The Time Looking for a Parking Space: Strategies, Associated Nuisances and Stakes of Parking Management in France

The Time Looking for a Parking Space: Strategies, Associated Nuisances and Stakes of Parking Management in France


Amélie le Fauconnier and Eric Gantelet, SARECO, FR


The research presented aims at apraising the stakes linked to the time spent by road users looking for a parking space in France(quantitative and qualitative apraisal of the direct and indirect cost of parking searching time)


Among the components of urban traffic, the vehicles searching for a parking place represent a percentage of the traffic that cannot be eluded. SARECO has lead a research for the PREDIT (French program of research) in order to evaluate the stakes linked to the time spent by road users looking for a space in France. The research has been lead in 3 steps :
- Evaluation as precisely as possible of the time spent looking for a parking space in three french city centres : Grenoble (district Vaucanson), Lyon (district Presqu?île) and Paris (districts Commerce and Saint-Germain).
- Extrapolation of these investigation to the whole France so as to determine a rough estimate of the time spared in research for a parking place and evaluate the nuisances linked to the searching traffic.
- Investigation on the way of reducing the time spent looking for a parking space and their consequences on the cities.


When a motorist looks for a parking space, he creates a certain relation with the space in which he moves. The strategy he will carry out depends not only on the urban context but also on his individual characteristics. The enquiries have clarified motorists? behaviours :

As he looks for a space, the motorist progressively enlarges his circle of research. Beyond 15 minutes, the average distance to the destination is less than 200m. When the time gets over 15 minutes, the distance gets more and more important and can get over 500m. In the process of its looking for a parking space, the road user will have to decide whether to switch to a new scope. After having searched in vain for an authorized space, the motorist can ?switch? and change its scope toward :
? The search for a pay parking space if he was initially looking for a free one,
? The search for an unauthorized space : the switch toward this new scope is usually immediate. Motorists are whether directly parking in an unauthorized space or will never park in an unauthorized space. In Paris, this decision is much more frequent than in the other towns studied as road users are well aware they have a low probability to find an authorized space,
? The search for an off-street parking: most of the car park users (more than 3 quarters of them) choose not to look for an on-street space and to drive directly in a car park. ¼ look first on street.
? In extreme cases, if although the ?switch?, the motorist does not succeed in parking its car, he can abandon his trip. Most of the car owners interviewed declare that they have once abandon their trip after having unsuccessfully searched for a space. The percentage of car owners having abandoned their trip reaches 48% in Grenoble, 67% in Lyon and 100% in both Parisian districts !!


The direct nuisance is of course the time spent by the motorist as this activity is obviously unproductive. The average searching time is 3,3 minutes in Grenoble, 11,8 minutes in Lyon, and in Paris, 10 minutes in Commerce district and 7,7 minutes in Saint-Germain district. The visitors represent most of the searching time because they are the greatest number of cars, however the residents are those spending individually most of the time.

The extrapolation to the whole France (taking also into account enquiries made by SARECO in smaller towns) has lead us to an estimation of 70 millions hours spent looking for a space each year in France, which represents around a 700 millions euros loose each year, including an estimation of the externalities costs (noise, pollution,?)


One of the ways to reduce the searching time is well known : the implementation of a efficiently enforced toll. 2 interesting cases have been identified during the research:
? In London, the policy consists in a very efficient enforcement associated with a high pricing adjusted to reach an 85% occupancy rate (such a rate means no searching time),
? in Rio de Janeiro, the informal toll system based on parking attendants adjusting partially their price to reach the market equilibrium succeeds in getting very good results.
However, the toll implementation leads to a segregative mobility and can have pervert long-term effects, especially if, subsequently, no alternative means of transportation are developed. The inner city could then become a rich « ghetto ».


The suppression of the searching time could have other very important collateral positive effects :
? A reduction of the peak traffic : the part of the city traffic generated by the vehicles looking for a space might represent from 5 to 10% of the global traffic. The suppression of searching time represents therefore a heavy stake. This percentage would reach the goal of most of the Plans de Déplacements Urbains (PDU) in France. As an example, the goal of the Parisian PDU is to reduce the traffic by 5%,
? If the rules were respected, the exploitation of pay parking would be largely positive which is often not the case currently in France,
? If we take into account that to deal with the on-street parking spaces wasted by users which does not respect the rules, many cities have built off-street parkings, the impact of the dysfunctional on-street parking enforcement can be estimated to an unproductive immobilisation of 8 billions euros asset.


The stakes of searching time reduction exceeding 1 billion euros each year, the subject should be studied thoroughly. France with an average rate of respect of pay parking being under 30% can certainly reduce drastically the amount of time wasted in searching a parking space.


Association for European Transport