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Blog: Parking, Price it Properly

The panacea for beach parking? This automated parking system has a lot of benefits, even for bike riders.

There’s talk of an automated parking system coming to Big Corona.

It’s early-on in the discussions, but I’m already impressed with the many opportunities.

Why did I get so excited? What’s the connection between optimizing car parking and bike safety?

My intuition tells me this parking system might be a step in the long process of increasingly restraining parked cars from the jewel-like centers of our fair city.

My interest piqued last month when the CdM BID’s sidewalk widening proposal was cut back. The sidewalk will get wider, but not nearly as much as many hoped. It’ll get wider due to the removal of 8 parking places.

A Comprehensive Parking Plan?
As you know, merchants, restaurateurs and residents – no one wants to give up any parking, so the public was promised 8 replacement spaces, and surely everyone assumed they’d be just around the corner. As skepticism grew we then heard calls for a “Comprehensive Parking Plan”. I admit, I was skeptical at first. After all, if there was any available street space, it would already have a car parked in it. Surely this would be a fool’s errand. Now I must eat my hat.

Replacement spaces? Maybe I’m guilty of thinking too narrowly. One thing I’m sure of, there’s a lot of poorly managed parking places in the beach parking lot at Big Corona. 

As Tina Fey would parody John McCain’s running mate, “I can see it from my house,” the parking lot, that is, and it’s not very full this week — yes, due to cool weather, but the kids have the week off, so I expected more people at the beach.

It’s no wonder the parking lot is mostly empty – the $15/day fee seems like a bad deal to most folks, especially when there’s free parking up above in the Flower Streets. So beach goers cruise through Corona del Mar, creating additional congestion while looking for a better economic option. If instead we tweaked the cost of parking based on supply and demand, a quiet day like today might only cost $2. One big change I expect – people’s perception of “Is it a good deal?” will change immediately. The way we manage it now seems positively primitive – a fixed price everyday of the year with a kicker on the big summer holidays. Demand pricing will adjust in real time.

What’ll come next?
After we optimize parking at Big Corona, are there opportunities in the Flower Streets? Along Coast Hwy?
How does Supply and Demand see all those parked cars on Coast Hwy, for free? 

Carjacked author Anne Lutz Fernandez points out that parking’s an issue almost everywhere:

Americans have come to see free parking, like cheap gas, as a right rather than a privilege that has been granted drivers above users of other modes over the course of a century of public policy choices. Drivers can belly up to their destinations in one of 105 million parking spaces in the United States. Together, these paved surfaces match the square mileage of the state of Georgia.

But is this automated parking system a good fit for Big Corona?

Localities are asking the wrong question when they ask, do we need to provide more parking? A better question is, do we need to improve access to businesses and attractions? Focusing on serving people rather than cars enables places to provide more socially equitable access, more eco-friendly access, and more budget-conscious access. This is especially important when thinking about how to allow residents and visitors to enjoy the natural resources and public spaces that belong to all of us.

Everyone agrees, we need more bike parking, but cities are strapped, and when they have money they may be slow to spend it on bike racks.

For Central Parking, Newport Beach’s apparent vendor of choice, this could be one more checkbox for municipalities to select when they opt for an automated parking system; it would salve our city leaders’ conscience and go a long way to delivering on the promise.

One thing I’m sure about, with this new system more cars will be parking at the beach. Today, drivers are discouraged due to the high flat fee, but in the middle of February there’s an over-supply. The metaphor will change and people will come because they’ll know whatever the cost, it will be priced fairly.

We need more transportation innovations, this is an encouraging move.

As UCI’s Supervisor of Sustainable Transportation, Ramon Zavala told me,

Provide the parking, watch it fill up, and watch more cyclists roll in.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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