The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) learned that a parking pricing primer would be valued from feedback received at a two-day parking pricing workshop we sponsored in San Francisco in September 2011. Despite the dire financial straits of many local governments, more than 70 governmental parking and transportation officials attended and the level of engagement was incredible. We left with a clear message that city transportation and parking professionals were clamoring for help to do more.

When developing the primer (available here), we were surprised by just how many different parking pricing strategies had been tested in all sorts of different places. The one thing we can promise to readers is that no one will be lacking for great parking pricing ideas after having read the whole primer. From the responses we received from our session at the 2012 IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix last month, putting the primer out was definitely the right move.

The primer discusses a broad range of innovative parking pricing projects, including some funded by FHWA. They involve both public and private partners operating under an array of institutional arrangements. For example, FHWA funded the nation’s largest and most sophisticated performance-parking program to date: San Francisco’s SFpark, which includes 6,000 on-street parking spaces (and more than twice that number of municipal garage parking spaces) to achieve an on-street parking occupancy goal of 60 to 80 percent by charging rates that vary by geography and time of day.

Parking costs are often hidden or passed onto someone other than the person parking. The primer examines strategies for unbundling parking from real-estate (where parking is purchased and rented discretely from other transactions) and strategies such as parking cash-out (when employers provide free parking to employees, often in employer owned or leased lots).

The primer also highlights some smaller gems. For example, a lesser known aspect of SFpark is the fee structure applied within city-owned garages. A $2 discount is provided for vehicles that enter a parking garage before 7:30 a.m. or leave after 7:30 p.m. and stay for at least three hours. The discount is designed to encourage travel outside of peak congestion periods. A second gem was found in an FHWA-funded project in Minneapolis. This research targeted purchasers of monthly parking passes and examined the effects of various alternatives. The most flexible of the alternatives tested was called the PayGo Flex-Pass, where a monthly transit pass was provided free to purchasers of monthly parking passes, and those taking transit instead of parking any day of the month received a $2 rebate versus a $7 rebate on days where neither parking nor transit was used (with the total monthly rebate capped at half the cost of the monthly parking pass). This led to a huge decline in driving days—from 78.5 percent to 56.5 percent.

FHWA’s primer aims to help IPI member professionals eager for information on parking pricing to pursue innovation. Download your copy today at!