By David Hill, CAPP

As we know, attitudes toward the use of personal vehicles are changing and most modern cities are actively pursuing methods of reducing automobile traffic and its related infrastructure. Where past practice has been to “build for future capacity” (build more parking stalls than are actually required), the modern approach is to build less: The mantra of new municipal planning is, “If you don’t build it, they won’t come.” Many cities have happily embraced this concept as a means of avoiding building new public facilities and monetizing older ones.

The trend is clearly toward reductions in the supply of parking facilities, and that will create a need for a new management model. Traditionally, cities have taken their parking supply requirements for public and private properties from “trip generation” calculations based on observations of current utilization patterns for selected land uses, and then bumped the numbers up a bit to ensure a generous future parking supply. The modern practice, however, limits the number of stalls that can be built based on service reduction targets and says parkers will adjust their behavior based on short supply.

If this assumption is true, we will be parking future vehicles in the number of spaces we have now, or perhaps in fewer spaces that we have now, and that will mean we must manage our supply better. At present, most cities understand the utilization characteristics of their paid parking supply (on- and off-street), but have little understanding of their free parking supply (citywide), much of which is on private property.

This requires a new method of centrally coordinating all of the available parking supply to ensure it is effectively utilized, and also mechanisms to achieve the desired built form. One method used in other countries is licensing at-grade parking stalls—similar to licensing taxis—to control how much land surface area is dedicated to the parking supply, as well as the quality of the facilities provided.

What other methods exist in North America and in other jurisdictions to accomplish these same goals? Please leave your thoughts in the comments, and many thanks.

David Hill, CAPP, is CEO of Clayton-Hill Associates.