Every driving trip begins and ends with parking and much of the air pollution and traffic congestion in urban areas results from drivers cruising around looking for a parking space. This is a true whether drivers are searching for curbside parking, circling inside a parking garage or trying to find a good spot in a mall parking lot.
One example of this is shown in a research study conducted by Transportation Alternatives on a 15-block area of Columbus Avenue, a major commercial corridor on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. They found that the demand for curbside parking in New York City far exceeds the supply. This mismatch was compounded by the fact that curbside parking is free or priced far below garage rates, which are 10-15 times more expensive.
The low price of curbside parking unleashes a torrent of bargain-hunting drivers. Those who find spaces stay longer to make the most of their find. And when all spaces at the curb are occupied, other cars looking for parking circle in traffic for an elusive space. The saturation of curbside parking is a direct cause of air pollution, illegal parking and traffic congestion, all of which exact high costs on New York City’s environment, economy, health and quality of life.
The Transportation Alternative’s study revealed:
- Motorists “cruise” a total of 366,000 miles a year as they search for metered parking in the 15-block survey area on Columbus Ave. : further than a one-way trip to the moon.
- Drivers cruise on average seven blocks (.37 miles) to find a metered parking space. During peak periods, before lunch and from 6pm to 8pm, motorists cruise an average of 14 blocks (.7 miles) before finding a parking spot.
- Drivers searching for curbside parking in the survey area generate 325 tons of Carbon Dioxide annually.
- On metered blocks, curb parking is completely occupied up to half the time. Unmetered blocks are completely full up to 75% of the time.
- The average vehicle parks for 93 minutes. Posted “1 Hour Parking” regulations are neither observed nor enforced. Each metered parking spot turns over 5.8 times per day. Each unmetered spot turns over 2.3 times per day.
Other studies by Transportation Alternatives have documented that between 28% and 45% of traffic on some streets is generated by cruising for parking.
Many cities lack sufficient parking close to downtown areas often because of the large space required for conventional garages. Automated parking garages such as Robotic Parking Systems can fit the same number of cars is about half the space and opens up numerous opportunities for locating garages throughout downtown areas. Since all cars are dropped off and retrieved at ground level entry / exit stations, this eliminates cruising through the garage looking for a space and patrons of the garage receive premium service.
Sufficient Robotic Parking garages in an urban area could reduce curbside parking and the inherent cruising for a space as well as improve the environment for bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers.