Parking Surveys

Parking surveys determine how much parking exists (both public & private) and how spaces are used at various times of the day. This can help (1) identify underutilized parking, (2) high demand areas, (3) opportunities for shared parking, 4) future parking needs, and (5) better outreach materials for parking. 

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Real versus perceived parking needs: Surveys produce actual data on parking space surpluses or deficits. In general, parking usage rates around 85% are considered ideal usage rates.

Obviate need to build more parking: Surveys can identify area/time of day parking deficits and suggest alternatives in the area.

Trends: Annual satisfaction surveys or counts can help proactively address problems and offer timely solutions. In urban areas, car ownership is declining while shared use, bicycle and transit are rising which affects parking space demand.  When undertaking a survey, include parking needs for vehicles such as inter-city buses, delivery vehicles and car-share

Technology: Wider spread use of sensors can help provide real time data to determine dynamic pricing, real time directions to open parking in an area, and connections between events and parking demand.

Tips & Techniques

Getting Started: Surveys are typically initiated and conducted by a city or business improvement district.  In some cases, residents may conduct an informal survey, or volunteer for official studies. 

Components: (1) basic survey training, (2) well defined methodology (3) map of area(s) to be surveyed, (4) survey forms (paper or digital input), (5) safety gear, (6) data collection/analysis software, (7) reports

Process: (1) Stakeholder interviews/satisfaction surveys, (2) Survey design, (3) Inventory maps showing  location & variety of spaces (public, private, motorcycle, bicycle, restricted, car-share) (4) Conduct survey.

Satisfaction  Surveys: Satisfaction surveys provide a "pulse check" of businesses and residents. These surveys do not typically provide information on actual counts, but rather can be early warning on increased pressure,  "repeat" or high offenders, event-driven demand, and perceptions. These surveys also help with community relations by listening and documenting feedback.

Turnover Surveys: Turnover surveys to see the location, timing and duration of parking space usage. If budgets allow, embedded sensors, mobile app payment systems,  or Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems simplify data collection.  Turnover counts identify where spaces are used for commuter and employee parking. In general parking enforcement can help collect this data.  Turnover counts can also help determine when time-limited parking (e.g., 2 hour) or extended hours for parking meter hours can be used. 

Space Occupation Survey: These surveys look at individual spaces or parking areas to determine demand. 

Factors that can influence parking space usage: & data collection: (1) Free or priced, (2) Comparative costs among public & private providers, (3) Time restrictions (e.g., street sweeping, loading, church), (4) Clarity of signage, (5) enforcement, (6) Land use types (e.g., coffee shops can have high usage, but also high turnover), (7) Events, (8) Weather

Hot Buttons: (1) Even with data, cities where parking is a heated, emotional topic may find demands for increased parking, (2) In many cases, the problem is not availability of overall parking, but distinct spaces (e.g. in front of a vendor's store) (3) Employees may not have incentives to occupy spaces otherwise used by customers, 


How to Do a Parking Study, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Massachusetts.

Image: Viktor Hanacek