Analyzing Seasonal Demand

Joven Chew
June 8, 2023

Summer is here, which means vacation time and travelling for lots of us. This also comes with lots of planning and encountering uncertainties. I believe most of us have arrived at the tourist spot or a restaurant recommended by the locals but were absolutely confused about the parking regulation there, where to park, and how to pay! It’s a consideration for both visitors as well as city planners. Cities are always trying to understand how they can better plan their parking to accommodate both the locals and the tourists during peak season. A great example is the Municipality of Jasper, a small town in the middle of Canada’s largest Rockies national park, where the busiest season is typically around June to mid-September.

Jasper National Park of Canada

In order to better understand tourists’ parking behaviour, and how that goes with the existing conditions and the local residents’ parking needs, Jasper introduced a summer paid parking pilot project in 2021. This allows them to track the usage of the parking spaces, both on-street and off-street, via payment app. Local residents are often competing with tourists to access limited parking spots during the peak season. Therefore, this pilot was not just to understand how best to monetize the parking spaces and plan out seasonal parking demand, but also to understand if resident parking is affected.  

Parking Demand Data Sources

The very first step of this exercise is to gather as many data sources as possible, to understand the full picture of the existing parking situation. It is common that a city would have multiple companies that collect parking revenues such as a parking meter company, a payment app company, a camera company, or more. In Jasper, HotSpot is the parking payment app company that is responsible for the majority of the parking transactions via their app and Fast Tap QR signs. Jasper wanted a quick and cost-efficient solution, and so HotSpot’s digital-first approach serves them perfectly. To facilitate with the analysis, some curbside inventory data is also retrieved via CurbIQ’s Curb Rules API. Since Jasper’s curb layer already exists in a digital format, the Curb Rules API makes it easy to pull in any information about the curb given coordinates or location or regulation types or even many of the other features of a curb segment in the Curb Data Specification (CDS) format. With both demand data from HotSpot and supply data from Curb Rules API ready, we can now explore the seasonal demand.  

HotSpot FastTap Signs where users can scan to pay for parking.

Understand Demand Geographically

There are many ways to analyze the demand data, but the way I like to do it is to understand them geographically and temporally. Geographically, we can identify the most used spaces or parking lots that have higher demand. Temporally, we can better understand users’ parking behaviour. We first investigate the number of transactions, total revenues collected and average dwell time. Those metrics are easily calculated from the parking transactions data. Occupancy rate is then calculated upon ingesting the capacity information. These metrics are aggregated by zone to find out the most occupied spaces in the area. This allows cities to investigate if parking supply is sufficient to accommodate the surge in demand during peak season and if parking rate adjustment is required to encourage users to change their parking behaviour. These zones are also separated into on-street and off-street parking to gauge public needs. In Jasper, the number of parking sessions for on-street parking is more than double the off-street parking. The higher parking rate for on-street parking does not seem to deter the users!

The 10 zones used for analysis in the Municipality of Jasper.

Understanding Demand Temporally

Knowing WHEN the peak occupancy happen is equally important as understanding WHERE the parking demands are. The demand data is also aggregated by the month and day of week to identify trends and to compare between weekday and weekend parking. For cities or towns that are summer travel destinations, the analysis results will likely show that July and August are their peak months. While it may also be obvious from the day of the week table that weekends are the busier times, looking into that aggregation level together with the zonal level, we are able to tell which area is more catered for working adults and which area is frequently visited by the tourists. The parking sessions also allow us to find out the average dwelling time of users, from which we can find out how long people typically stay in the area.

An example of the parking sessions sample data aggregated by month and day of week showing peak in summer months and during the weekend.

Gaining Insights

There are many ways to analyze demand data, and there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution. For a past project, we noticed that the average occupancy drops significantly – from 17% to 4.3% in just a block away from the main street. However, users did tend to stay longer on this residential street and generate a significant portion of revenue. Having paid parking a block away still seems great as it prevents visitors from easily finding free parking right next to paid parking spaces. From the off-street parking perspective, there might be a parking lot that has much lower occupancy rate compared to the rest of the city. In that case, such lot may be able to be converted into other uses such as residents-only parking, EV parking zone, or a ridesharing vehicle garage, without an impact on supply or revenues. Some of the recommendations that we have given in the past are year-round paid parking program, matching off-street and on-street parking rates, increasing parking rates, removal of resident parking program, and removal of max time limit. Once again, these are merely suggestions and should not be taken out of context as every city parking need is very different.

Sample average hourly occupancy aggregated by zone.

Seasonal Demand: Takeaways

All these data, coupled with the appropriate analysis has been proven to be the evidence or ground source of truth to guide decision making. Continuous monitoring and analyzing of the parking demand data on an annual basis can help track year-on-year changes and the corresponding impacts. All these can be documented nicely in a report but that is all very static. The more effective way to forecast future parking revenues and utilization is to visualize the impact of various possible scenarios using dashboards such as CurbIQ’s Curb Analyzer. I hope cities can take action from all the insights acquired to better cater for the public, and tourists can have a more seamless parking experience when they are on vacation. This is also a blog post wishing everyone a fun and exciting summer ahead! =)

Joven Chew
Joven is a Curbside Mobility Analyst at Arcadis IBI Group who has a passion for cities and sustainable mobility. Her experience working with data, from data ingestion to data analytics and visualization, aligns with Arcadis IBI Group's efforts in utilizing data to provide meaningful insights and digitizing curbside to open up greater future possibilities.
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