Thursday, December 11, 2008

Transit and Parking Policies Working Together?

Will I drive to work? Ride the bus or Metro? Bike? Carpool? When making this decision, each of us weighs the cost, how long it will take, and how convenient our commuting trip will be. When government creates programs and policies to help more commuters choose alternatives to driving alone, the term often used is “transportation demand management.”

In its review of Montgomery County’s transportation demand management, the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight found that the County actively promotes transit and other alternative commuting modes on the one hand but simultaneously implements parking policies that undercut efforts to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home. In other words, by providing plentiful, low-cost and conveniently located parking, the County makes it easy for commuters to drive alone, contrary to its goals of encouraging transit and other modes of transportation.

To bring parking policies and transportation demand management in line with one another, the County could offer incentives such as cash alternatives to employee parking subsidies or payouts to businesses that eliminate vehicle trips below a designated baseline. Alternatively, the County could provide disincentives such as reducing the parking supply or raising parking rates.
Either way, there are difficult choices to make. Economic incentives would have to be funded through taxes or fees, while disincentives would cost more to drivers and/or businesses. We know that reducing single occupancy vehicle trips is our best bet for mitigating congestion and reducing the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. But how do we get there from here? Take a look at the OLO’s full report and let me know what you think of the recommendations.


kenf said...

Read the "High Cost of Free Parking" by Don Shoup. It spells it all out, and offers suggestions.

Bossi said...

I second Donald Shoup's work -- what a great read. I'd almost say it's a must for any planner or transport engineer. Additionally, there is some interesting info from Ann Arbor recently posted at the Goodspeed Update: I never thought about how simple it could be to collect data from any access-controlled lot -- this could be a perfect tool for fine-tuning parking pricing.

Councilmember Nancy Floreen said...

Thanks for the heads up. These both are terrific resources. We'll be putting all options on the table this year.

Robert said...

The goal should be to improve the quality of life in Montgomery County. Limiting parking or making parking more expensive to force people to use transit, which in many cases would be less convenient and take longer -- taking time away from family life -- is not a good solution. We should improve both parking availability and transit so people can make the choice that is best form them rather than being forced to drive or forced to take transit.

Casey A said...

With all due respect, Robert misses the point -- if you make driving convenient and inexpensive, people will do more of it. Nobody is proposing banning cars, but there is no justification for subsidizing driving at a time and in a place (like MoCo) where traffic congestion has already reached extreme levels. If we make drivers pay for parking or offer less of it, lots of people will still choose to drive -- and that's fine -- but some will conclude that the balance of pros and cons to driving vs. transit have shifted in favor of transit.