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Right-Sizing Micromobility Parking: How much parking does your city need?

Written by Allanah Murphy, Senior Manager, Transportation Policy & Analytics and Brandon Haydu, Director, Transportation Policy & Analytics

Dockless, shared micromobility has been growing rapidly in cities across the globe, leading to Lime’s best year yet in 2022. To maintain tidy streets and give riders the flexibility of ending their ride near their destination, a sufficient density of parking is needed. But how much is enough?

While the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) has published detailed parking guidance for docked bike share systems, there is not clear parking guidance for free-floating bike and scooter share systems.

As the global leader in micromobility, we explored parking compliance data across the 250+ cities we serve to understand the parking supply needed to maintain high parking compliance. This research is unique because free-floating systems allow riders to park unfettered by docks and because we have access to trip data across a variety of cities and parking schemes. Our analysis showed that there is a need for a higher parking supply than what is published in ITDP and more parking supply leads to better parking compliance. We distilled our analysis into three key findings that transportation professionals can use to determine how much parking supply is needed for their city.

Finding 1: There should be at least 1 parking corral every 200m

Previous Lime research shows that scooter riders want to park correctly and that providing plentiful and easy-to-find parking is the best solution to keep parking tidy. We measured parking compliance across multiple markets with designated parking corrals and found that in order to ensure high levels of parking compliance, parking corrals should be no more than 200 meters apart. In other words, a potential rider should never be more than a 100-meter walk to the nearest parking corral. This equates to 25 corrals per km2, which is about the equivalent of one parking space at every intersection of a Manhattan block (80 m × 275 m).

To develop the parking density guidance, we compared parking compliance to parking corral density in nine large markets that have strict requirements to park vehicles at designated corrals. We defined our compliance metric as the percent of rides where riders ‘terminated’ their trip away from a designated parking corral location. When this happens, riders are disregarding parking rules and leaving their vehicle behind without properly ending their trip. After an extended period of time, when it is clear the rider is not going to resume the trip, we terminate their trip.

We found that parking compliance improved most dramatically up to an average spacing of 200 meters apart. Below that density, parking compliance quickly declines, as riders are essentially giving up because they can’t find parking or it is too inconvenient to backtrack. Parking compliance improves with even greater parking corral availability than every 200 meters, but not as dramatically.

Finding 2: At least 80% of mandatory parking zones should be within 150m of a corral

The first key finding highlights that, on average, riders should be within a short 100 meter walk of a parking corral anywhere where parking is required. However, most cities can’t evenly distribute parking across their city and may have areas where it is more challenging to maintain this level of parking density.

To understand how much of an area with required parking could drop below this threshold, we used the same methodology as in the first finding, but compared parking compliance to parking corral “coverage” - defined as any area where the nearest corral is <150 meters. These are areas with limited parking supply - ‘parking deserts’ where riders are likely to ‘terminate’ their trip when they realize they need to go significantly out of their way to park properly. As shown in the chart above, we found that parking compliance dropped when parking coverage dropped below 80%. In other words, at least 80% of the area had easy access to parking.

Finding 3: Three parking spaces should be provided per permitted vehicle

The previous findings showed how many parking corrals are needed and how they should be spread across a city. The final question is: how many parking spaces should each parking corral have? Without sufficient parking spaces, scooters and bikes can overwhelm or overcrowd the corral and spill out into the sidewalk or street.

To understand the parking supply needed to meet peak demand, we compared the number of scooters allowed in each city to the weekly peak hour vehicle demand observed in the city. Peak weekly parking demand is defined as the sum of vehicles at the peak hour within a week within each 150m x 150m grid cell across the city.

Using a hypothetical example, imagine there are 100 permitted scooters in a city. In the morning, the scooters might all be concentrated at residential locations, while in the afternoon they could all be concentrated at work locations (or transit stations to access work), then, in the evening, they could be at restaurants before heading back to residential locations at night. The peak parking demand for the residential neighborhood is 100, the parking demand for the work neighborhood is 100, and the peak parking demand for the restaurant location is 100 adding up to a total peak parking demand of 300 spaces. The parking ratio in this instance would be 3 as there is demand for 300 parking spaces for these 100 vehicles. As riders visit more destinations (shopping, tourist destinations, etc.), parking demand becomes greater. Although this would suggest a very high parking ratio, the demand for parking is reduced thanks to mixed land uses, where parking demand is more consistent across a day as riders share common parking spaces.

3 parking spaces per scooter or bike is far less than the 8 car parking spaces supplied per vehicle in North America, where cars are the predominant mode of transportation. Furthermore, a typical car parking space can hold 10 scooters or bikes in North America and 6 scooters or bikes in Europe.

As shown in the chart below, when looking across all our markets we find that 3 parking spaces per permitted vehicle is a good rule of thumb. Rather than distribute the parking supply evenly across a city, parking corrals should be distributed more densely in high-demand areas, like transit stations and tourist attractions, and less densely in low-demand areas of the city.

Lime believes that mandatory parking can work to keep city streets tidy in high-demand areas of a city as long as there is proper parking density. This research finds that cities that provide more parking supply have better parking compliance.

As cities plan for micromobility parking, we recommend they use these guidelines. We plan to expand and improve our parking guidance through research collaborations with academics and industry groups throughout the remainder of the year. We are also happy to offer cities support by collaboratively developing parking plans and by sharing MDS and GBFS data so cities can calculate parking demand on their own.

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