The Importance of Parking Planning

25 July 2023
A digital model provides an opportunity to plan parking.

The complete article, co-authored by Jaime Snyder, CAPP, a Senior Associate and Senior Parking Consultant in Walter P Moore’s Houston Parking Group, was featured in the June 2023 issue of Parking Mobility Magazine


Parking and mobility industries encompass many facets, from technology to operations, management, and leadership. However, at the core lies strategic planning, a collaborative endeavor involving data collection, research, engagement, and scenario development with stakeholders. IPMI’s Planning, Design, and Construction Committee stresses the importance of effective planning in navigating evolving population patterns and transportation demands. By addressing key questions and avoiding common pitfalls like mismatched supply and demand, access challenges, and overlooking parking in master planning processes, the industry can advocate for equitable, efficient, and sustainable communities through thoughtful strategic planning.

There are many facets to the parking and mobility industry, spanning technology, operations, management and leadership, design, physical construction, and a host of others. Before operations, design, procurement, installation, and construction, exists the world of strategic planning. Planning is a collaborative undertaking involving data collection, discussion, research, evaluation, engagement, coordination, scenario development, and refinement with stakeholders. 

The importance of strategic planning in the project life cycle is a critical aspect of IPMI’s Planning, Design, and Construction Committee. Discussing the reasons for good strategic planning and the pitfalls of bad planning or no planning at all provides an overview of what good strategic planning looks like and ends with a call to the parking and mobility industry to promote the fundamentals of good planning.

When to Conduct Strategic Planning?

There are many reasons a comprehensive strategic planning process may be warranted. Cities across the U.S. are seeing evolving population patterns, redevelopment, parking and transportation demand profiles associated with work and commutes. To ensure the outcomes align with the objectives, planning is critical in strategic direction and functionality before rolling out changes, new initiatives, new infrastructure, or new technology. Below are some questions asked where strategic planning plays a critical role: 

  • How much parking is needed? How do we “right-size” our parking system?
  • How can we integrate parking into our master planning and redevelopment efforts? 
  • How can we achieve fiscal sustainability as an operation?
  • How can parking be more efficiently managed in a way that yields exceptional customer service and revenue?
  • What type of equipment and technology could be managed for diverse users in the on and off-street parking systems?
  • How can we best integrate other forms of mobility into the systems?

Whatever the catalyst, a well-conceived and well-executed strategic planning process can generate support and momentum, garner feedback to help refine ideas, and set your organization up for successful implementation and project outcomes.

Common Pitfalls of Bad Planning

As trained planners, the merits of good planning and outcomes of bad or no planning are apparent by experiencing and observing different cities, traveling, talking with stakeholders, and experiencing different communities. Bad planning can be observed in mostly empty parking garages, infrastructure in poor conditions and in need of repair, large swaths of mostly empty surface parking, confusing or faulty equipment, frustrated customers, traffic back-ups, getting in and out of facilities, and mobility systems with obvious gaps in service. 

Parking Supply and Demand Mismatch

Underutilized parking facilities without proper planning can become half-full parking facilities, and we wonder where all the parkers are. This planning pitfall leads to overspending, both on the facility’s construction and the ongoing maintenance required. The inverse problem is when there is not enough parking available for patrons and employees. The lack of parking leads to frustration, a decline in visitation and retention, and loss of revenue. 

Access and Customer Service Challenges 

Inadequate planning can lead to access and customer service challenges. If facilities, systems, policy changes, or technology are not well-conceived and carefully planned and executed with intent, even the most well-intentioned efforts may fail. Planning for big changes requires careful consideration of user types, patterns, equity, access for all, financial implications, and the ability to operate, fund, and maintain technologies and systems for the long term. 

Parking and the Master Planning Process

Parking is often overlooked during the master planning process utilized in healthcare, university, and municipal settings. However, understanding how future changes can affect the parking demand and parking supply location is imperative to a well-rounded master plan. 

It is important not to underbuild or overbuild the parking supply. Understanding how many parking spaces are needed will ensure that you don’t have patrons circling looking for a space or that your spaces do not sit empty most of the time. Another advantage to consider is the effects of parking systems during master planning by determining if it can be used in valuable land for a higher-generating use than parking. Lastly, understanding where parking should be located during the different planning scenarios ensures a great master plan that customers and employees will enjoy and appreciate for years to come. 

Planning and the Parking and Mobility Industry

What can parking and mobility professionals do to advocate for good planning? To guarantee a good parking plan, you must include the appropriate stakeholders and decision-makers. Comprehensive planning processes usually involve a core team of operator or owner personnel managing the day-to-day, as well as some form of Technical or Advisory Group of constituents that are engaged on a regular basis. Gathering feedback from those who use the system or have a part to play in the outcome will make certain to have a well-rounded, functional parking system.

In the race to make changes, addressing perceived problems or needs often overlooks the value of thoughtful planning, but if progress is pushed into changes without proper planning, it can lead to unintended and adverse consequences. A call to action for thoughtful and deliberate strategic planning in the pursuit of building more equitable, efficient, sustainable, and financially resilient systems and communities. 

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