It’s simple economics: When price rises, demand falls. An 18-month study by Carnegie Mellon University professors found that adjusting parking rates for demand greatly improved parking by almost every metric. Average parking rates dropped, total parking revenue climbed and, importantly for drivers, overcrowding fell.
The city’s electronic parking kiosks provided the data used by the professors to adjust public parking rates for streets near CMU, and there’s no reason that other technologies like smartphone apps with real-time information on available spaces could not be added to make parking more efficient.
San Francisco has been using a data-driven rate-adjusting parking program for three years, which has eased congestion. Drivers are even able to pay by phone, a tantalizingly modern alternative.
Pittsburgh should apply the program as widely as possible, to both street parking and off-street garages. Council and the mayor’s office are considering expanding the program to Oakland, a move that should happen soon. Giving CMU access to parking data to pinpoint other areas of price mismatch would also be in the city’s interest.
Expanding smart parking would be better for consumers, who would avoid the headache of full parking facilities, and the city, which could reap more revenue. Modern analytics is providing a solution to the decades-long problem of scarce parking — all Pittsburgh has to do is seize it.