Road corridors cater for a number of different users and functions, and compromise is generally required between some of these. The ability to provide for cycling along a specific route often necessitates a compromise to be made in terms of parking provision. Parking management is a key element of general transport planning and should be considered at a high level, rather than in reaction to the needs of specific transport projects.
Sometimes parking will be required. The ONRC accessibility category highlights that the provision of parking is sometimes desirable depending on the function of the corridor and the adjacent land use. However, sometimes parking provision is the lowest priority when compared to the other road functions. Council policies should be aligned to reflect this, as the ability to manage parking depends on having a useful strategy in place.
When parking for motor vehicles is reduced to make room for cycling infrastructure, this can be a highly controversial issue and the resulting political opposition may severely endanger the viability of the project. Strategies to manage parking demand or improve stakeholder awareness about the actual (not the perceived) situation can help mitigate this problem and thus achieve the desired provision for cycling.
Powell et al (2015) undertook research for the Transport Agency regarding the costs and benefits of inner-city parking. They concluded that those in the transport and planning sector widely recognise numerous benefits of reallocating corridor space from kerbside parking to other modes, but that misconceptions held by the public and the media are the greatest barrier to the change necessary in pursuing these benefits. A conceptual framework for evaluating the costs and benefits related to kerbside parking reallocation in the New Zealand context has been proposed by the researchers. Further research will be needed to develop best practice guidelines for road controlling authorities to refer to when considering parking in both a safety and efficiency context.
Provision, restriction and cost
In managing parking, the number of spaces provided, the types of vehicles allowed to park in specific spaces, the time restrictions on these spaces, the occupancy, and the cost of parking should be considered, and field data collected where necessary. Applying time restrictions to parking spaces may benefit shoppers and visitors by excluding commuters, but will also run the risk of disadvantaging residents.
To alleviate some concern about parking loss from cycle schemes, it may be sensible to install additional bike parking. This could be on-street; one car parking space can typically hold 10–12 bicycles.
Assessments should extend beyond just the corridor of interest, for example by considering a buffer area around the corridor where a cycle route is to be implemented. There may be similarly convenient car parking available on adjacent side streets or in under-utilised off-road lots.
Modifying the current parking provision or charges on a particular corridor will create flow-on effects to the surrounding streets. An approach of just removing parking on cycle routes may harm the image of cycling in the public eye, whereas an area-wide treatment could achieve a more efficient and equitable treatment of parking and illustrate that it is an issue that extends well beyond just that of accommodating cycling facilities.
Many people like to have on-street parking available near to their houses or businesses on the off-chance that their visitors or customers will need it. In reality however, the actual average utilisation of these spaces may be very low. For potentially contentious projects it is important to undertake comprehensive parking occupancy surveys to gauge the true levels of parking use, and thus the reasonable amount of parking actually needed in most cases.
In New Zealand, users generally pay for parking in the central city but it is free elsewhere, even though demand often outweighs supply in some locations. Where this is the case, it is suggested to introduce measures to achieve equilibrium. Methods of charging for parking could distinguish between residents and commuters. There is little experience in New Zealand on this, but it should be engaged in as a high-level issue (ie not related to one particular transport project). Once a process has been agreed on, the implementation of transport projects that require road space reallocation could become a lot simpler.
It is important to communicate to stakeholders the realities of the situation with respect to parking, as many people have incorrect perceptions on this issue. Quoting some of the following research may be of use.
Fleming et al (2013) researched the retail spending of different transport users in relation to road space allocation. They found that sustainable transport users contribute a higher economic spend proportional to mode use than other road users.
Beetham (2014) explored the extent to which road space reallocation from on-street parking to an arterial cycleway may be warranted on Tory Street, a key street in central Wellington. The study found that the contribution of those who use on-street parking to adjacent retail vitality on Tory Street is minor (7%), compared to the contribution of those who do not require parking and those who use off-street parking.
Internationally, parking management strategies that reflect the real value of the road space used for parking have been shown to improve the economic efficiency of road space allocation. One such application is the ‘SF park pilot programme’ implemented by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (2014). This implemented the use of demand-responsive pricing to meet parking occupancy targets. It was found that this system reduced the amount of time people spend searching for a parking space and thus reduced congestion and circulation, improved traffic flow, speed and reliability and improved safety for all road users. Incidents of illegal parking, the number of parking tickets issued and the average hourly rate people pay for parking were all reduced. Importantly, when such a tool has been implemented, it will be easier to reallocate some road space; when parking demand gets displaced from a main road to a side street, the pricing mechanisms will ensure that target parking occupancy rates will still be met, and everybody’s parking demand will continue to be accommodated. Hence, the credibility of the main reason for not approving parking removal could potentially be reduced.
Shoup (1997) studied the effects of a Californian law change in 1992 that required employers to offer staff the option to choose a pay increase in lieu of a car park. It was found that the number of people who drove to work as the sole vehicle occupant decreased significantly, whereas those who commuted by carpool, public transport, walking or cycling increased. Thus the price and availability of car parks has a direct correlation with cycling mode share and by influencing a reduction in the demand for parking (through cost increase) an added benefit of increasing cyclist volumes can also be achieved.
Conversely, Litman et al (2003) presents walking and cycling improvements as a possible parking management strategy, as improving the quality of walking and cycling:
- expands the range of parking facilities that serve a destination
- increases the rate of ‘park once’ trips (rather than trip-chaining several trips)
- encourages mode shift from driving to walking and cycling
- encourages public transport use.
Thus, whilst parking management is a necessary precursor to providing for cycling, good provision for walking and cycling can increase the effectiveness of parking management initiatives.