Document 3













Standard Terms of Reference for

Local Area Parking Studies


City of Ottawa

















Prepared For: 

City of Ottawa






April 2009



Table of Contents

Introduction.. 2

1      Study Context.. 2

1.1       Study Area Boundaries. 2

1.2       Existing Land Use Information. 3

1.3       Urban Planning Background. 3

2      Existing Conditions.. 4

2.1       Parking Inventory. 4

2.2       Parking Utilization. 4

2.3       Parking Regulations, Fees, & Charges. 6

2.4       Travel Surveys. 6

3      Existing Challenges & Opportunities.. 7

4      Future Challenges & Opportunities.. 9

5      Stakeholders Engagement.. 10





A Local Area Parking Study should be conducted for specific geographical areas in order to determine the need for, nature and extent of municipal involvement in the provision of public parking services.  These studies should be comprehensive in scope and involve local area stakeholders in developing plans for the future. 


These studies, where possible, should be coordinated or integrated with Community Design Plans, Transportation Studies and their supporting studies.



1      Study Context


1.1           Study Area Boundaries


The appropriate size and shape of a local area can vary significantly depending upon the existing land use patterns.  Areas to be reviewed may be commercial in nature, or may surround institutions, tourism destinations and other locations that have high parking demand, such as sporting facilities, and beaches. 


Many traditional main street areas have business improvement associations with established boundaries for the purposes of common marketing and promotion activities including branding, advertising, and newsletters.  Most BIA organizations maintain an accurate inventory of the number, location, and type of commercial business operators within their boundaries and their operating hours. 


It is important to note that the study area boundary for a local area parking study should extend beyond the immediate boundaries of an established BIA, where one exists, or designated planning area in order to capture the parking activity that is generated by the business activities within the area, but which occurs outside of it. Examples include local side streets and parking facilities associated with institutional, recreational and residential land uses that are underutilized during various time periods.  It may also be necessary to include parking demand generators that are located outside the BIA or designated planning area boundary, but also use some of the same parking as the business operators within the boundary.  The exact boundary should be established based upon a reasonable degree of familiarity of the area and in consultation with local stakeholders, including BIA representatives, where they exist.



1.2           Existing Land Use Information


Parking is not a destination point. People - park in order to  visit, work or reside in a study area.  It is important that the parking activity be related to the existing land use in a way that is meaningful in terms of understanding parking demand.  The type and mix of land uses can have a significant impact upon both the amount and type of parking demand.


The land use composition for the study area should be broken down into:


o        Number of residential units by type

o        Number of stores by type and floor area

o        Number of restaurants by type and number of seats/ floor area

o        Number of office uses by type and floor area

o        Number of short-term high occupancy gathering places (theatres, community centres, churches, stadiums, auditoriums) by type and number of seats/ floor area

o        Number of vacancies by floor area (non-residential) or by units (residential)

o        Number of Institutional Uses by type and floor area / number of employees (courthouses, hospitals, municipal buildings)




1.3           Urban Planning Background


The municipal planning background for the area should be researched, including the City’s Official Plan, Community Design Plans, and other planning studies in order to understand the intended development plan for the area.  The zoning by-law should also be consulted to determine the detailed building and planning parameters for specific sites in the area.


The history of cash-in-lieu of parking applications and minor variance applications related to parking should be researched in order to understand the potential need for municipal parking facilities to accommodate the parking demand that has or will be generated by such applications.  Staff responsible for development review and the local chair of the Committee of Adjustment should be consulted.


Ideally, Local Area Parking Studies should be conducted in conjunction with new planning studies for an area, as this process will optimize the full integration of land use planning with infrastructure and community service planning.





2      Existing Conditions



2.1           Parking Inventory


The entire parking inventory, both public and privately owned or controlled should be identified in terms of location, quantity and type, including any use restrictions and access controls. It is important to understand what percentage of the total parking supply the municipality controls.


The type of parking refers to the intended or expected use of the parking for short-term visitor/customers or for longer-term residents/employees.  Initially the parking type can be allocated based upon discussions with private owners and the municipality.  The exact allocation should be refined as the local area study progresses.


o        Number of on-street parking stalls, paid and unpaid by time limitation, and whether they are part of an existing residential permit parking area

o        Number of off- street municipally controlled public parking stalls, by facility type (i.e. in above grade surface lots, above grade garages, below grade garages)

o        Number of private off-street parking stalls by facility type and intended parker type (i.e. long term resident or employee parking, short term visitor/customer parking) 

o        Review the on-street regulations keeping in mind locations of bus stops, loading zones fire hydrants etc. This information may be useful later when you consider the appropriate use of curb space within the Right of Way.


Any sharing arrangements that are identified should also be documented.  For example, some large apartment operators rent out their parking spaces for commercial purposes during the day.


An inventory of specialty parking supply should also be prepared in order to document the amount, location and price of accessible stalls, bicycle stalls, moped/motorcycle/scooter stalls, car/van pool stalls, etc. 



2.2           Parking Utilization


Parking surveys should be conducted on a typical weekday and weekend period in order to establish the approximate demand for parking throughout the day (all 24 hours) and week.  The exact days and times of the survey should be determined in consultation with BIA representatives where one exists, and other identified stakeholders and City staff.   Typical time periods include 8am to 9pm on a weekday, 8am to 6pm on a Saturday and 11am to 6pm on a Sunday.  Evening hours may be extended or reduced depending upon the business operating hours, especially where restaurants and theatres are present.  Sunday time periods might be initiated earlier if places of worship are active in the area.


At a minimum, parking occupancy should be determined every hour for each surface lot, garage and on street block face.[1]  Preferably, garage occupancy should be recorded by floor/level.  Large surface lots (i.e. greater than 200 stalls should be divided into sub areas).  Occupancy surveys should include both public and private parking.  Advanced notice should be provided to property owners and permission will be required to enter private properties.


If there is significant uncertainty regarding the use of specific municipally controlled on-street parking by parker type – (i.e. are they short term parkers less 2-3 hours or longer term parkers) parking occupancy surveys should be conducted by recording license plate numbers which can then be used to determine duration of stay and parking volume over the course of the day.  Similar surveys can be conducted in off- street lots and garages that are not controlled by gates.  Appropriate statistics should be available from the operator/manager regarding parker type for gate-controlled operations, negating the need for surveys at these locations. 


Parking utilization data should be summarized in tabular and graph format by time period throughout the day in order to illustrate the pattern of demand, including the peak periods.   Where parking utilization data is collected by license plate, this information should be illustrated by parking type – short-term versus long-term.


Existing demand/supply ratios for each parking facility location and type, including a block face breakdown for on-street municipal parking should be calculated. This information is developed in order to determine demand patterns, including areas with excess demand and areas with surplus parking available.  Utilization ratios should be calculated for subareas (e.g. by block) where appropriate.


The extent of traffic circulation associated with finding available parking, especially when it involves infiltration into adjacent residential communities should also be considered.


Overall parking demand ratios    should be developed per unit of floor area for non-residential uses and broken down by sub area where appropriate.  For example, it might be determined that the overall non-residential parking demand peaks at 2.4 stalls per 1000 sq.ft. of floor area on a typical weekday at 2pm.   Where feasible, it would be helpful to estimate the demand by short stay visitor parking and longer stay employee parking.  For example – 1.0 stall per 1000 sq.ft. is related to long term employee parking and 1.4 stalls for customer or visitor parking.  These factors, once verified, can be utilized to estimate demand for future development and assess the general accuracy of existing zoning by-law requirements.  They can also be used to understand the type of parking that should be supplied or available in areas where a cash-in-lieu of parking fee will be accepted.



2.3           Parking Regulations, Fees, & Charges


Existing time restrictions, fees and charges for both municipally and privately operated parking facilities should be documented, including any planned rate increases or time restriction modifications.



2.4           Travel Surveys


In some cases, customer surveys should be conducted to find out why people are in the area, where they live, how they arrived, where they parked and if they intend to visit more than one location on the same trip.


Additional questions can be directed to people who park in the area; regarding their parking location, whether they pay for parking, how long they intend to be parked and how often they visit the area.  Service oriented questions can also be asked regarding their opinions on the ease of finding parking, the price of parking, the degree of enforcement and other qualitative measures.


A separate survey of local area employees can be beneficial if it can be conducted with the cooperation of the local BIA, if one exists, and major employers. 


Care should be taken in composing and consulting surveys to ensure that an appropriate sample is being obtained and to minimize bias in the questions posed. 



3      Existing Challenges & Opportunities


The identification of existing challenges and opportunities that are consistent with and address the five objectives and the principle statement of the Municipal Parking Management Program.


A review of parking demand/supply deficiencies and surpluses should be used to determine if improvements are required to the existing operation of both municipal and private parking for the overall benefit of the area. Consideration should also be given to the potential elimination of existing building vacancies and known development applications for which building permits have been issued or are under construction.


Making sure that stakeholders are getting the most out of what they already have should be a priority over building new facilities.


For example, the City or local BIA could promote underutilized private parking facilities, if one exists, with the permission of each property owner.  Similarly, underutilized municipal parking facilities should be managed in a fashion to optimize utilization through both marketing and pricing.  Generally speaking, conveniently located on-street parking should be allocated for short term visitor parking while surface lots should be allocated for longer term (2 to 3hrs or more) visitor parking and employee parking.  If the demand for short-term spaces is high, parking garage spaces closest to ground level should be allocated for short term parking while the lower and upper levels should be allocated to longer-term employee parking.


Enforcement should be reviewed to determine if the number and or type of infractions is higher than normal.  If customer surveys were conducted, the response to enforcement should also be reviewed. Generally speaking, durations for on street parking should be set to at least two hours and adjusted up or down to reflect specific local circumstances.


Overspill of commercial parking into adjacent residential areas should be reviewed to determine the need for residential on-street parking permits or expansion of existing programs.


Existing streets and public and private lots should be reviewed to determine the potential for increased parking supply through improved layout.  Adding or removing on-street parking may have a traffic-calming or ‘pedestrianizing’ effect, which should be considered.


Opportunities to expand existing lots should be identified.  The City should investigate the potential for combining several contiguous but separate surface lots to create additional parking and improved access and circulation.  The City could enter into a long-term lease arrangement with private owners that would provide sufficient time to recover the cost of improvement and operation and or BIA levies.


The potential for reducing parking demand through the provision of viable alternatives to single occupant vehicle travel should also be considered.  Such alternatives include car/van pool programs, guaranteed ride home service, and reduced cost transit passes for bulk purchases for employees.


Improved bicycle parking, signage of bike routes, provision of moped/motorcycle parking, and improved transit service could reduce both employee and visitor demand, and should be reviewed in accordance with the provisions and policies for bicycle parking found within Ottawa Cycling Plan (particularly Section 4.2).


It may be necessary to consider the development of wholly new parking facilities, in which case suitable sites will need to be identified, assessed for feasibility (including availability, cost, effectiveness) and then the preferred option(s) selected.  This could be achieved by joint venture, lease or new construction.


A short and medium-term action plan (including funding) would then be created to ensure that the plan is implemented in a timely and effective manner. 



4      Future Challenges & Opportunities


An estimate of future parking needs in the area should be undertaken, based upon recently approved development applications and applications that are currently under active consideration.  If there is an approved Community Design Plan for the local area that identifies future development aspirations, it should also be reviewed to determine at a high level the potential impact on the future need for municipal parking involvement.  The primary purpose of this review is to provide a long-range vision for the parking program, which would then be used to guide and direct short and medium-term implementation plans.  A robust long-term vision will ensure that shorter-term goals and objectives are in alignment with the vision, thereby maximizing the return on public investment in parking.  


As part of the assessment of future parking needs in the area, comments should be provided regarding the potential for increased parking related to activities outside of the immediate area (local side streets and parking facilities with nearby land uses), the likely implications of this, and potential strategies for managing / addressing these pressures, if required.


Ideally, Local Area Parking Studies should be undertaken or updated in conjunction with ‘Community Design Plans’, community improvement plans, or any relevant transportation plan that is being done for the same area.  This will allow parking to be examined in a comprehensive, holistic manner, including the respective roles of both the private and public sector in meeting parking needs.  The benefits of providing a significant portion of future parking supply as a shared public resource in municipal or private facilities should be assessed in terms of satisfying the adopted objectives of the Municipal Parking Management Strategy. 


The role of managing parking in the achievement of the longer-term transportation objectives for the area (particularly in achieving intended modal shares), as stated in the City's Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, and Community Design Plans should be clearly defined.


Future parking demands should be estimated, and a plan created that would conceptually illustrate where municipal on- and off-street parking would be provided.  The long-term financial implications would also be examined and funding sources identified. 




5      Stakeholders Engagement


Effective engagement of stakeholders is an important ingredient in the successful implementation of a results oriented Parking Strategy.  Early discussions amongst stakeholders can lead to the creation of a process that is tailored to meet the specific needs of the situation.  This in turn facilitates the focus of time on the issues that are critical rather than those which are routine.


Each local area study should include a Steering Committee that includes the following and may include other stakeholders depending on the specific areas and its issues:

·                     A local BIA or business community representative,

·                     A major property owner/developer,

·                     A Community Association representative

·                     Institutional (place of worship / community centre) representative

·                     Planning Staff (possibly more than one person),

·                     Parking Operations Staff,

·                     Traffic Staff,

·                     Finance Staff, and

·                     Parking Enforcement Staff.  


Steering Committee meetings should be held at regular intervals to review progress, ensure that outstanding issues are resolved and ensure that stakeholders are engaged in the process. The local area councillor could also be invited to sit on the Steering Committee.


An initial stakeholders consultation meeting should be held near the beginning of the study to outline the process and obtain advice regarding local area parking issues.  The local area Councillor should be consulted and invited to all stakeholder meetings.


At least one interim stakeholders meeting should be conducted to outline study progress prior to developing a recommended plan.  The interim meeting should outline the existing situation, identify specific parking challenges and opportunities, and outline next steps.


A final stakeholder meeting should be conducted to present a recommended parking plan and funding model, and obtain feedback.


Larger, more complex studies might benefit from the creation of specific stakeholder focus groups for the early part of the study such as; developers/property owners, major employers, institutions, residents, BIA, etc.  These groups would not eliminate the need for the general stakeholder sessions described earlier. 


[1] in some cases, recording  occupancy every half hour might be desirable, however, the substantial increase in data collection costs should be weighed against the benefits expected.