Posted on November 18, 2011 8:57 AM
Rethinking Parking in the Region
Parking is an asset that is frequently overlooked but is paid for by everyone, whether or not they drive. While much parking in the region is free, the true costs (i.e., construction, maintenance, etc.) are passed along to consumers and taxpayers via increased taxes and higher prices for goods and services. When parking is free or costs too little, it only serves to perpetuate automobile dependency, increase congestion, and lead to economic inefficiencies. GO TO 2040 takes a close look at parking pricing and management strategies as an additional source of funding for our transportation system, specifically the transit system in appropriate locations. CMAP is currently developing resources to help municipalities implement parking pricing and management strategies throughout the region.
Local governments can use parking pricing along with other parking management strategies, particularly those using variable pricing, to promote efficient use of existing parking and allow the price of parking to reflect its true market value. Variable parking pricing seeks to apply a free market-inspired pricing system to more efficiently allocate parking supply, with higher prices charged at times and locations of peak demand. This has the promise of both effective congestion mitigation and the ability to raise considerable sums for local government. Revenues generated can assist local governments in the maintenance and management of their existing transportation infrastructure or help improve transit service. Parking management strategies can also be implemented in coordination with biking and walkability improvements to encourage alternative modes of mobility.
Parking has a complex relationship with transit. It can create a disincentive to use transit; ridership is typically highest when traveling to destinations where parking is expensive or scarce. On the other hand, parking can also help provide access to transit. While the GO TO 2040 plan supports dense development around train stations [conventional transit oriented development (TOD)], many of the region’s Metra stations that attract the most riders already have significant commuter parking. CMAP recommends a mixture of stations that focus on TOD and stations that provide commuter parking options. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has compiled local case studies of TOD and parking around transit, as well as a guide to access and parking strategies for TOD.
Two local examples of parking innovation are Oak Park and Chicago. Oak Park's comprehensive downtown parking management program is featured in the GO TO 2040 Case Studies Library . The Village’s program eliminated hourly limits, priced spaces by desirability, lowered garage prices, and made it easier to pay for parking with the use of pay boxes.
On November 16, the Chicago City Council unanimously approved the city’s 2012 budget, which will fill a $635.7 million deficit. Included in the budget is a $2 congestion premium on parking in the central business district garages during the week (which would rise to $3 on weekends). When combined with new weekly and monthly parking fees, this results in $28 million annually to fund transit improvements. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) plans to help build two new “L” stations downtown and launch a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system with these funds. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch, one of the new stations would be on the Green Line at Cermak Road near McCormick Place and the proposed BRT system would operation between Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, Millennium Park, Illinois Center, and Navy Pier using bus-only lanes for a portion of the route.
Parking management and pricing strategies should be customized by location, and GO TO 2040 recommends that CMAP work with interested local governments to explore its implementation. In October, CMAP launched a focus group with seven suburban planners from the region to discuss the parking challenges they face. This input will be used in the development of a “parking tool kit” for municipalities. Set for completion in summer 2012, the tool kit will include a model ordinance and other resources for more effective parking policies, such as ways to share parking between uses. The San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council both have good examples of parking tool kits. To learn more about local parking management strategies, check out CMAP’s strategy paper on the topic that was written in development of GO TO 2040.