Parking Benefit Districts

Parking Benefit Districts (PBDs) coordinate public and private parking within a defined district to manage the availability, pricing & location of parking. Meter revenues are then reinvested into improvement within that district.

Benefits and Problems Addressed

Managing the downsides of free parking: When free, drivers have no incentive to move a car once parked. This limits availability for retail and visitors.

Matching supply with demand: Shortage is often not the problem but rather pricing and awareness. PBDs orchestrate all spaces in a district and set programs to match a driver demand with spaces.

Tips & Techniques

Getting started:  PBDs are helpful for revitalizing, downtowns, near campuses and in transit oriented development districts where there are parking management problems. As first steps, conduct studies on parking pain points to target first investments. Small improvements include working with retailers on employee parking and signage. Consider helping drivers with smart phone parking apps (at no cost to the city or drivers).

Coordinating with other plans: PBDs can become a part of existing plans for  Business Improvement District (BID), Main Street, small area/sector plan, or transit oriented development plan that already exists to coordinate land use, transportation and redevelopment. Cities need to also coordinate PBDs with other transportation plans such as pedestrian, biking and transit planning.

Common parking problems: Problems can include: (1) employee parking in prime spaces, (2) event or weekend parking surges, (3) student parking in neighborhoods, (4) mismatch between parking space location & popular venues, (5) congestion related to drivers searching for parking, (6) reluctance to share private parking among users.

Types of parking:  PBDs seek to coordinate on-street parking within a district, public parking lots & garages, private parking lots & garages. PBDs typically do not regulate residential off-street parking.

Pricing: The goal of pricing is to produce a few vacant spaces so that drivers can find places to park near their destinations.  With technology, cities are setting demand-pricing models that set prices to keep 85% parking space occupancy.

Allocation of revenues: Program buy-in usually hinges on visible efforts to reinvest revenue back to the district. Some cities direct a portion to general revenue or program administration and/or carrying out the plan (e.g., parking signage, wayfinding, pedestrian improvements). Other uses include landscaping and street furniture. Where an area is revitalizing, revenue can support extra police, graffiti abatement and sidewalk maintenance. Once effective, cities can use parking revenue to help support larger bond efforts for larger parking & transportation projects. 

Residential Parking Benefit Districts: A variation to overcome problems with residential parking permit programs (too many permits issued, empty spaces during the day), these programs allow commuter parking for a fee and redistribute revenue back to the neighborhood.

Trends: Technology is expected to alter parking practices for (1) setting dynamic pricing where meter rates are automatically adjusted for demand via pavement sensors (current), (2) self-parking garages (within 10 years), and (3) less demand for parking with driverless cars (10-20 years).

Hot Buttons: Assigning a price to a historically free amenity, first impulse to add more parking to solve problems, competition for revenue proceeds, new programs that require significant resources for research, equipment, enforcement and dispute resolution.


West Campus Parking District: Austin, TX US

Residential Parking Permit Program: Boulder, CO US

Image: Flickr/PaytonChung