Using Supply-and-Demand Parking Pricing to Reduce Urban Congestion

In big cities, drivers often waste time searching for parking places. While they are searching, they are adding congestion, to already congested streets. Technology now permits reall-time pricing at parking meters, where the price depends on the availability of open parking spaces.

Should parking meters cost $17 an hour? Donald Shoup thinks that’s fine — if the rate drops when demand falls. The University of California at Los Angeles urban planning prof wants to end wasteful trolling for empty meters by charging market prices on smart meters. “It’s like Goldilocks,” he says. “The price is too low if there are no spaces open, and too high if there are a lot of spaces open.” Drivers should pay up at peak times and get a break when demand ebbs, he argues. Chicago, where an hour in a downtown lot can cost $17, is studying the idea. And in February, Redwood City, Calif., will adjust meter rates — every three months — to assure 15% vacancies.

Joseph Weber. ” STREET PRICES: Adjustable-Rate Meters.” BusinessWeek (NOVEMBER 21, 2005) 14.

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