Parking Pilot Pushed To Open Up Spaces

Traffic AuthorityWith clearer signage, “dynamic” pricing, and technologically improved enforcement, the city’s transit department hopes to strip frustration and inefficiency from parking in New Haven and ensure that visitors and residents alike always have a place to park.

City transit chief Doug Hausladen made that pitch to commissioners of the New Haven Traffic Authority during their latest monthly meeting on the third floor of the police headquarters at 1 Union Ave.

Thomas Breen photoHausladen gave a 30-minute presentation summarizing the research, proposals, and goals put forth by the aldermanic Parking & Transportation Working Group, which was convened by the mayor and the president of the Board of Alders a year and a half ago to investigate parking concerns throughout the city. Hausladen served as staff for the working group.

Hausladen told the commissioners at the meeting this past Tuesday night that the two primary parking-related complaints the working group heard from the public involved the difficulty of finding available on-street parking downtown, and neighbor frustration with commuters, visitors, and employees parking on residential side streets.

After researching parking enforcement innovations in cities ranging from Seattle to Portland to Sommerville, Mass., Hausladen introduced the commissioners to the working group’s proposed Park New Haven Pilot.

Click here, here, here and here for downloads of the different documents in Hausladen’s presentation.

The commissioners voted to table the dynamic pricing parking pilot until next month’s meeting, when they will resume discussion and vote on whether or not to adopt it.

Rehashing many of the points that he and Hill Alder Dave Reyes, the chair of the working group, discussed during a recent public meeting about parking in the Hill, Hausladen told the commissioners that his department would like to introduce a pilot program starting in August or September. It would apply different prices to different on-street parking meters depending on location, time of day, and demand.

“For us, with all of the pricing being the same, not all of the destinations are the same,” Hausladen said about the city’s current on-street parking system. “We end up getting a lot of demand in certain areas of our city and less demand in other areas.”

For the pilot, Hausladen would like to adjust prices for parking meters by a “quarter every quarter,” or 25 cents every three months. High-in-demand spaces on Temple Street or Chapel Street downtown could cost as much as $2.25 per hour for peak hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Less popular spots could cost as low as $0.50 or $0.75 per hour.

“The hope is to get one or two parking spaces available on every city block,” Hausladen said. He said his department would like to see an 85 percent occupancy ratio, meaning at one or two available spaces per block. He said that cities that have implemented this type of dynamic pricing plan have seen large reductions in circling for parking, and subsequently large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Hill, he noted, has the worst air quality of any neighborhood in the state.

Hausladen said that his department wants to model its pilot program off of the city of Seattle’s. “They’ve adjust rates four times,” he said, “and the fourth time, they didn’t make the news. That’s really the goal: to be background.”

But variable on-street parking prices are just one component of his department’s plan to move New Haven beyond its traditional conception of parking, Hausladen said.

He said “strategic wayfinding,” or improved signage that is clear and consistent and easy to read, will also contribute to better a better parking experience for residents and visitors alike.

Showing a picture of Berekely, Calif. Street sign with a giant “8” indicating the maximum number of parking hours allowed at a given space, Hausladen said he would like to see New Haven’s text-heavy parking signs switch to an easier-to-read design language.

“We’re trying to get away from what we use in our traffic signs,” he said, “which is a lot of words,” which can be confusing to someone squinting up from the sidewalk.

He also noted that the department plans to purchase license plate recognition software next fiscal year to better enforce residential parking permits, which he said residents are using much more frequently now that the department charges $0 for residents to acquire a permit for their given block.

“By reducing [the permit price] to zero,” he said, “we’ve seen a lot more people ask us to manage their parking. And for us, that’s everything. If we’re not managing your parking, we can’t help you have a good quality of life on your street.”

Hausladen listed the goals of the dynamic parking pilot, as well as of the “Beyond Parking” report more broadly, as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, less circling, increased economic vitality and safety, and reduced frustration.

“We want to have consistent availability,” Hausladen said, “so that when you come into New Haven, we’re going to have parking available for you.”

Allan Appel photoCommissioner Evelise Ribeiro asked Hausladen about the roll out of the pilot program: How long would it take to implement the dynamic pricing and new signage? Where would the variable prices be made visible?

Hausladen said the price for any given spot will always be visible on that spots meter. He said his department is also considering signs displaying one, two or three dollar signs, a la Yelp, to indicate what category of pricing a certain spot falls into.

“And this is just a three-year pilot?” asked commissioner Stephen Garcia.

Hausladen said three years should provide plenty of time to collect data on whether or not this pilot program is successful. He also said that his contract as city transit chief is only so long, and he’d rather not hamstring a successor if he or chooses to drop or significantly change the program.

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posted by: Noteworthy on May 14, 2018  9:41am

Solution in Search of a Problem Notes:

1. Circling? People drive around in circles because they can’t find parking? Prove it. If I don’t find parking, I go to a lot. If I don’t want to eat or buy something that bad downtown and the price/location of the lot is that big a deal - I don’t. I don’t see people circling.

2. There is a problem in the Hill neighborhood because of Yale New Haven Hospital. Why not just solve for that problem? That’s the real and only issue.

3. Changing the rates so it costs more sounds more like a money grab to me. Where in downtown New Haven is parking ever going to be 50 cents?

4. The bigger problem of parking downtown is that on rainy days you can’t read the meters to see how much time you bought; or if your credit card went through - or worse, the meter won’t read your credit card at all. Maybe Hausladen can check in with Seattle, Portland and all over the place to figure out how to handle that? It’s a real problem vs. a fake one.

posted by: HewNaven on May 14, 2018  10:24am

Why not scale parking fees to WEALTH. Some are suggesting we do so with infractions…

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on May 14, 2018  10:40am

@Noteworthy: you may not circle, but I do.  Rationally or not, I am resistant to using lots and garages, and greatly prefer on-street parking.  I’ll drive around till I find an on-street place.  I’m sure I’m not any more unique than you are; you shouldn’t assume that everybody is just like you.  This committee took a survey and if they say they learned about “circling” behavior by people looking for on-street parking, I suspect they actually did.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 14, 2018  10:45am

If the City wanted to solve visitors’ parking frustrations, they would:

1. Implement the proposed changes back to a 2-way grid. The existing one-way grid is maniacal.

2. Lower the rates in the garages to encourage visitors to park in them. Right now hourly parking rates in the downtown garages sits at $3-$4/hour. No wonder our metered space are perpetually clogged!

posted by: Noteworthy on May 14, 2018  11:21am

It’s also a little weird that Hausladen thinks this will somehow make our lives better when he’s proposing a 20% increase in parking fines for his department’s favorite ticket - overtime parking at a meter. I see this as increasing the misery index and having variable rate parking - never knowing how much you’re going to pay but with one guarantee - if you overstay your welcome by 5 seconds, a meter maid will be there to stick a ticket on you vehicle - a ticket that will cost man people in New Haven more than they make in two hours of labor.

posted by: Patricia Kane on May 14, 2018  11:46am

This is a wonderful plan if you can afford prime time parking downtown or at the hospitals.
    But what of the low to middle income person who has business at City Hall? Or has a hospital appointment?
    If all incomes were equal, I could see the logic, but since all incomes are not equal, does this not establish an advantage to those who can afford premium parking over those who cannot?
    Unfortunately I see this as one more instance where inequality will be established - unless there are discounts for low income, fixed income, the disabled, etc.
    I’m waiting for Threefifths to sign in on this.
    And Noteworthy makes a good point about the difficulty in reading the meters in the rain (and the dark).

posted by: Esbey on May 14, 2018  12:18pm

This sensible “supply and demand” plan was implemented in parts of San Francisco and indeed some parking prices fell (a lot) while others rose (a lot).

Under the plan, you will be able to park on nearly any block to run a quick errand, which will be great for downtown business. You can alternately save $$ by choosing a cheap block, probably a bit farther away.

This plan is based on careful published research (including documenting the prevalence of traffic “circling looking for spaces”) and on successful implementation in multiple cities.

Donald Shoup’s slogan, “there is no such thing as free parking,” is widely true.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 14, 2018  1:01pm

How should the price of parking meters, tickets, and lots be determined? Should the Transportation Department conduct an audit to determine how much it costs the city to enforce parking rules, administer parking regulations, maintain streets and parking infrastructure, and manage the office and personnel; then distribute meter, garage, and ticketing pricing only to cover those costs? How should the City distribute that? Should every on-street parking spot everywhere in the City have a parking meter? Should every parking meter be the same price per hour? Should a side street in Fair Haven have the same price as Grand Avenue and should that have the same price as Crown Street? Should prices be the same at noon as they are at 7:00pm? Should there be time limits?

There is no “one size fits all” for parking. The regulatory needs of the City vary widely by location and time of day. Fundamentally, the goal is to stabilize the supply of parking throughout the City. Many residential side streets need little if any parking enforcement ever. Some side streets need occasional seasonal enforcement of on-street parking such as The Game in Westville, Citywide Fieldhouse events in Beaver Hills, July 4th fireworks displays in East Rock, etc. More routine parking enforcement needs may be satisfactorily addressed by signage, time restrictions, or zoned parking. Commercial areas with lots of short shopping trips, restaurant crowds, and theater-goers likely requires parking meters, time limits, and higher prices to encourage more frequent turnover.

I believe that variable rate pricing for parking meters is a smart move. Concerns about parking affordability are valid, but premature - we need to see what actually happens. However, I do think a portion of parking revenue should be dedicated to multi-modal transportation investments like bike lanes, bus stops, and sidewalks. ANother important piece of stabilizing the supply of parking depends on land use planning and zoning reform.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 14, 2018  1:26pm

This project sounds like a micro-managers wet-dream.

posted by: robn on May 14, 2018  1:27pm

Convert all except the provably impossible streets from one way into two way.
Move the bus hub to Union Station.
Convert a long ribbon of the gargantuan George and Elm streets (plus lots of Whalley) into diagonal parking on both sides.

posted by: HarryJ on May 14, 2018  1:50pm

I too am one of those people that circle, all the time. Its a huge time waster, but I would be willing to pay a little more for a meter, then park in a garage. A garage is also and time waster and more expensive. But I am not sure how charging more would really free up spaces.

And I agree about not being able to see the meter in the rain.

The Parkmobile App has been a huge help, and has saved me money on parking tickets in the long run.

Finally has anyone in New Haven explored the PHLASH system in Philadelphia.  While the Yale shuttle can be a help (and I work for Yale), the trips can be slot..with smaller and more vehicles, and additional downtown routes, that could solve some problems. Add more parking lots on the outskirts for nominal fee to park for a few hours, and then hop on the PHLASH type of shuttle.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on May 14, 2018  2:48pm

AT, one variation on your idea is to charge a low rate for the first hour or two, but maintain the higher rates for people who park all day. This would encourage commuters to use transit, bike, walk,etc., while accommodating people who are coming downtown to eat, for doctor’s appointments, etc.I fully agree with converting one-way streets to two-way.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on May 14, 2018  7:25pm

@ Kevin — if we want successful retail, we should be encouraging people to pull in to the parking garages for 3-4 hour visits. (A meal out, AND casual shopping experiences.)

Broadway is the only downtown shopping area that functions as it should, with open-ended $1.50/hr parking. Visit Chapel Street or Whitney Grove, you pay $4.00 an hour to park in a garage, or you risk a ticket at a 2hr maximum meter.

The current set-up is stupid. There should be designated visitor parking garages in each portion of downtown, at reasonable rates.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on May 14, 2018  8:27pm

The amount of one way streets has a lot to do with it. Drivers who are circles around looking for parks would rather park close or right in front of their destination. Not blocks away. Even in a city like New York parking is hard to find. New Haven is a very densely populated city. The prices of parking in the garages can also be lowered to balance the parking on the streets and in certain areas as well.