Using a parking lottery to manage congestion

Here is a way to use pricing and rewards to manage peak-hour congestion: Institute a parking lottery that is fully funded by the drivers.

First, a city passes a by-law (equivalent) mandating the raising of parking rates by, say, 50 cents or a dollar. The extra money (net of lottery admin) funds prize money. Each time a vehicle enters a parking garage or lot 30+ minutes before and leaves 30+ minutes after a designated peak hour, its license plate number is scanned by computer and is entered into a computerized lottery. The vehicle must remain in the garage for the whole time.

The parking fee premium is pooled and bundled into $5000 prize lots to be awarded by weekly by computerized draws against the plate numbers that qualify. (Plate numbers and locations are personal information that would not be disclosed.)

Thus, drivers who drive in peak hours are paying the prize money for the drivers that drive off-peak. The parking premium can be raised (hence affording more prizes) to manage congestion. This is simply load balancing by lottery. In other words, it enables the municipality to titrate or influence road congestion, not necessarily control it completely. Best of all for city managers, it promotes green innovation, which is never a bad thing.

Government keeps none of the parking fee premium intended for the lottery to guarantee that this is a pure congestion management scheme and not a tax-scheme. An independent auditor can ensure fairness and no skimming and many garage operators use software that can manage this anyway (part of the lottery expense, of course). In order to be most effective, employer lots and garages over a certain size must participate in a way that ensures the cessation of “free-parking” for employees. The minimum operation size would be set by the cost of license plate camera setup, since every participating lot or garage must contribute zero or more dollars to the prize pool (any garage too small by virtue of equipment expense would draw down the prize pool unfairly and no garage operator should be permitted to lose income due to participation).