Conclusion / CMAP's role
There is no one solution to the parking problems across the region, but local parking management strategies can help. Parking should be considered an important land use—one that affects development patterns as well as travel behavior. Even the perception of available parking can influence mode choice and economic competitiveness of an area (Weant and Levinson, 1990). Communities should plan parking with consideration as to its external and indirect effects on nearby uses and travel behavior. Where possible, it should be planned to encourage transit use and support commercial activity; opportunities for shared parking should be pursued.
To reduce or eliminate parking requirements, a community should "examine economic issues, site and neighborhood characteristics, location features, and market issues" (MTC 2007). Considering key stakeholders is also important. Municipalities can change parking requirement to suit the local development goals. If a walkable, vibrant street is desired, the municipality can consider eliminating parking requirements and requiring developers to "unbundle" any parking that is provided, so that those who use fewer spaces pay less. The effect of removing parking requirements will not create immediate changes, but it will be increased if developers are agreeable to selling parking "unbundled"—not included in rental agreements. Over time, the price of parking will rise toward the cost of providing it, developers will supply less, and cities will naturally become more compact. Imposing parking maximums would restrict developers, but it is a strategy that has been used successfully in cities like San Francisco and Portland.
The use of pricing, when paired with other parking management strategies, can be very successful at alleviating traffic congestion and freeing up parking spaces for short term use. Incorporating a transportation demand management program involves the use of strategies that increase transportation efficiency by changing travel behavior—which affects and is affected by parking. If a municipality wants to reduce congestion on high-activity streets where there is a perception of limited parking, they should consider increasing meter fees to maintain a vacancy of 15% to reduce "cruising." Leveling the significant price difference between on-street meter rates and off-street rates will have similar effects.
Managing the supply of parking in a community is no small task, and it will not help win popularity contests. Establishing Parking Benefit Districts can increase residents' acceptance of rate increases and policy changes – especially if they are involved in the decision-making process. Keeping residents involved and informed is a challenge, but makes the process much smoother. Making the process of paying for parking as simple as possible is important. "Smart parking technology" should be explored to provide users with real-time information to help drivers locate spaces efficiently. If residents are going to pay more for parking than they are accustomed to, it should be obvious that their money is being well-utilized.
Parking should not be considered a necessary element of other uses; it should be evaluated as a land use that will alter travel behavior and can have environmental impacts. Managing the supply and price of parking is an effective tool for communities to assist in the pursuit of development goals—whatever they may be. CMAP's role in improving parking policy in the region could include long-range planning studies, visioning, project studies, technical assistance, workshops, and the provision of data. Long-range planning studies (and reports such as this) can help spur discussion and educate the public on the inter-related issues that affect, and are affected by, parking. Where requested, CMAP can provide data and technical assistance to communities that are considering changes to their parking policy. In the appendix and bibliography, we have listed resources that can be used for developing and implementing parking management strategies. CMAP welcomes any comments or questions on this paper; please contact Lindsay Bayley (lbayley [at] cmap.illinois.gov).;