Edited: June 18, 2018
Top City traffic experts have been studying how much drivers circle for parking since at least 1927. In 1927 an engineer reported that 19 to 34 percent of cars were circling for a space in Detroit’s retail district. Even in 1927, a great toll of circling was in place on city infrastructure. At that point, mobile parking ideas arose in that portion of the street which should be devoted to moving traffic.
Smart City Drivers circling for parking remains a menace to cities today. The long-term hope is to create visibility into smart cars which require no driver and can efficiently find open spots. This is incredibly important with high-frequency transit systems, complementary ride-hail services, walkable development, and the aforementioned eventual self-driving cars can all get cities closer to that ultimate goal.
But in the nearer term, it’s worth remembering that the vast majority of trips are made by car in the United States. Since every drive ends at a parking space, every extra minute spent circling for that space means more traffic frustration, increase environmental impact and lower productivity. This increased demand coupled with newer technology has brought to life smart city "Smart Parking" apps which solve this exact issue.
But before diving into the solution we truly need to understand the problem with the city. Fixing the circling problem means identifying the street spots that tend to overlooked and which are much cheaper than the lot or garage spots, creating an economic incentive to circle. With no coordination between the public and private parking operators, we end up with segmented rule structure for access and payment. This ultimately means many potential spots go under-used. The true cost of parking is bundled into development and therefore hidden from consumers, subverting the forces of an efficient market.
We have an incredible amount of disconnected data which plays a big role in this problem. The majority of parking operators don’t know their supply of available spaces, especially in real time. Most cities lack visibility into the full inventory of their street-parking spots. This ultimately makes it tough to know where and when a space might open up.
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