MDB Insight Blog

MDBI Feb 1-1

Are Your Residents Crying Out for Free Parking Zones?

If you were to poll residents in your municipality, you’d likely find the public’s opinion on parking meters to be low. Many residents avoid parking meters for fear of receiving parking tickets if they misread signage or are a couple minutes late to return to their car. Meters are, however, essential to enforcing on-street parking limits and facilitate mobility management strategies.

St. John’s, Newfoundland recently announced timed free parking zones downtown because many of the existing meters were broken or missing. The city implemented the solution in order to assist local businesses, but local councillor Debbie Hanlon was surprised to hear that workers in the downtown core also desired an affordable solution, after receiving calls from workers that said:

“We just don’t have the money. We’ve got cars and we can’t afford to park there all that long.”

Free Parking to Support Local Businesses

With free parking in two- or four-hour windows, like in St. John’s, shoppers in the downtown core will have an added incentive to visit businesses where paid parking was previously required, and now they can stay for a longer period of time.

Other municipalities have found that paid parking caused animosity between businesses and patrons due to its hassle and frequent parking tickets. Businesses also complained that paid parking put them at a disadvantage to other areas in the municipality where there was free parking. In the face of this resistance, Huntsville, Ontario decided to replace all meters with free parking for two hours in the downtown area.

Free Parking for Downtown Employees

Addressing the affordability of parking in downtown areas was an unexpected need for the municipality in St.MDBI Feb 1-2 John’s. Many younger workers opposed paid parking and stated that they could not afford the current rates.

The cost of parking downtown can be a large contributing factor to whether people will even accept a job in a certain region of town. In Calgary, employers offer paid parking incentives to prospective employees because the costs are so high and metered spots are limited. Easing the cost of parking can not only encourage business, it can help bring more people into the local workforce.

Gauging Public Opinion on Free Parking

A surefire method for determining public opinion on free parking is by conducting a survey on traffic management and mobility practices in your municipality. Obtaining the public’s opinion is the first step to improving municipal services. You will be able to determine how the proposed free parking will be received by both businesses and residents.

However, the MDB Insight Citizen Satisfaction IQTM survey goes beyond the initial poll to analyze the next steps. For instance, a financial model can be created to determine if the free parking solution will significantly impact the city’s revenue from the parking meters. Extending the survey from the community’s desires to data-driven next steps will save you time, and provide you the documentation you need to determine whether to proceed with free parking.

Efficiently Determine Whether Free Parking is Feasible

Free parking programs have been implemented to allow easier access to local businesses, both for patrons and for employees. To study whether a free parking program is feasible for your municipality, the Citizen Satisfaction IQTM tool can be used to gauge public opinion and evaluate its financial feasibility. Using this efficient approach will allow you to eliminate unnecessary research and provide a solution quickly.

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