Friday, October 19, 2007

Does Parking Need to Be the 'Ugly Stepsister' of Transportation?

Parking--the endpoint for any vehicle trip--tends to be the "ugly stepsister" of the transportation world. New technology and a new paradigm for how that service is delivered is changing parking systems across America.

Typically, cities use parking regulations as a weapon to discourage people from parking downtown, as an incentive to use mass transportation, as a means to raise municipal revenue, or all three. New devices offer ways to increase customer choice, transforming that paradigm.

Portland Transport, the Rose City's version of On RAMP, recently posted a piece that reveals the experience of cities that have moved away from the old pay-for-space approach to a smarter parking system. New devices allow customers to buy parking anywhere they can within a specific district for the exact time they choose, and drivers also have payment options: cash, credit or even a prepaid gift card.

Boulder has recently deployed a Downtown Gift Card that can be used to pay for shopping, movies, and dining as well as municipal parking. Such cards are a way to make parking an integral part of the whole experience of visiting downtown.