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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An investigation of the usefulness of parking price increases as public policy for congestion relief in Vancouver King, David James

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the usefulness of parking price increases for the relief of congestion in Vancouver. This investigation is set within the framework of public policy analysis in order to permit the examination of both the likely technical effectiveness of this idea, and the behavioural response of the political and administrative system. Three basic information sources were utilized in the analyses. From the literature, two areas were reviewed: concepts and theories from the field of public policy analysis; our understanding of congestion and methods of its alleviation, especially congestion pricing. Interviews were conducted with local officials to provide data concerning the Vancouver context, current policies and likely response to a parking price increase program. A questionnaire survey was utilized to investigate potential behaviour of individuals in the target population. Examination of previous experience with parking price increases offers the following reasons for the negligible impact upon congestion: strong opposition from business interests who feel shoppers are discouraged; exemption of non-commercial employee-oriented parking; insufficiently large price increases. Accordingly, increasing parking prices to those who work in congested areas has been proposed as a workable alternative to be explored in the Vancouver context. The results of the questionnaire survey provide several observations about downtown workers who commute by car: many use employer-controlled facilities; many park free; a majority would prefer to discontinue parking if prices were doubled; most parkers reacted to large incremental increases, not small ones; bus transit was the most popular alternative commuting mode. It was found that the largest impacts of the parking price increase program would be: loss of profit experienced by the parking industry, at least in the short run; reduction of traffic volumes in and around the downtown during the rush hour. Reducing traffic volumes significantly while avoiding undesirable side effects depends upon the use of sufficently large price increases and the assurance that these increases reach the bulk of auto commuters. A comprehensive administration of collection and enforcement procedures is therefore necessary. It is concluded that a parking price increase program directed at downtown workers would make a useful contribution to the relief of congestion in Vancouver. Furthermore, the success of this program will depend not upon the basic mechanical capacity of this technique to reduce congestion, but rather upon the willingness of the implementing agency to demonstrate strong commitment to the program and the active co-operation of other public agencies.

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