Israeli experts aim to ease parking squeeze with premium pricing for prime spots

Israeli experts aim to ease parking squeeze with premium pricing for prime spots

Researchers at Tel Aviv University say their algorithm could be used in app for drivers; it creates adaptive prices for curbside parking based on supply and demand

Illustrative: A parking lot in Tel Aviv (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative: A parking lot in Tel Aviv (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a new parking algorithm that allows drivers to pay extra for premium curbside spots, in an attempt to help ease the difficulty of finding a free parking spot by adapting prices according to demand.

The algorithm the researchers have developed may guarantee more uniform parking occupancy, filling spots in less lucrative areas and relieving the pressure on high-demand neighborhoods, they said in a statement, adding that a smartphone app that uses the algorithm can offer a “practical solution to the problem of bottleneck parking in low supply areas and empty lots outside the immediate sphere of demand.”

Parking is a huge issue for car owners and urban planners. The current solutions available to policymakers to address the increasingly urgent parking shortage in cities around the world include better public transportation, carpooling incentives, fines for illegal parking and improved infrastructure.

The research was led by Prof. Itzhak Benenson of the Department of Geography and Human Environment at TAU’s Faculty of Exact Sciences and conducted by doctoral student Nir Fulman. It was published in IEEE ITS Magazine.

Bird’s-eye view of a parking lot in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“Urban parking prices are now uniform over large urban areas, but this doesn’t reflect neighborhood-specific supply and demand,” Prof. Benenson said in the statement. “Underpricing results in long and often unsuccessful searches for parking in areas where demand exceeds supply, while overpricing leads to low occupancy and hampered economic vitality.

“Our Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based Parking Pricing Algorithm, a geography-specific algorithm for establishing on- and off-street parking prices, guarantees a predetermined uniform level of occupation over an entire area.”

Several cities around the world have initiated pilot projects that adjust curbside parking prices to occupation in real time. But these projects require street sensors that cost millions of dollars to install and operate, he said.

According to the researchers, the Parking Pricing Algorithm they have developed has been tested in the Israeli city of Bat Yam and established real-time adaptive parking prices. The system guaranteed 90 percent parking occupancy without the installation of heavy and expensive equipment, they found.

Prof. Itzhak Benenson of the Department of Geography and Human Environment at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Exact Sciences (Elena Zapassky)

“If the number of free spots in one specific area decreases, their price increases. So some of the spots are always vacant, because they end up being very expensive,” said Benenson. With adaptive prices, as the price rises, “a driver who really needs to park close to a destination can now find a space” by choosing to pay the higher price, as opposed to someone who is prepared to park a little further for a lower price.

“When you have an app that informs you about parking prices when you drive to your destination, you can resolve any number of parking and traffic issues,” Benenson said.

People with special needs or others could be eligible to special “free of charge” permits or discounts, the researchers said.

The researchers studied the parking behavior of drivers in the field and in laboratory experiments, then compared these results with those of simulation models.

“We truly believe that adaptive parking pricing is the future of cities,” said Benenson. “This is a mechanism that can stop people from coming into the city centers and searching for a parking spot for hours on end; and nobody would be charged more than necessary. On-street parking is public property and should be managed as public property.”

The researchers are now exploring ways of including a balanced parking policy in Israel’s transportation policy, the statement said.

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