Progressive Parking Pricing

Tom Vanderbilt has a really interesting column in Slate about the history behind parking meters, the challenges of current parking policy, and how these might be dealt with in the future.

Last week I was thinking about how the pricing for Capital Bikeshare (and similar bikeshare systems) might be applied to parking meters. Currently, most parking meters charge a fix rate for a fixed amount of time. For example, 2 dollars per hour. If you want to park for up to a half-hour, you pay 1 dollar. If you want to park for four hours, you pay 8 dollars.

Capital Bikeshare, on the other hand, uses a progressive pricing system. So the longer you keep the bike, the more you have to pay.

The pricing structure breaks down like this:

0-30 min: $0.00
31-60 min: $1.50
61-90 min: $4.50
91-120 min: $10.50
2 – 2.5 hours: $16.50
2.5 – 3 hours: $22.50
3 – 3.5 hours: $28.50
3.5 – 4 hours: $34.50
4 – 4.5 hours: $40.50
4.5 – 5 hours: $46.50
5 – 5.5 hours: $52.50
5.5 – 6 hours: $58.50
6 – 6.5 hours: $64.50
6.5 – 24 hours: $70.50

Theoretically, this makes perfect sense. The goal of bike sharing is to maintain high turnover of the bikes. Charging low prices for short trips and very high prices for long trips accomplishes this. It provides incentive against grabbing a bike and keeping it out all day when they’re not using it.

Why not apply this pricing scheme to parking?