Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How bad is parking in Toronto?

Next time you’re circling the block in search of a parking spot, here’s something to cheer you up. Other cities have it much worse than Toronto.

Out of 20 cities around the world, this is the third-easiest place to park, following Los Angeles and Chicago, according to a survey by IBM released Wednesday.

It’s quite the reverse in New Delhi, Bangalore or Beijing, where motorists often give up looking for spaces all together and drive somewhere else.

The parking index IBM used is calculated from surveying 8,000 people on how long it takes to find a space, if they can even find a space, disagreements over the parking space, parking tickets received and parking tickets received for illegal parking.

It takes Torontonians 13 minutes on average to find a parking spot. For drivers in Nairobi it takes half an hour, well above the global average of 20 minutes. Thirteen per cent of drivers surveyed in the Kenyan capital have searched for a spot for over an hour.

Drivers are most likely to argue over a space in New Delhi, with 58 per cent of drivers there admitting to at least one fight. Globally, one-quarter of the respondents reported arguing about a parking space.

But not in gentle Toronto. Along with Montreal, Chicago and Los Angeles, only about 13 per cent of drivers here said they’ve fought over a spot.

The Toronto Parking Authority is proud of the result, which comes after city council voted against even considering privatizing the profitable system.

“It confirms that the parking in Toronto stacks up really well in the world,” said Ian Maher, of the Toronto Parking Authority.

In fact, our system ranks equal or better than both Chicago and Los Angeles, which is undergoing a reorganization of its disastrous paid-parking system, he said.

IBM spokesperson Jean-Francois Barsoum said a lengthy search for parking spots results in 30 per cent more traffic congestion. All that idling is bad news for the environment. A year-long study in Los Angeles found that cars searching for parking in a 15-block area used about 178,000 liters of gas and produced 730 tons of carbon dioxide in 2007.

Barsoum added that each city is dealing with its parking woes in different ways.

Shenzen, one of the worst cities to park in, has a system where illegally parked car motorists receive a text message giving them 10 minutes to move the car before getting a ticket.

Other cities are working to use data collected from electronic meters to let people know where parking spots are available, said Barsoum, possibly via a special app the provides parking rates and locations.

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