Friday, March 16, 2012

Did you know?

In Portland, Ore., revenue from parking meters in districts served by streetcars funds one-third of streetcar operating expenses.

Converting free parking to paid parking in Old Pasadena left more spaces for shoppers and visitors. Parking revenues were used for streetscape improvements. Photo credit: Kevin Oliver (flickr)

Chicago’s annual parking meter rate increases may seem steep, but what if those revenues funded more and better transit options and community improvements – improvements you could actually experience, like bike racks, expanded transit service, streetscaping, lighting, and better signage?

Donald Shoup, the nation’s foremost parking expert, has long argued that getting parking pricing right matters – for a host of reasons: to help manage demand for spaces, reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and create a new revenue stream to fund neighborhood enhancements. Shoup’s theory is based on the following principle: When parking is priced too low, demand exceeds supply, causing drivers to circle the block looking for a space. All of these idling cars add up to clogged streets and dirty air. Instead, Shoup recommends setting an appropriate price for parking – which varies, depending on the market – to create 15 percent parking availability at all times. So if someone chooses to drive, he can quickly find a spot, while others will choose to forgo the parking expense and take transit, walk, or ride their bikes instead,  reducing overall congestion. Shoup also argues that cities must dedicate revenues from parking meters to local neighborhoods. This strategy gains business owners’ and residents’ support for the higher cost of parking and provides neighborhood improvements without tapping existing budgets.

Shoup’s case study for parking pricing is Old Pasadena, a former retail and business core in the heart of the city. Old Pasadena had slowly declined, “…in part because of lack of public investment and parking shortages.” Employees of local businesses took up free curbside spots, which made it even more difficult for customers to park. When city staff proposed installing meters to regulate parking, merchants and property owners were opposed, assuming it would drive away customers who would instead shop at suburban malls with free parking. To earn the business community’s support, the city agreed to spend all meter revenues on public improvements in Old Pasadena. In the first year parking meter revenues yielded $1.2 million (after collection costs), which paid for street furniture, trees, historic lighting, sidewalk cleaning, and security. As a result of available parking and improved streetscaping, local retail sales flourished. Compared with the rest of the city, Old Pasadena sales tax revenues grew more than other retail districts, including those with free parking.

In 2008, Washington, D.C., implemented parking meter pilots in the Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill/Ballpark neighborhoods. The pilots were based on the idea that people don’t come to high-traffic areas to park; they come to work, shop, dine and play. Meter rates are variable, adjusted by day of week and time of day to achieve 85 percent occupancy rates (15 percent vacancy rates, per Shoup’s recommendation). Once the initial infrastructure costs are repaid, 75 percent of revenues go back to the community. In FY 2010, more than $600,000 was collected in the pilot areas to fund a number of neighborhood improvements, such as benches, signage, ornate bike racks, information hubs, bike sharing stations, and solar trash compactors. Due to the success of these two pilots, this month a third performance based parking plan will be implemented in the H Street, NE neighborhood.

In Barcelona, Spain, 100 percent of net revenues generated from parking meters support the city’s bike share program. Boulder, Colo., generates $1 million annually from parking meter revenues to fund a Parking Benefit District that pays for streetscaping. In San Diego, Cali., 45 percent of parking meter revenues is returned to the districts where it is collected for neighborhood and business improvements. San Francisco dedicates parking meter revenues and fines to support transit. In FY 2010, this accounted for $228 million for the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency.

In Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed 2012 budget, Chicago took a cue from these cities, passing a “congestion premium” for downtown parking garages and lots in the Loop. With congestion costing Chicago area residents more than $7.3 billion a year, the parking fee, designed to encourage and improve transit use, was welcome news. The $2 fee provides a transportation choice: Pay a fee to park in Chicago’s congested downtown, or take transit. Importantly, revenues generated by this fee will support transit improvements, including a new CTA Green Line station, Bus Rapid Transit, and bike infrastructure. 

Chicago could go a step further by exploring the implementation of variably priced parking by time of day and day of week in Chicago’s neighborhoods. An analysis would be needed to determine if additional revenue capacity exists; if so, this additional money could be invested in transit improvements and enhancements to the pedestrian environ­ment in commercial corridors. It’s not hard to imagine that if neighborhoods got to keep some of the parking meter revenues for transit and public improvements, Chicagoans’ perspective on its parking meters just might change. 

Local News

Rockefeller Foundation Supports Chicago's Bus Rapid Transit Development Efforts
The Chicago Department of Transportation announced recently that the Rockefeller Foundation has awarded a $485,000 grant to the Chicago Community Trust in support of the city’s work to improve its bus system. The work will be jointly managed by the Trust, CDOT, and the CTA.The Rockefeller Foundation also awarded $250,000 worth of technical support on Chicago’s BRT lines though grants to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, Business Minds BV, and Sustainable Mobility Finance, LLC. 

More People Using CTA
CTA ridership reached its highest level since 1991 last year, hitting 530 million boardings. Chicago’s buses and trains both saw increased ridership, with the Brown Line and Blue Line seeing the most growth in ridership.

Do Real-Time Updates Increase Transit Ridership?
A new study of Chicago’s BusTracker and TrainTracker tools show that they not only helped to maintain ridership by keeping current passengers happy, but also attracted new riders to the CTA.

Illinois Tollway drives home new plan for bid transparency
In an effort to increase transparency and public trust, the Illinois Tollway began webcasting its construction bid openings for all future projects. With the creation in 2011 of the $12 Billion “Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway is Driving the Future” 15-year Capital Plan, the Tollway plans to issue nearly $600 million in contracts in 2012.

Clinton, Mayor Emanuel, Unveil Infrastructure Initiative to Boost Local Economy
On March 1, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former President Bill Clinton announced an infrastructure program with targeted investments for energy efficiency in infrastructure development. The program is projected to generate more than 2000 jobs and save the $20 million dollars for taxpayers each year.

National News

Destination Detroit: regional transit begins here
Detroit is renewing efforts to launch a regional transit authority in response to a struggling state economy and limited local public transit options. Detroit has considered the move in the past, but new economic urgency and recognition that effective transportation planning must be regional give the 2012 movement particular energy.

Transit Agencies Winning House Funding Battle
The original House Transportation Bill which would have gutted funding for public transportation has begun to unravel. Though there are still concerns as funding deadlines approach, abandonment of some of the bill’s original provisions is being praised by legislators.  

Transportation Officials: No escaping cuts, fare hikes on Boston’s T
After 31 public hearings, public officials in Massachusetts are holding firm on upcoming service cuts and fare hikes to the region’s public transportation (“T”) service. A final plan is expected for the struggling Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) by April 4.

10.4 Billion Trips Taken on U.S. Public Transportation in 2011
Public transportation saw growth nationwide in 2011, hitting its second highest ridership numbers since 1957, second to 2008 when gas prices reached above $4. The 10.4 billion riders was a 2.3 percent increase over 2010 ridership.

With Gas Tax on Empty U.S. Must Find New Way to Fund Roads
The U.S. gas tax at current levels is unsustainable, but the problem will not be solved permanently by simply raising the tax. Legislators need to think more creatively and strategically to find ways to finance U.S. road and infrastructure development.

Global News

April 1 deadline for “MOBI” prize honoring new mobility entrepreneurs worldwide.
The “Mobi” (short for SMART Mobility EnterPrize) is an award honoring entrepreneurial ventures that are changing the world – helping to improve the quality of life and revitalize the environment and economy of communities and regions through sustainable transportation (New Mobility). The award recognizes enterprises that demonstarate innovate and replicable solutiosn to local and global transportation challenges. Mobi was conceived and developed by the University of Michigan SMART initiative and its local and international partners with the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation. Threre are three prizes: $5,000; a trip to Rio + 20 in June; and a top notch mentorship.

Porto Alegre Begins Work on BRT System for 2014 World Cup
The city of Porto Alegre, Brazil began work this month on a Bus Rapid Transit system in anticipation of the 2014 soccer World Cup. The BRT work is part of a package of transit and other infrastructure updates planned for the city, and will be a lasting impact on Porto Alegre.

Bus Rapid Transit still best option for Amman, but project ‘politicized’
Experts in Amman, Jordan feel that Bus Rapid Transit is the best choice for the city’s expanding public transportation needs. Political battles have halted progress, however, since a system began construction in 2009 but stopped in September 2011 due to concerns about feasibility and funding.

Bogota’s Vaunted Transit System in Distress
Due to complaints of overcrowding due to insufficient capacity planning and expansion with city growth, rider’s of Bogota, Colombia’s widely-modeled Bus Rapid Transit system clashed with police in protests across the city.

How to Make Public Transportation Popular
Brampton, Canada hit a record high for public transit ridership in 2011, increasing 18 percent over 2010 ridership. The growth is due in part to Brampton’s new Bus Rapid Transit line launched in partnership with the Xerox corporation. The city won the 2011 Distinction Award for innovation, excellence, and leadership by Canada’s Government Technology Exhibition and Conference.

Metropolitan Planning Council
Talking Transit is sponsored by Bombardier

MPC Headlines

Atlanta’s Penny Tax for Transportation
In the Atlanta region, revenues from gas taxes, the primary source of federal and state funding for transportation infrastructure, are declining as cars become more fuel efficient and inflation erodes its value. In June 2010, the transportation Investment Act was signed into law, allowing voters to decide if they want to raise their own taxes to combat congestion. Georgians will vote on the tax in July 2012. Should the tax pass in one of the 12 regions, all revenue collected there would stay in that region.

Key Amendments Included in Senate Transportation Bill
The Metropolitan Planning Council is a member of Transportation for America and joined others from around the country to push for needed amendments to the Senate transportation bill (MAP-21). We’re pleased that our collective efforts paid off and three key amendments are now on an agreed-upon list (the manager's ammendment).

Kudos to Reps. Hultgren, Biggert, Lipinski, Quigley, Dold and Rush for proposal to restore pre-tax transit benefits
In 2009, Congress wisely increased the maximum amount an individual can set aside pre-tax for mass transit expenses to $230, equal to the benefit received by those who drive to work and park. Because Congress failed to act, the transit portion was cut in half – from $230 a month to $125 – when the measure expired Jan. 1, 2012. MPC thanks Illinois Reps. Hultgren, Biggert, Lipinski, Quigley, Dold and Rush for offering an amendment to H.R. 7, the transportation reauthorization currently being debated in the U.S. House, to restore pre-tax transit benefits, making them equal to benefits for those who drive to work.

Illinois Jobs Now! state capital program: We have no money, how do we pay for it?
Three years into the Illinois Jobs Now! state capital program, revenues are far below projections. Revenues are so far below that the state had to transfer money from the Road Fund to make the required debt service payments on the $5.3 billion in bonds that have been issued thus far. Since no plan has materialized from state leaders to make up this funding, we want to hear your ideas.

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