With the rising demand for parking at suburban transit stations, agencies are looking for better strategies to manage the increased demand. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District, the rail agency serving the San Francisco Bay area, includes a total of 43 stations, with approximately 46,000 parking spaces at 31 stations. Due to the Bay area's high share of transit commuters, parking at the stations is in high demand. Many of the BART stations have a parking shortage, especially during peak commute hours, and it is difficult to secure land and funding for additional spaces. In 2002, BART implemented a monthly reserved parking program to guarantee commuters a space during peak hours. However, there can be a substantial waitlist for monthly spots and when monthly subscribers do not take transit everyday, reserved spaces are underutilized. From 2004 to 2006, researchers implemented a smart parking field test at the Rockridge, Oakland BART station to complement the monthly reserved program by providing daily flexibility during the morning commute to those who do not use transit everyday.
The project included in-ground sensors in the BART parking lot to determine available parking spaces, two changeable message signs (CMSs) located on the highway that display dynamically updated parking availability information for motorists, and a computer reservation system accessible via the Internet and a telephone Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Researchers conducted the analysis with expert interviews, internet surveys, focus groups, and parking reservation data to evaluate:
- the effectiveness of an advanced smart parking system in managing a parking resource,
- the impacts of smart parking management on transit ridership,
- the behavioral response to parking information and reservations, and
- lessons learned from the smart parking field test.
The results from a before and after Internet-based user survey showed that:
- Reduced overall vehicle miles traveled on average by 9.7 fewer miles per participant per month and decreased average commute time by 2.6 minutes.
- More than 30 percent of respondents indicated that smart parking encouraged them to use BART instead of driving alone to their typical place of work or on-site work location, and 55.9 percent stated the same for commutes to an off-site work location.
- 49 percent of respondents did not use BART to commute to work before smart parking and were encouraged to use BART more because they could drive to the station.
- Smart parking users increased BART use by 5.5 trips per month for on-site work commutes and by 4 trips per month for offsite commute.