Friday, October 19, 2012

On-Street Parking: A Stethoscope to Monitor a City’s Economic Activity and Vitality.

On-Street Parking: The Bellwether of a City’s Economic Activity and Vitality.

I have suspected for some time that there will be a ‘one thing’ that is the parameter that will show the health and economic vitality of a city and it will have something to do with parking.  I was right.

On-street parking, when monitored well (as a lot of cities still don’t do the monitoring bit well enough yet but is improving), can be the bellwether of a city’s economic activity and vitality.  A bold statement when there are so many other possible bellwethers out there and so many more that are more fashionable to monitor, such as inflation, building consents, GDP and others.  But none will give you the activity signal immediacy like on-street parking.

There are some rules that have to be in place first of course, you have to be able to monitor the parking meters occupancies or transactions in real time and it doesn’t even matter if you are still using abstract pricing.

On-street parking gives us the one signal to indicate how large, small or size of change that is occurring in the city and you can see it everyday in your parking stats.  I set up a group of reports from my ITSL metro parking machines to deliver data each morning that I can then compare to a standard norm for parking activity. I have had to spend a number of hours and my teams hours getting the right data as the reports from the machines are limited in scope, but we finally are able to monitor the change in activity everyday.

Think about it.  On-street parking is the recipient of every change that happens within a city.  If a construction site opens up, the car parks and the street are full of contractors and other related activities, so my reports show me that a change is happening and I go and look to see that a building is going up.  If a building is being demolished (likely in Christchurch right now), then a private car park opens up and drains the street with cheaper pricing.  My reports pick up a lack of activity in the street and I go and look to find the new off-street car park open and thriving with cars that were parking on-street.

On-street parking is like the collection of arteries and veins of the body.  They flow around the city picking up any changes to activity or vitality of the city.  Get your stethoscope out, make sure it can monitor what you want it to monitor and listen to the changes.

Kevin Warwood


  1. Greetings, Kevin:

    Couldn't agree more with your message that on-street parking conditions can indicate the condition of the "patient", in this case a city's economy.

    I'm sure many of us would be interested in what you're using for your "norms". Here in the States, we've had them published in Chapter 4, Parking Surveys, of the IPI's Parking 101 - A Parking Primer, since 2001 (which I co-authored along with Duke Hanson, presently of Duncan Solutions). This topic was also written about in the September 2012 Parking Professional in the "Consultants Corner" section (page 6), and has been featured on our CMA homepage for the past several weeks.

    Our norms for occupancy, violation rate, etc. were based on two decades of parking activity surveys in cities large and small, which typically consisted of four one-hour passes for occupancy, violation, capture rate and turnover. From those data, other parking activity indicators and measures were derived, such as percent of optimum turnover and parking duration. And with the advent of on-street payment machines, we've seen the ranges of good performance change as well.

    I also would offer that if a city's parking program doesn't have access to the real-time input from pay machines and/or sensors, there still are highly credible ways to do a quality medical work-up for the patient. The traditional survey yields reliable data, albeit using different reference parameters. Plus, seeing conditions first-hand and collecting data not only for paid spaces but also for safety and service zones even provides a more complete picture of the patient - akin to the benefits and differences of an MRI versus an X-Ray or CAT scan.

    In conclusion, it was a nice post, Kevin, and anything to advance the benefits of parking analysis is much appreciated. And whether by coincidence or ESP, your allusion to the "stethoscope" is on the mark, as our CMA homepage used that image to illustrate our discussion of the same topic about a month ago, which can be seen through the link at the top of this reply.

    1. Hi Joseph,
      Purely coincidental I'm afraid. Great minds think alike, and all that.
      My observations are nowhere as detailed as yours. In Christchurch, while we are still feeling the affects of the earthquakes, everything is happening at high speed. The buildings are being demolished and new sites starting up, at a much faster pace than normal. With that occurring, I started to notice the affects that these projects were having on the on-street parking. It is so much more pronounced and emphasised that you cannot help but notice the affects.
      I need to spend some time looking at your table. It looks interesting and deserves the attention.