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Parking Incentives (Wall-E Edition)

Whet Moser, writing in the Chicago Reader, comes across this blog post:

Here is where the larger state of the City’s economy comes in to question. While driving around Chicago yesterday I decided it would be nice to have a hot latte from Starbucks. I pulled up outside, and luckily, I found a spot right in front of the store. I then realized the parking meter pay kiosk was halfway down the block. I sat in my car for a second and thought, “if this were the old days, I could throw a quarter in a meter run in and I would have my wonderful hot latte in my hands.” The walk to the meter in the cold weather led me to pull away without my hot latte.

It gets better:

I was happy to run out and feed my meter every couple of hours. It only cost me $1.00 for one hour of parking. Now, because the pay kiosk is almost half way down the block, I will drive around to find free parking within the neighborhood. Again, the parking revenue is lost.

How can a planner/engineer even begin to take this sort of behavior into account? (and one can’t help wonder if this person pays for a gym membership — at a gym with free parking, of course!)

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 19th, 2010 at 9:12 am and is filed under Parking, Ten Things You Should Know. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 Responses to “Parking Incentives (Wall-E Edition)”

  1. DON Says:

    The parking revenue need not be lost. Some cities have learned that their parking enforcement officers can write a ticket and be long gone in the time it takes for the driver to walk the half-block or more, do whatever needs to be done with the machine to make the payment and get a receipt, and then walk back to the car.

    What about pay-by-phone methods, whereby the driver enters a parking meter or parking stall number and it gets billed to their account, phone bill or credit card? That sounds a lot simpler than those stupid central kiosks.

  2. Andy Says:

    Awesome! If the people who drive around looking for coffee stop filling parking spaces, than the business that sell good and services that people actually need will have more available parking.

    It’s really sad that people would rather pay a dollar each hour rather than walk half a block. (To your parenthetical ending, I bet they also take the elevator to the 3rd floor of the gym to use the stair-master…)

  3. Lindsay A Says:

    At first I thought this blog was about getting a parking ticket while walking to the kiosk. I went to college with this guy. Disappointing.

  4. LarryH Says:

    In most places feeding the meter every hour is illegal. You may only stay for one maximum payment period, and then leave the zone for at least as long as the max payment period.

    This is seldom enforced currently, but with plate readers in the parking wardens vehicles these days we should be seeing more fines.

  5. Don Says:

    Without knowing if my reasoning for doing this same question was broached, I am going to at least partly assume that part of the reasoning is the worry that your going to get a ticket WHILE getting the parking voucher from the pay kiosk.

    Here on Staten Island, this did become an issue awhile back, and if I am not mistaken was even covered in the local paper. When I had to visit a sick relative at the hospital in question, I would resort to typically parking many blocks away to avoid that hastle of worrying about getting tickets. And sure enough, there would be ticket agents strolling the area with the ticket kiosks.

    Additionally, a quick google search is already finding a bunch of news articles talking about just such a thing, wherein people receive parking tickets while waiting on long lines at the ONLY parking ticket kiosk located on an entire city block. Philly seems to be having a real problem this winter with thier new system.

    I really don’t think this is a point about people being cheap for the sake of being cheap. I think it’s about people being cheap so that they don’t continue to subsidize the goverment, or in Chicago’s case Morgan Stanley.

  6. ToddBS Says:

    This makes me think of the people who circle the parking lot looking for a spot up close. 9 times out of 10, I can park in just about any spot they passed-up and walk into the store while they are still circling.

  7. internet commentator Says:

    The only solution to this problem is to assign property rights to all roads and parking spaces.

  8. BrentAA Says:

    It seems like there is a period of adaptation at work here. People had gotten used to parking at, and feeding, a meter. But with the new system of payment, a new approach to parking is required. I live in Chicago, and if I know that I’m going to park at a metered location, I will look for the paybox and park close to it. In fact, in some situations, I will stop before I get to my destination (if I know I will be parking far from a paybox), and get the dashboard receipt at an open paybox several minutes from where I’m going to park.
    While unhappy about what we Chicago taxpayers got as part of the privatization deal, as a driver I appreciate the effect of pricing the scarce good (parking spots) and the innovation the is driven by the profit motive. (I can’t imagine the department of parking ever converting to payboxes.)

  9. Josh R Says:

    You’re never going to get people to stop making those cost/benefit analyses, even if their perception of the cost is completely skewed. Honestly though, I can’t really find fault in the first example given, which seems to boil down to “Hmm, I’d like a latte, but it would take longer to walk over and pay for parking then it would to go in and get the drink. Eh, guess I don’t want it that badly.” The same situation would have occurred if there had been meters, but the nearest parking space was a block away, and the person would have been right in judging that the thing they wanted (a hot drink) was not worth the extra time and hassle. If the driver had needed to stop for something more serious, something they actually needed instead of just wanted, then the walk would have been worth it.

    Really, what is the point of making all spaces in an area pay spots if it isn’t to modify people’s behavior in this way? Removing free parking makes more spaces available at any given time of day, but how do you think that happens? You didn’t generate more spaces out of thin air, all you did was change the cost/benefit ratio for drivers, so people are thinking more about parking and it’s costs, if they can maybe get to work by bus, and if they really need that coffee they were going to “zip in” and get.

  10. Hendrik Says:

    In a lot of European cities like Amsterdam where I live in it is becoming increasingly popular to pay via your cellphone. Either via text message or by calling a number. There is small fee involved, but it saves time, and more importantly you only pay for the amnount of time you actually stayed in the spot…

  11. Brad Templeton Says:

    There’s a lot that can be done. Pay-by-phone is one example (making it easier) but there are many arguments that street parking should not be subsidized, nor limited unless the businesses want to do either of these.

    ie. street parking should be the same rate as other parking (if there is other parking) and while it might have a time limit, it should be paid for by the actual time you use. Ie. you should be able to “log out” of the parking spot (at the meter or by phone) and pay only for the time you used/get a refund if you prepaid for time.

    Right now cities lose revenue from people whose meters expire and are not caught, but they make revenue from everybody who overpays at the meter and leaves before it expires. (At least at meters like the central ones where you can’t pass on your extra time to the next car.)

    Subsidized parking increases car use, which may or may not be the goal of the city, of course. Retailers want to encourage all ways to get to them. If validation because really trivial they will do it. By really trivial, I mean that, for example, while in the Starbucks you wave your cell phone over a box and it subsidizes your parking.

  12. Ian Says:

    In most European countries payboxes have been used for over 20 yrs. They work extremely well – people are of course given a time to walk to the paybox, pay, walk back to car. You can pay with coins or credit/debit card. Pay for the time you need the spot – in some cases there are time limits.
    Payboxes are obviously far more cost effective in the long run to install, maintain and manage than individual meters.
    I can see the advantage with high tech electronic systems but these would only seem to be warranted in major city centers with v high parking charges.
    It seems unbelievable that people in the US are unwilling to adapt to a new system.

  13. Peter Smith Says:

    the revenue is not lost as long as the city keeps targeting that magic ’85% of available parking’ number.

    i actually don’t believe the story is or was true for more than one time — the driver would learn her lesson and learn to park and walk to the meter and pay.

    part of driving a car nowadays is it’s going to mean you’re going to have to become more and more obedient to authority. you already work your job just to pay for your car, but now you’re also going to have to pay for some of the externalities of driving that you never had to pay for before. i love it.

    it also reminds of all the “I’m moving to Canada!” false promises when Bush became president. in this case, it’s ayn randian/faux-i-hate-the-irs-terrorists/the-city-will-fail-without-my-genius-and-money outrage. boring.

  14. Don K Says:

    I hadn’t heard about the central kiosks before, but then I live in the burbs, where our downtowns still have actual meters. I have about no confidence at all that American parking authorities won’t use the kiosks as super revenue generators by stationing parking cops where they can ticket cars while the drivers go to the kiosks.

    The nearest downtown to me has five parking garages with free parking for the first two hours, so if you want to go to dinner or do some extensive shopping you can do that for free or a minimal charge so long as you’re willing to walk a few blocks, which frees up (expensive) curb parking for people who just want to do a quick in and out at a merchant.

  15. john in nh Says:

    I think the Kiosks are great actually, never had an issue with them. However I am not a big fan of the dial in spot only options, I do not own a phone, and do not plan to in any way any time soon, what am I suppose to do if I need to park in a pay by phone area?? I think the Kiosks need to be there but also have the pay by phone option to make sure everybody is included.

    that also said, Americans are lazy and typically wont walk the block for the Kiosk, but one benefit is old meters can now become bike parking!!

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