Saturday, December 31, 2011

Interesting parking experiment in LA

Read the whole article here: http://www.lamag.com/features/Story.aspx?ID=1568281

Illustration only. Lifted from "EnglishRussia"
"Shoup can often be found dallying around parking meters and brings a camera to photograph illegally parked cars. Not long ago you could have spotted Shoup clicking on the corner of Pico and Fairfax, where the city had quadrupled its meter rates. (“Rates had gone too high there—sometimes there wasn’t a car on the street.”) In Westwood Village Shoup once rode the Raleigh back and forth for weeks tailing cars. He discovered that the average driver had to circle the block two and a half times before locating an open metered space. Westwood became a model for Shoup; the “cruising” he observed there occurs wherever drivers seek out inexpensive metered space to avoid pricier garages and lots. (A similar study in Manhattan in 1995 revealed that New Yorkers spent 11 minutes on average searching for a space.) In a year’s time in Westwood, space hunting by drivers consumed an extra 47,000 gallons of gas. It stalled traffic, increased accidents, and required 950,000 extra vehicle miles, about four trips to the moon and back.
The problem, according to Shoupistas, is that meters are priced equally. “Imagine what would happen at Dodger Stadium if every seat cost the same and went on sale game day,” says Dan Mitchell, an engineer at DOT. “Everyone would run for that seat behind home plate—it would be insanity. But that’s what we have now with parking—equal pricing.” This spring the DOT plans to introduce an $18.5 million smart wireless meter system based on Shoup’s theories. Called ExpressPark, the 6,000-meter array will be installed on downtown streets and lots, along with sensors buried in the pavement of every parking spot to detect the presence of cars and price accordingly, from as little as 50 cents an hour to $6. Street parking, like pork bellies, will be open to market forces. As blocks fill, prices will rise; when occupancy drops, so will rates. In an area like downtown, ideal for Shoup’s progressive pricing, people will park based on how much they’re willing to pay versus how far they are willing to walk to a destination. In a trendy area like Melrose Avenue’s shopping district, where parking on side streets is forbidden to visitors, Shoup would open those residential blocks to market-priced meters, wooing home owners by guaranteeing that meter profits would be turned over to them in the form of property tax deductions. (That benefit could add up to thousands of dollars a year per household.)
Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood is already experimenting with a version of the system, and so are San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. If adopted by more cities, the system would hopefully stop a Westwood scenario from ever occurring again, guaranteeing one open space of parking at any time of day on every metered block by pricing out drivers who are more willing to park on cheaper blocks. Should a block remain empty, its meters will drop their hourly rates over the course of a month. Nobody, of course, really knows what will happen once L.A.’s system powers up. After Seattle conducted its own study on performance-based parking, engineers noticed an oddity: When prices dropped on certain blocks, drivers actually parked less. No one can explain this.
“In San Francisco we’ve seen prices go up on one block, down on the next, then up again,” says Shoup. “Why that’s happening, we don’t know.” The DOT and Shoup expect ExpressPark to illuminate the static lives of automobiles. “All we need is to move one car off each block for the system to work and get rid of all cruising,” says Shoup. “It’s not like we’re talking about a problem as big as the Reformation or Prohibition.”

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