricing communities more widely, as their understanding of parking management and its impacts will be enhanced.
  • The activities of the Parking Management Sub-committee will be, for its topic area:
  • The organization of paper and poster sessions at the Annual and other meetings of TRB, as appropriate.
  • The development of a research agenda and research proposals in the field of parking management.
  • Helping to facilitate research in the field.
  • Disseminating the results of research in the field.
  • Meeting specific requests from its parent Committees for parking-related activities.

Priority areas for parking research

These issues were amongst a total of 21 generated by the Sub-committee at its first meeting in January 2007. They were then reduced in number and prioritised in a voting exercise by Sub-committee membership. 

Parking pricing elasticities and effects on transit demand.

Research deriving empirical data on parking price elasticities is limited and in many cases quite out of date.  In addition, the work that exists often examines only the impact of parking price changes on parking demand, not on its impact on demand for other modes.  It is known, however, that parking price and search time can have a significant impact on the generalized cost of a trip.  Therefore there is a need for additional research to understand how, where parking at destinations is priced, the impact of this in terms of changes in mode, trip timing, and/or trip destination.  This should include changes from a situation with no charge to one with a charge – in the case of site based parking problems, this is the information most required by those considering new parking charges.
This research need could be addressed by systematically identifying locations across the country where parking prices are about to be introduced, or raised; and conducting surveys of the impacts.  Alternatively, in locations where no actual change is about to take place, stated preference instruments could instead be used, to measure travelers’ responses to hypothetical changes in parking prices.

How does the private sector developer and occupier make decisions about the parking that they want and how they then use it?

There is growing awareness regarding the influence of parking cost and supply on travel behaviour and land use. As such, many municipalities and other planning organizations are trying to implement parking policies and programs to achieve transportation and land use objectives, such as minimizing parking oversupply, reducing travel by single-occupant vehicles, and fostering more transit- and pedestrian-oriented development. A common strategy is for municipalities to modify minimum off-street parking standards to make them more flexible and/or reduce the minimum amount of parking required. Certainly, policies that require large on-site parking facilities hinder the development of a more transit- and pedestrian-oriented built form. However, it is less clear whether developers will take advantage of government-endorsed opportunities to provide less parking, particularly in more auto-oriented areas where ample free parking may be considered necessary for the marketability of the development. This reflects that the amount of parking provided by a development depends on many factors in addition to parking requirements, such as anticipated parking demand, the cost of land, existing on- and off-site supply, the potential for revenue generation from parking, parking supply stipulations from financing bodies, and industry standards, among others.
In general, there is a poor understanding among policy makers and transportation professionals of how developers make parking supply decisions. If changes to minimum parking standards and other policies are prepared without a good understanding of the key factors influencing parking supply, it is possible that many well-intentioned efforts to better manage parking supply will be ineffective. Therefore, there is a pressing need for research to examine the key factors affecting parking supply decisions, how these factors change among different types of developers (e.g. office, shopping centre, small retail, high-rise residential, etc.), what role parking policies play in these decisions, and how parking policies can best be designed to achieve transportation and land use objectives. Research would include extensive surveying of developers and case studies of success stories and failures at the municipal and state-wide level. The result would be a best practice guide for parking policy development.

Decoupling parking from new development.

Most municipalities require a certain amount of parking (defined as a minimum, related to floor area) to be provided within the curtilage of new buildings.  This often creates a built environment that is dominated by surface parking, but can also prevent the re-use of buildings that were built before parking requirements came into force, and where there is consequently no room to provide parking now.
Research is needed into the practicality and acceptability (for developers, traders and residents) of using contributions from developers to build new parking on a consolidated single site, at a short distance from new development.  This would not be suitable in all areas but in town and city centres, where there is a variety of trip attractions in a small area, it could be beneficial for developers – because they could use all of their most valuable land for development – and for urban vitality.  The research could consist of case studies where this approach has already been adopted, plus public acceptability and feasibility studies in areas where it is being considered.  The result could be a form of best practice guide.     

Transit Oriented Development (TOD)

Transit-oriented development rests on the idea that transit can form the backbone of liveable high-density neighbourhoods.  A key question for such neighbourhoods is the level of parking that should be provided, and how it should be provided (surface, structure, underground) in order to maximize the value of the land, use of transit and the liveability of the area.
Where park and ride sites exist and are close to capacity, the transit authority may consider introducing or raising parking charges.  It needs to understand the impact of such changes on parking and transit demand. It may also need to consider the financial trade-offs implicit in selling land around transit stops for development and reducing available parking, or the true costs of acquiring and developing more land for parking at other stops.
This research needs, first of all, discussions with municipal and regional planners and developers with experience of TOD to disentangle the various issues related to TOD and parking provision.  From this, solutions to problems could be proposed and evaluated with reference to the same planners and developers and/or, in the longer term, testing them on actual TOD sites.

Parking taxation to influence its location and scale.

Other than property taxes, few countries levy any specific tax on parking – exceptions include Canada’s province of British Columbia, and Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, in their downtown areas.  Monies raised in these examples are used to fund public transport services.  Few countries also make parking provided at the workplace a taxable benefit, a rare exception being Sweden.  However, various types of parking tax could be envisaged – on public or private parking, in all or certain locations – in order to influence how much parking is provided, and how it is used.
Research in this area needs to address various objectives, including:
  • The objectives of possible parking taxes – what would they seek to achieve?
  • The definition of different types of parking tax.
  • Prediction of likely impacts on parking provision, other economic activity, and traveler behavior.
  • Practicalities of implementing and administering different types of parking tax, including ways to deal with tax avoidance.
This work would need to include transport and economic modelling as well as research into the acceptability of different types of tax.

Overcoming acceptability barriers in all areas of parking management.

Parking management normally implies a change to the existing status quo in parking provision.  It may mean the introduction of charging, changing existing charging structures, focusing the availability of scarce parking on particular groups of users (e.g. residents), or different patterns of maximum permitted stay in on- or off-street parking facilities.  Such changes frequently encounter opposition from residents, car park operators and local businesses and, consequently, from politicians, which may make them difficult or impossible to implement.
There is a pressing need for research to examine the reasons for such opposition and, more importantly, ways in which schemes can be designed and implemented to maximise public support for parking management.  Research would examine the key barriers to the implementation of parking management and, based on empirical evidence, the best ways to overcome such barriers.  The result would be a best practice guide for authorities considering the introduction of parking management.

How to deal with practical problems where demand exceeds supply – what to do then?

Parking facilities are often constructed during the development of a new facility (e.g., shopping mall, public transportation facility, sports arena). But what happens when parking demand outgrows supply in locations where space for additional parking is either severely limited or not available? In such situations, what can be done to increase parking availability for users and to manage demand.  There is a pressing need to familiarize parking facility owners the strategies available to intelligently manage parking supply by providing an overview of examples from U.S. and abroad.
This research should summarize the methods to increase and better manage parking supply, specifically:
  • engineering solutions (short-term and long-term, low-tech and high-tech)
  • management solutions (valet parking, shared parking, access by public transit or shuttles)
  • policy solutions (carpooling, fee parking, car sharing)
This research should also summarize the impacts of these strategies, specifically on:
  • owners: cost (capital, operating, maintenance)
  • customers/clients: increased cost of service, possible service reduction or reallocation, increased travel time, increased inconvenience
  • employees: increased inconvenience, concern for security of personal vehicle

Empirical case studies and guidance.

There are examples case studies of good practice in parking management. Good points of reference include the TDM Encyclopaedia at and the COST 342 report from Europe, the European websites and, as well as Shoup’s 2006 book The High Cost of Free Parking.  Nonetheless, a database of good practice case studies linked to specific parking management problems, that could then be searched by practitioners, would be a useful addition to this literature.

Equity and fairness implications of parking pricing and management.

While the general public and political leaders may be lead to understand the operational and efficiency benefits of parking pricing (and road pricing), there is often great concern expressed about the effects of such pricing on low income motorists who may need to park but cannot afford to do so.  Parking policy analysts have long appreciated that parking is never free, although the costs may not be transparent.  There is already a reasonably-sized body of literature that identifies some of the hidden costs of parking, especially as such costs relate to housing and retail real estate prices linked to bundled parking, but little research has been conducted to show how parking pricing can reduce both hidden costs and total costs for low-income individuals.
This research needs to consider the equity impacts of parking pricing where it has been introduced – has this led to poorer drivers being priced out of car travel to areas with priced parking and, if so, how have they modified their behaviour in response?  It also needs to consider ways in which the equity impacts of parking pricing can be mitigated or eliminated, such as income-related parking charges (implemented in many UK hospitals and universities, for example), a certain allowance of free parking before a user becomes liable to pay a charge, combining parking payment with payment for transit, and/or tradeable parking rights.  Research is needed to design parking pricing and policy schemes that enhance equity by reducing hidden parking costs, especially on the poor, and by providing low-income individuals with alternative parking and transportation options.  Specific alternative policy scenarios should be modeled to determine their equity implications.

Communicating with public parking operators and managers about, for example, variable pricing, or managing parking to achieve public sector’s transport policy goals.

The 2007 meeting of the Sub-committee felt that there was a need to communicate more to parking operators about developments in parking technology and management, and about the public sector’s aspirations for parking policy and management.  This may be less of a research activity as one of outreach, seeking ways to involve parking operators in the Sub-committee’s activities.

Other topics considered.

There were further topics suggested, including institutional issues in parking management, the use and applications of parking management technology, and parking for carsharing and bicycles.  However, for the time being, and in view of the Sub-committee’s resources, only the first ten topics are discussed in detail in this paper.