Sunday, May 29, 2011

What to do Instead of a Preferential Parking District

A Preferential Parking District Sign in Hollywood

Preferential parking districts (PPDs) are areas, usually in residential neighborhoods, where there are parking restrictions that residents can be exempted from by getting a permit. They usually spring up in situations where residents are angry about "spillover" parking from nearby businesses, and/or "outsiders" parking in front of their houses.

A good thing about PPDs is that they often introduce an element of pay parking. Residents buy permits to offset the City's cost of providing the district (which includes PPD application processing costs, signs, permit processing, etc.). A big drawback however, is that the area is essentially shut off to anyone else who might want to park there. This can harm local businesses that don't have a lot of off-street parking to offer their customers. It can also harm commuting students who may be parking in a neighborhood to avoid the higher costs of parking on campus.

Here's what I think should happen instead. Let me start off by saying that this will often be politically difficult, but I think it makes a lot more sense, and I hope that people will one day see the benefits of not gleefully guzzling the free parking Kool Aid.

Instead of a PPD, set up a parking market. This should include areas for both short-term and long-term on-street parking. The short-term parking can be handled by putting up meters. Yes, I'm advocating for putting up parking meters in front of people's houses and apartments in these situations. If you want to get really fancy, embed sensors in the ground under each parking space, then use the data on which spaces are occupied to set demand-sensitive prices that keep some spaces open at all times (hat tip to Shoup Dogg). For long term parking the solution is designating certain areas with signs on every block and selling permits, but not the same way a PPD sells them. These permits would be for sale to anyone, and their price would be based on demand so that they don't sell out instantly. They would also have to be renewed periodically.

This system insures that everybody who is willing to pay the market price for parking will have access to both short and long term parking. The prices are a disincentive to leave cars on the street (and hence to own an excessive number of cars) and this benefits alternatives to the car, which, with any luck, will some day make this discussion less relevant :)


  1. I'm actually in a great place, politically, to make this happen. Half of what my commission does is PPD's.

    If you've got any contacts that include fancy titles or shiny reports on this subject, I'd love to hear about it. (Beyond, of course, "The High Cost of Free Parking.")

  2. I don't have anything for you outside of "The High Cost of Free Parking". In fact, going back and taking a closer look at that book (p. 434 of the hardcover edition) Shoup talks about the idea of replacing permit districts with "parking benefit districts" in which residents park for free, but nonresidents can park for a price. He's thinking of doing this without meters since "most residents wouldn't want to see parking meters in front of their houses". So presumably they would be buying permits. Then send the money back for improved public services in the specific area. This would be done not because it is theoretically ideal to exempt residents, but because it is politically necessary to compromise to get anything done.

    So, I guess I'm going out on a limb saying put meters in front of peoples' houses. Still, in an ideal world, I'd say it could very well make sense.

  3. I agree with the meters in a resident district. Residents want permits to park all over the city, and visitors just want to park and go to the beach. It’s a mixed bag of use. The residents have a driveway and a garage and the on street parking is for public use.

    Placing a meter at each block for beach parking and selling permits for residents to use the parking as available would work in some of our areas. The revenue should go back to the area the meter was located for replacement meters, block clean up and street repairs. More reasonable is let the residents have a say of how the revenue is used in the district.

    Residents seem to think the public parking in front of a home belongs to them. Give them ownership by having a say in how the revenue is spent.