Parking Permit innovation in Portland's Northwest Parking District
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Brief summary of this reform
Noteworthy changes to the parking permits program in Northwest Portland include:
* a large surcharge added to the usual permit price, resulting in unusually high permit prices (by North American standards);
* limits on the number of permits for recently-built multifamily buildings
* a suite of mobility passes and memberships (the Transportation Wallet) is offered for free to anyone in the zone who gives up their parking permit;
* Fewer permits are allowed at addresses with off-street parking spaces;
* Tiered prices for multiple permits in a household.
Why should you care?
Making it politically feasible to set high parking-permit prices is probably the most noteworthy feature of this set of parking permits reforms. Northwest Portland has found a combination of rules, price points, exemptions and incentives that won local support for permit prices that are much higher than in most other North American cases. On-street parking management in the area still has some way to go before problems with high parking occupancy rates are overcome but these reforms have helped.
United States of America
Key actor type
orderly parking (usually for wider benefits too)
Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and the Northwest Parking District Stakeholder Advisory Commission (SAC)
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
On-street in mixed-use streets/areas
Towards more responsiveness to context/market
Adaptive Parking thrust
P: Price parking in the right ways and with the right rates for each place and time
Goals of the reform
The goal of the permit reforms is to reduce on-street parking demand, which was very high with occupancy rates in the evening far above 85% on many streets in the area. Several of the reforms are clearly aimed at encouraging car-owning residents who have off-street parking available to actually use it and to give up their on-street parking permits. Mode shift and reduced car ownership are also aims of the program.
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
Northwest Portland is an inner-city mixed-use area that has never had minimum parking requirements. Infill development and other economic trends were leading to mounting on-street parking problems. This led to the formation of the Northwest Portland Parking Stakeholder Advisory Committee (NW Parking SAC), which asked the city council to impose parking minimums in the area.
However, in July 2016, Portland City Council decided not to extend minimum parking requirements into Northwest Portland. But it did empower NW Parking SAC to develop a pilot program with additional tools to manage on-street parking.
By then the district had recently installed parking meters in the busiest parking streets and had a permit program which allowed for an unlimited number of annual on-street permits to residents and businesses for $60/year (Tony Jordan, 2017). The permit program became the focus of their attention.
Detailed description of the reform
The Northwest Portland Parking District (also called Zone M) is an area with metered parking and parking for residential/business permit holders.
Recent pilot innovations in the parking permits program in the Northwest Portland Parking District (also called Zone M) include:
* a large surcharge added to the usual permit price (with low-income households exempted);
* caps on the number of permits sold aimed at matching supply;
* limits on the number of permits for recently built new multifamily buildings
* a suite of mobility passes and memberships (the Transportation Wallet) worth USD99 is offered for free to any residents and employees in the zone who give up their parking permit;
* The number of resident permits allowed per address is reduced proportionately by the number of off-street parking spaces available to that address;
* There are tiered prices for multiple permits for one household. The current (2021) prices are: 1st permit: $195 per year ($75 permit + $120 surcharge), 2nd permit: $390, and 3rd permit and thereafter: $585.
The Northwest Parking District Stakeholder Advisory Commission (SAC), formed in 2014, has been a noteworthy mechanism in these reforms. It is made up of neighborhood and business representatives, meets monthly in public. Its mission is "to advise the City on transportation and parking issues in northwest and support a full range of transportation options within the context of neighborhood livability and economic vitality with the goal of efficiently managing parking and reducing reliance on single-occupancy vehicles."
The Zone M permit program allows permit holders (both residential and business) to exceed the signed visitor time limits in the permit zone.
The permit surcharge revenue must be spent within the northwest parking area on "incentives and transportation demand management programs that help people drive and park less in NW, such as the Transportation Wallet and planning efforts to improve biking, walking and
Results or impacts
Simply winning local support to proceed with this set of reforms is an impressive result.
The first two years of the pilot succeeded in greatly reducing the number of business parking permits and in slowing the growth rate of residential permits (although an actual reduction had been the aim).
About 560 people gave up parking permits (of which just over 100 were residential permits) in exchange for a year-long Transportation Wallet.
As of late 2019, average and peak period parking occupancy rates had improved but many streets still have very high occupancy rates.
Permit use has also reduced but is still higher than desired: "Based on current peak hour occupancies, 268 additional permits would need to be removed from current allocations in order to bring occupancies in OBP stalls to 84%" (NW Parking District Assessment and Permit Analysis Summary 2019). The review suggested expanding paid parking areas (parking meters), further reducing the number of permits allocated and changing enforcement hours from 9am - 7pm to 10am - 8pm.
Sources and acknowledgements
City of Portland, Northwest Parking District,
NW Portland Parking Project Annual Report 2018 - 2019,
NW Parking District Assessment and Permit Analysis Summary 2019,
Tony Jordan (May 1, 2017) Innovative Permit Changes Proposed In NW Portland, Portlanders for Parking Reform,
Tony Jordan (December 18, 2018) PBOT Proposes Guidelines For Permit Surcharge Money, Portlanders for Parking Reform,
City of Portland and NW Parking SAC (December 19, 2018) NW Zone M Parking Permit Pilot
Report to City Council,
Northwest Parking District Stakeholder Advisory Committee,
City of Portland, Transportation Wallet Sign Up,
Paul Barter (March 21, 2019) Your city needs a parking reform non-profit! (an interview with Tony Jordan, founder of Portlanders for Parking Reform),
Image credit: 2016 NW Portland Parking Occupancy Map 7-8pm: City of Portland and NW Parking SAC (December 19, 2018) NW Zone M Parking Permit Pilot
Report to City Council,
19 Apr 2021