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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

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Portland Tribune: Coaxing drivers to choose not to cruise

July 18, 2013 | Portland Tribune-- When Betsy Weil visits shops on Northwest 23rd Avenue she expects to drive around awhile looking for curbside parking. She says it rarely takes more than 10 or 15 minutes to find a spot. Could Weil save some time by parking a little farther away from her destination and walking?

Well, yes, she says. But there’s something about the driving/walking equation that eludes objective analysis, Weil says. When she’s in the car, the extra driving always seems worth it, despite the fact that when she’s had to park farther than she wanted to, it wasn’t so bad.

“You think it’s a really long walk, and then you get there and it was only 10 minutes,” she says.

Welcome to the club.

Most of us are, like Weil, willing to cruise for a parking spot rather than just park and walk. Maybe we feel lucky. Maybe we remember that one time we got a spot right in back of Powell’s more distinctly than all the other times.

Steve Novick would like us to think differently. Cruising for parking creates congestion, says the Portland Bureau of Transportation commissioner. And it increases fossil fuel burning.

Novick says he’s going to start a public relations campaign to sway people from the practice of cruising for parking. He’d like to appeal to our sense of environmental stewardship, our pocketbooks, and, just possibly, our competitive instincts. His goal?

“We want to be able to say Portlanders are the fastest parkers in the West,” Novick says.

Cruising is one of the few transportation topics that hasn’t been well studied, says UCLA traffic expert Donald Shoup, partly because it is hard to recognize. Shoup added to the knowledge base when he sent his urban planning students to observe drivers in tiny Westwood Village, a commercial Los Angeles district near the UCLA campus.

Shoup found that on average, the Los Angeles drivers spent 3.3 minutes cruising for a parking space, traveling on average about two and a half times around a block. But those short cruising times, according to Shoup, created “an astonishing amount of traffic.”

Adding up the total time and distance lost by cruisers over the course of a year in Westwood Village, Shoup came up with 950,000 driven miles that could have been avoided if the drivers had immediately found a spot in a parking garage or on the street. Taking it a step further, Shoup calculated the cost in wasted gasoline at 47,000 gallons a year, and the environmental cost at 730 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

A 1997 study in San Francisco found the average cruising time there to be 6.5 minutes. A 1993 study found New York City drivers averaging 13.9 minutes searching for a parking space. Another New York City study showed that on some streets as much as 40 percent of the Saturday traffic was due to people hunting for curbside parking.

Ingrained behavior

So does Novick have a shot at getting us to change our cruising ways? It won’t be easy, say the folks who study how people make everyday choices.

University of Portland behavioral economist Mark Meckler says the city’s message had better be short, snappy and appealing to kids.

Trying to convince people to park and walk a few extra blocks is an uphill battle, Meckler says, because it is taking on READ FULL ARTICLE