A Creative Parking Management Initiative That Changed Behavior And Slowed Down Traffic
Written by Kathryn Hebert of Athena Partners Strategy Group and TPM Connect
10/28/2021 - Originally written for TPM Connect on 2/24/2021
The City of Norwalk, located in southwest Connecticut on the northern shore of the Long Island Sound, is an interesting municipal case study of implementing creative parking management solutions to parking problems, including changing behaviors on how people park and pay on the street and slowing down traffic. In September 2019, the city in collaboration with the Norwalk Parking Authority announced several parking and traffic improvements to the Wall Street District. A flood in 1955 damaged much of the neighborhood and it has been a challenge ever since to restore the vibrancy of the neighborhood. The City of Norwalk has been working for many years to get it back to its original state and make enhancements to add vitality and quality of life.
Over the two years prior to the ribbon cutting in September 2019, the Parking Authority implemented a vigorous outreach program and spent time talking to the businesses and to residents about their thoughts on how to improve the area and to gather input.
The community wanted to see enhancements that included streetscape, roadway improvements, traffic signals, pay stations, parking turnover and wayfinding signage. And, including the need for connectivity, accessibility, slowing down the traffic, ensuring safety priority for pedestrian and cyclists and creating placemaking installations to improve aesthetics to the area. The planning and implementation of several projects was a collaboration between representatives of the district, the Department of Transportation, Mobility and Parking, Department of Operations and Public Works and the Norwalk Parking Authority.
To deal with the issue of speeding traffic, while helping to provide safe and equitable mobility choices, the Norwalk Parking Authority conducted research about front end angle parking vs back-in angle parking. Switching to angle parking from parallel parking allowed them to not only add 13 spaces on three separate streets in the Wall Street District, but from a safety aspect, the data showed back-in angle parking is safer for pedestrians and cyclists. It was important that bicycle and pedestrian safety be included in the implementation as an important mobility option and connectivity platform.
The installation of back-in angle parking is a newer approach, but studies and data show that it is much safer. Benefits of back in angle parking include:
• Parking Capacity: Angled parking provides more efficient use of space by creating 30%-40% more capacity versus parallel spaces.
• Traffic Calming: Angled parking requires more roadway, instead of curb space, thus decreasing travel lanes and shortening the width of the road, often making traffic move more slowly and reduces speeding.
• Safety: By reverse parking, you avoid backing out blindly into oncoming traffic or into the path of pedestrians. Back in angled parking also protects all the passengers in the vehicle from the driver to the tiny, backseat passenger by protecting their exit and entrance out of the roadway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that “267 people are killed and 15,000 injured each year by drivers not parking forward first, usually in driveways or parking lots.”
• Handicap Parking: Providing on-street handicap parking for parallel spaces is challenging with limited room for buffer zones to protect drivers and/or passengers. Back-in angled parking protects everyone and allows additional space for buffer zones at the beginning or end of each parking row.
• Pedestrians and Cyclists: Back-in angled parking gives drivers an unobstructed view of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists resulting in increased awareness and decreased collisions due to line-of-sight issues.
At the beginning of the roll out, there was some push back from the community as people got used to back in angled parking, but the data shows that speeding was reduced in the area. Data collected during the period from September 2019 through December 2020, shows that 62% of the vehicles traveling in the area were speeding between 30 and 50 mph. As a result of the back in angled parking installation there was a reduction of 33% of those speeding.
To manage the necessary business/customer turnover, another priority, The Parking Authority added strategically placed multi space meters and pay by cell options to ensure residents and employees of the area would not be parked in spaces without moving all day.
Recent feedback, shows that people are parking in the new back in angled parking areas, traffic has slowed down and people are paying to park and moving their cars.
"Changes in municipal government are challenging and take time"
Changes in municipal government are challenging and take time. It requires relationship building, outreach, data, collaboration, coordination, and collective support. Every great vision requires a methodical process. Parking management, reducing traffic speeds, streetscape placemaking, creating safe and equitable mobility and connectivity is what is necessary to create viable quality of life for any community. Parking management best practices is an integral component to the quality of life.