Once the infrastructure for a dynamic transportation system is in place. a variety of more-sophisticated pricing options become available. There are innumerable possibilities available, but these can be generalized into three main categories, described in further detail below. The most important point to highlight before discussing the various dials that can be adjusted in a dynamic transportation system is that simplicity is a virtue. Just because it is possible to make differential rates for each day of the week doesn’t make it a good idea. Again, striking the right balance between legibility and effectiveness will be key.
TIME OF DAY PRICING
Some worksites have used different prices for time bands during the day to meet a variety of policy objectives. Healthcare settings and other 24/7 work places have used time of day pricing as an equity factor, since housekeeping are some of the lower paid staff and yet have to arrive early in the morning when there are fewest transit or other options available. Charging the highest rate at peaks tend to have greatest effect in mode shift since more options are available, and can support congestion reduction goals.
Another potential pricing strategy is tiered pricing based on usage within a pay period or month. In the example above, the first 14 days of parking a person uses in a month costs $4 per day, but the 15th and all subsequent events cost $8 per day. This approach sends a very clear price signal for users to be aware of how often they are driving--and that they should look for other ways to travel to campus after a certain number of days driving. A major university in Portland Oregon is rolling out a tiered pricing pilot in the Fall of 2018.
OTHER PRICING DIALS
Once we’ve stepped away from the parking permit model, pricing strategies allow for more nuanced and flexible system management options. For example, it might be useful for transportation services to know ahead of time how many people will be parking on a given day, so they would offer a discount for users who reserve parking the previous day. Alternately, users would have the option to pre-purchase a ‘bundle’ of parking days at a discount, and would be subject to higher daily after the bundle is used up.
Throughout North America and the world there are thousands of people whose job is to manage parking. Whether for a city, or a company, or a university campus, these people have a hard job. I know. I used to be one of them. There is just no way to win. Everybody wants parking. No one wants to pay for it. Parking just makes people grumpy--even the happiest people are miserable when it comes to parking. There is never enough of it. It’s always too expensive. Why can’t I park exactly where I want any time? You can imagine the gripes because you’ve said these exact same thing with some cuss words mixed in.
The truth is that storage of cars takes lot of space and costs a ton of money to build and maintain. And there are the very real impacts further afield to worry about, climate change and congestion and air pollution etc... So the poor parking manager is left holding the bag trying to provide this thing what everyone wants but there isn’t enough to go around.
The mobility cookbook is designed to untangle this knot. We start by helping parking managers all over the world expand our concept of what that job is. Because parking is really just one piece of a larger need: mobility. It happens to be the biggest piece in many places, and certainly is the one with the biggest footprint--literally and figuratively.
By unifying all mobility offerings into one menu and managing them side by side we can begin to meet the larger goals of our cities, companies and campuses. The alternative, chasing demand for parking by building more and more of it, by finding ever more satellite lots with armadas of shuttles or buses to ferry in commuters, will cause us to run out of money, or land, and create an enormous amount of unhappy neighbors, while tweaking the climate at the same time.
My hope is that the recipes in this blog will help cities, companies and campuses elevate that poor aggrieved parking into a mobility manager--someone with the tools, and the charge to actually solve mobility problems.
In keeping with our cookbook theme, we will call this transformation of this job description from cook to chef.
How parking is sold and incentives for other modes delivered is one of the key ingredients we have to understand in order to build a really enticing and dynamic transportation menu. Today almost all transportation costs choices we face are pretty static. We buy or lease or cars and pay monthly even if we don’t use them very much. At work, or at school many of us face a decision to buy a monthly parking pass or, if we're lucky, sign up for some kind of incentive of discount for carpoolers or transit users.
Underlying these choice is the assumption that people are mono-modal. But in fact, research shows that people are much more multimodal than we give them credit. By creating an ‘all or nothing’ choice transportation program makes it more difficult for those who drive to make gradual changes in their commuting patterns.
A dynamic transportation program structure allows users to drive when they choose, but creates meaningful incentives for each trip that is reduced. In a dynamic program, parking patrons pay per use and therefore save money for each day they don’t drive. When coupled with daily rewards for non-drive trips, this creates a powerful virtuous cycle in which users’ incentives are aligned with overall program goals to reduce single occupancy trips.
Until recently, the technology needed to manage dynamic transportation programs of large scale did not exist. Today it is possible and cost-effective to curate the various elements of a transportation and parking management system to support dynamic choices, daily parking and rewards for non-drive trips. A dynamic system is integrated from the user perspective --meaning all choices, costs, and rewards are accessible in one location through a single sign-on--and from the administrator perspective--meaning that a single portal connects to all necessary external data sources and services that are involved in administering the program.
In the following posts we will look at different ‘recipes’ for using Cost to create a dynamic transportation program that provides users with lots of mobility choices.
The dynamic transportation experience starts with the user making a daily choice of how best to travel to work that day. Users can simply go--get in their car, hop on their bike, or head for the bus--or they can use a mobile app to decide the best way to go for that particular day based on time, cost, and other factors. For example, a user might discover that a nearby affiliate has offered a carpool ride, or that a volunteer bike buddy has organized a group ride.
The key point is that the users is making a choice about what works best for her on a given day. And that the ‘menu’ is easy to read and offers lots of choices. When we provide users choices we can then assign the appropriate cost or reward for each individual trip--rather than a one-size fits all pricing like forcing users to buy a monthly parking pass. When we converted to a system like this at Seattle Children’s, people were very keen on the idea that we were no longer going to charge them for parking when they were on vacation, or at a conference.
Carrots and sticks! Here is a time when our food and dining metaphor just kinda works. What a relief. Ideally your mobility menu will have an artful combination of carrots and sticks. Too much stick will make people unhappy. Just carrots and you might not get a lot of participation. Clearly just unshackling people from the burden of monthly parking will be very welcome. However, pairing the freedom of daily parking with a program of rewards and incentives tied to use of non-drive modes really kicks off a virtuous cycle. The rewards can be direct cash, prizes, digital vouchers (e.g. for coffee), or points that can be redeemed for rewards, or even virtual rewards like badges. The different types of incentives are not mutually exclusive and can be combined to achieve the best result.