Tagged: parking

It’s wicked hahd to pahk your cah

I should have known it would not be long. Just last month I posted about the battle between the city of San Francisco and the app Monkey Parking, and now the kerfuffle has come East as Universal Hub reported today that Boston mayor Walsh is squaring off against Haystack, a parking space marketplace app not unlike Monkey Parking.

Same tussle, different coast. Street and metered parking is broken – largely because it’s too cheap, enforcement is too lax, and the pricing model is too static – and that gives rise to all sorts of badness. It also gives rise to entrepreneurs like Haystack trying to make it less bad and make a buck for themselves too. The entrenched incumbents – cities - decide the best thing to do is to attack the entrepreneurs not the underlying brokenness that enables their [jerky] business models.

I found this comment on UHub telling:

But owning a parking space after a storm or even the entire winter is just fine, right? I guess tire slashing isn’t considered private regulation around here.

Boston’s home-grown brand of ugly private appropriation of public parking spaces, winter space saving, gets exactly the opposite treatment from city hall.

Other alert posters linked to the work of Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA who seems to have studied parking quite a bit and written more than a little on the topic. I found this article called Cruising for Parking especially interesting. Shoup says that when parking is priced right, 1/8 of the spaces will be open, and the time spent searching for a spot will be negligible.

Parking and cruising by Donald Shoup

Currently in many Boston neighborhoods, about 0/8 of the spaces are available and the time that an open space remains open is negligible. How many jerky apps will it take for the city to read the research by Shoup and others, and act on it? In the mean time, I suggest the city allow the apps to operate in exchange for their data, which could be quite valuable to the effort to improve the parking situation for all.

Now whose back is the parking monkey on?

Via TechCrunch, I learned that the city of San Francisco is putting legal pressure on Monkey Parking, an app that lets people who are parked in public spaces get paid to leave by people looking for parking. At Jalopnik, the same news is covered with the headline, “Use SF’s Parking App For Dicks And Face A $300 Fine” take your pick. SF says that MP is selling public parking spaces, which by definition don’t belong to any individual or company. One might say that they’re actually selling the information about who is leaving a parking spot and when (after all, who’s going to stay in a spot much longer than needed just to make an extra few bucks?) but that’s not really what I think is interesting here.

What’s interesting to me is that Monkey Parking has put a real number to how underpriced metered parking is, even in San Francisco where meters can cost as much as $6 per hour in some areas at some times. When you choose to drive around in circles (or, as my grandfather preferred, to simply lurk at the top of likely a street and wait) looking for a parking space instead of just pulling into a paid lot or garage, you’re valuing your time, fuel, and wear and tear on your car lower than the difference between parking meter and parking garage prices. I’ve been over this before, two years ago. Monkey Parking’s data, if people are using the service enough to generate anything meaningful, would be an awesome heatmap of parking demand, and the position of their prices between meter rates and garage rates would tell us (and maybe the city of SF) a lot.

You know markets are broken when services crop up that threaten the status quo and bend or break the law. To be dramatic, I’d point to the trade in illegal drugs or human organs, but it’s just as easy to check the latest episode of Uber vs cities and/or taxis.

The first item on San Francisco’s parking meters page says, “Parking meters are used to create open parking spaces in high demand areas.” If that’s working so well, why does Monkey Parking even exist? Here’s my free advice for San Francisco: don’t sue the Monkey (ok, sue them, I don’t care, the whole model really is a “dick move”), become the Monkey. Raise the price of parking meters, ideally in a data-driven, real-time, demand-based way. (Your current test where the meter price in some areas is adjusted every 6-8 weeks is weak sauce.) Heck, make your own app that tells people how much time is left on a given meter or where the empty spaces are. And increase the penalties for overstaying or feeding meters, too. 

The only way to really “create open parking spaces in high demand areas” (besides building more parking, and you know I don’t want to do that) is make the metered spaces expensive enough – and enforcement effective enough and harsh enough – to change behavior.  If you know that metered parking will cost a lot, you might choose a different mode of transport or you might prefer to pull into a paid lot or garage, or if you do drive and pay up, you’ll have a good incentive to move along in a timely fashion.

When a bus stop stops being a bus stop

You may remember back in June when I reported that the MBTA was eliminating a couple of stops on the number 1 bus line, I wondered what would happen to the space freed up. Well, I’ve been watching those stops and seen no changes. Still no parking, still marked off, still signed as bus stops.

Sign's still there Street's still marked

Until last night, when I was riding the 1 bus back from Boston and asked the driver to let me off at one of those stops. The driver – operator 67743 – told me it wasn’t a stop anymore. I pointed out that I could see the bus stop sign and even a person waiting at that stop to get on.  Since Yom Kippur was nigh, she made an exception for us.

So, MBTA or Cambridge or whoever, what’s the deal? How are passengers who are not always-internet-connected otaku like myself supposed to know this change is coming up and that it has finally actually happened? (The stop is still shown on the interactive route map on mbta.com justsayin) And, since service to that stop has in fact stopped, why is the sign still up and what’s the plan for repurposing that real estate?

Here’s what I wrote almost three months ago, emphasis added.

…what will happen to the former bus stops? Will more (metered?) parking be created? Bike parking? Ghost stops where parking is prohibited but buses never stop? Pocket parks? Time will tell. 

This is not the way I like to be right. I’d say from the position of the fire hydrant that no more than one parking spot on the Clinton Street side could be created, but that would be something. Adding bike parking or something else more interesting would be something too. Not even bothering with a sign saying that the stop is no longer a stop, that’s the worst kind of business as usual around here.

Bus stop, T woes, stop goes, speed grows

Via the estimable newsmachers at UniversalHub, a report that the MBTA is eliminating some stops on 15 of the busiest bus lines in the city this summer. The idea is that snipping out some redundant stops and refurbishing others will reduce end-to-end trip time and cut back on bunching. One of the stops to be eliminated is right in front of limeduck world headquarters, but the T maps show it to be as little as 260 feet from the nearest stop, so I can hardly complain.

Kudos to the T for what seems to be a data-driven harvesting of low-hanging fruit. People close to the soon to be former stops will be inconvenienced, but probably only at one endpoint of their bus journey, and substantially all riders of these lines will reap benefits.

What the always entertaining comments at UHub don’t bring up (yet) is what will happen to the former bus stops? Will more (metered?) parking be created? Bike parking? Ghost stops where parking is prohibited but buses never stop? Pocket parks? Time will tell. Until then, watch this:

Free tree from a pocket park in a parking spot

In addition to National Poetry Month, April was also National Landscape Architecture Month. Who knew? Not I, that’s who, at least not until the very last day of the month when I noticed that two parking spaces on Portland street had been converted into a temporary park on the sunny side of the street.

Park in a parking spot Landscape Architecture Day

I parked myself on the bench and ate my lunch. I would happily have fed the meter if that were necessary, but the good folks at Stantec had done their permitting homework and the park was free and clear all day. And, they were giving away little pine tree seedlings!

People sitting in a public park that used to be a couple of parking spaces

This is not an isolated incident. There is a movement of a sort called park(ing) that temporarily (re)claims parking spaces as parks, and there’s even park(ing) day on the third Friday in September, so mark your calendar for 9/20/13 and stock up on quarters and astroturf.

Notice, by the way, what’s in this park, designed by landscape architects, that’s not in the North End pocket park I noted not too long ago: seating. Just a thought.