Rick Willson Shares the Agenda for a New Era of Active Urban Parking Management

Rick Willson Shares the Agenda for a New Era of Active Urban Parking Management

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Wed, 01/27/2016 - 5:13pm

Anyone who has driven around Los Angeles knows that searching for an open parking space in an unfamiliar area is a free-for-all—a competitive sport—with arbitrary winners and losers. Historically, cities have done little to actively manage parking and thus rationalize the supply and demand for space. Instead, cities have maintained policies where drivers have benefited from having free or low-cost parking, while an oversupply of parking has effectively made pedestrians and transit-riders bear the costs of traversing sprawling urban areas.  

In his new book, Parking Management for Smart Growth, Rick Willson discusses how, in the last 50 years, parking management has grown from a minor aspect of local policy and regulation to a critical tool to address these pressing transportation access issues. The higher densities, tight land supplies, mixed land uses, environmental and social concerns, and alternative transportation modes of Smart Growth demand a different approach—actively managed parking.

This book offers a set of tools and a method for strategic parking management so that communities can better use parking resources and avoid overbuilding parking. It explores new opportunities for making the most from every parking space in a sharing economy and taking advantage of new digital parking tools to increase user interaction and satisfaction. Examples are provided of successful approaches for parking management—from Pasadena to London. At its essence, the book provides a path forward for strategic parking management in a new era of tighter parking supplies.

It has become a cliché to talk about including the full range of stakeholders and their incentives in any planning assessment and ongoing management framework. It is much harder to actually identify and incorporate the incentives of the relevant stakeholders in parking. But Willson has the experience and expertise as a parking scholar and consultant to provide the tools to do this kind of stakeholder assessment. More astoundingly, he estimates that a typical city can replicate such an assessment with an estimated average cost of $100,000 to $200,000. When the average contemporary cost of a single-use parking space in an urban garage built by a public agency is at least $30,000, this multi-use parking planning process seems like an unquestionable bargain.

Willson shared his insights with an audience of 75 people when he visited the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation on January 25th. Following his talk, Greg Pierce, a Senior Researcher at the Luskin Center, moderated a discussion between Willson and Donald Shoup, a distinguished professor in UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning and also a world-renowned parking scholar.

Willson and Shoup discussed a range of topics informed by Willson’s initial comments and questions from the audience. The discussion particularly focused on increasing the utilization of existing parking spaces rather than using up valuable new urban land for cars instead of people. Shoup suggested that opportunistic parking operators can negotiate directly with private owners of parking lots such as banks and schools to make use of their space during non-business and educational hours. In turn, increasing existing space use creates benefits for parking operators, private business owners and drivers while mitigating potential externalities imposed on non-driving urban residents.

The event was the second of a series being held by the UCLA Luskin Center. The series features authors who focus on a range of issues related to the Center’s initiatives, such as transportation, sustainable cities, climate change, and water. Stay tuned for more information.

View and download Willson's presentation here.

Anyone who has driven around Los Angeles knows that searching for an open parking space in an unfamiliar area is a free-for-all—a competitive sport—with arbitrary winners and losers. Historically, cities have done little to actively manage parking and thus rationalize the supply and demand for space. Instead, cities have maintained policies where drivers have benefited from having free or low-cost parking, while an oversupply of parking has effectively made pedestrians and transit-riders bear the costs of traversing sprawling urban areas.