Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Portland Considers Changes to On Street Parking Policy for Carsharing

The City of Portland's two year old pilot program providing free on-street parking for carsharing has been evaluated and new guidelines have been proposed. The city has provided Flexcar about 70 parking spaces, 34 of them in metered parking zones. Most are marked with the orange "Options Zone" poles to represent multi-modal options at that location. The city estimates that lost meter revenue and cost of installing signage for the spaces cost them $60,000 last year.

The proposal is based on recovering lost revenues - averaging $1,700/year from parking spaces in the meter zones and the administrative costs for all spaces estimated at $264/year. A cap of 50 meter spaces for each of up to 2 carsharing companies is proposed (they anticipate that another carsharing company may open up in Portland) but there would be no limit on the number of parking spaces in non-meter zones. (Zipcar continues to list Portland as a future city but Enterprise Rent A Car appears to be angling for consideration as well.)

The proposal describes the rationale of the fees for metered spaces as follows:

"Rather than set the fee based on average revenue and costs, the recommended policy would allow individual permit fees to reflect the actual demand for each parking space. Using parking meter data, permit fees would be set and adjusted on an annual basis to reflect changes in demand (based on meter revenue) on each block face.

Based on average daily meter revenue for March 2006, the highest annual permit fee for existing metered Flexcar spaces would be $3046 ($2782 + $264) and the lowest fee would be $435 ($171 + $264). Phased in over two years, the total permit cost for Flexcar’s existing 34 metered and 38 unmetered spaces would be approximately $35,00 (50% of full costs) in the first year, and approximately $70,000 (100% of full costs) in the second year."

Using Flexcar Portland member survey data from the Nelson/Nygaard TCRP report, the evaluation looked at the success of the on-street parking program using four criteria:

• Public benefits - the evaluation cites substantial public benefit from reduced transportation expenses and increased mobilityfor residents, as well as reduced parking demand - perhaps the most direct benefit of all.

• Environmental benefits - sustainable land use, VMT reduction, reduced air and water pollution, increased use of transit, biking and walking.

• Operational and Enforcement issues - Mentions need by CSO for advance notice of street cleaning and street repair; better signage for the parking spaces; use of carsharing spaces by police vehicles; regularize procedure for requesting new spaces

• Administrative issues - The report mentions that both Flexcar and Zipcar have both received substantial investments and should no longer be considered startups deserving of special subsidies. It also mentions the Portland Office of Transportation is facing an $8 million budget shortfall next year and is seeking cost-recovery where ever possible, while continuing to support mobility options that benefit citizens.

The city staff wants to establish a formal parking policy to provide the dedicated parking spaces for carsharing as part of its commitment to carsharing as an important part of multi-modal transportation in Portland. At the same time the city has to strike a balance between competing parking users, including business owners in meter zones, most of whom put a very high value on short term parking, especially the spaces directly in front of their businesses.

To build support for lowering parking costs Flexcar recently sent members an email encouraging members to write the city about the proposed policy. It hinted that the additional costs of parking could necessitate a rate change in the future.

A local transportation policy blogsite has had extensive interchanges on the subject here. Several comments by local urban transportation professionals on the blog supported the idea that the city should not limit itself to making spaces available to only two companies and disagreed with the idea of trying to recover lost meter revenue because of the substantial public benefit of carsharing. One commenter agreed that the issue was lost meter revenue but it wasn't the revenue lost to Flexcar but that present meter rates were too low ($1.25/hour) since there were so few vacant spaces downtown. They suggested raising the rates and (shades of Donald Shoup) using the revenues to fund transportation improvements.

I will be posting my own comments about the policy soon.

The proposed policy is at the LINK below and you can download a copy of the report from the page. The city welcomes comments until May 26.