by Matt Darst, senior solutions architect, ACS Transportations Solutions

Metered Parking Spots seen all over the United States

Squatters find a space and feed the meter all day, blocking anyone else from getting that spot. What’s even more frustrating, and adds to the gridlock, is that when the parking spots are taken many of motorists on the road are circling around just looking for an open spot.

Some cities are now taking action to – hopefully – alleviate the parking gridlock. Those cities are looking at something called dynamic pricing for parking. Here’s how it works: Cities make the decision that parking spaces are worth more during certain days and times. Prices are adjusted based upon supply and demand and changed only as often as can be clearly communicated to drivers. Prices go up during peak times and down in other times. Drivers have to know what prices are so they can decide whether to pay it or not. The goal is to ensure turnover and availability.

Right now, most parking meters offer a single “static” hourly rate regardless of traffic and how many people are parked at the meters. Dynamic pricing, at its core, recognizes that properly setting rates will drive the duration a motorist parks.

Managing demand by adjusting rates makes sense. Cities have few other options. Many are faced with antiquated meters and systems, growing vehicle ownership, and underfunded public transportation.

Due to budget cuts and smaller staff sizes, cities may not have the expertise they need to implement dynamic pricing. Cities should work with a parking expert with innovative ideas in this area.  To learn more, listen to a podcast on making parking easier with dynamic pricing.

While this is a new idea for parking in the U.S., cities in Europe have been using it successfully for years. But think about the last time you bought airline tickets.  Ever notice how those prices seem to constantly fluctuate – sometimes it’s higher, but sometimes the price is lower. That is dynamic pricing.