Eliminating free parking

Pablo Valerio for Cities of the Future on how we might eliminate free parking:

  1. Eliminate non-regulated parking spaces in the city. Any “free” curbside parking is lost revenue, more pollution and an “invitation” to bring more cars into the city.
  2. Gradually expand parking for motorcycles to a third of the curbside space available, and eventually ban sidewalk parking for all motor vehicles.
  3. Have a “zero-tolerance” policy toward violations such as parking on pedestrian crossings, idling the engine while waiting, and any illegal parking on sidewalks.
  4. Don’t issue any new parking garage licenses and eliminate minimum parking requirements for new buildings.
  5. Adjust pricing to demand. If there is no curbside or public garage parking available it means the price is too low. Consider, as several cities have done, on-demand price adjustment.
  6. Enforce parking time limits. People should not be allowed to keep their cars parked in the same zone for more that the maximum time, even if they continue to pay. This will deter commuters from bringing their cars in each day.
  7. Eliminate “free” periods such as at lunch time, in the summer or on weekends. This would generate enough revenue to justify hiring additional meter maids.
  8. Gradually upgrade all the parking meters and ticketing machines to cashless units, requiring people to use electronic payment systems such as credit cards or smartphone apps. This way there is less maintenance, faster transactions and no cash collection costs.
  9. Finally, over time, automate the entire curbside parking system, installing sensors and electronic monitoring, and only bringing meter maids when necessary to issue a penalty. This way fewer meter maids could effectively handle bigger areas.

He accepts these measures would “likely ignite protests by residents and visitors alike”, but would reduce traffic and pollution and promote healthier, more sustainable modes of transport.

I took a rare trip into the centre of Milton Keynes recently—the central business and retail district of the town. Traffic was unbelievable, with cars backing up around roundabouts and along the town’s grid roads, mostly due to the number of vehicles circling for parking spots. MK has relatively few free spaces but it is evidently too cheap and too convenient for motorists to park. I hope that measures like those listed above could be introduced and extra funding given to the town’s substandard public transport network. The downside of living in a town designed for motorists (and shoppers) means this is unlikely.

I am less sure about measure 8 or, rather, the pressing need for it. Due to a current work project I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of cash. I don’t see any compelling reason why we should force large groups of people (particularly those who are older or poor) to suddenly adopt wireless payment systems—not yet, anyway. These will naturally replace cash-based machines and processes as the technology is more widely used and accepted across all other aspects of life. Not everyone uses contactless card payments yet, nor are they comfortable using SMS to pay for things, let alone using Apple Pay or similar services.