top of page

City of Walnut Creek: Moving Toward a Smart City Vision

Download PDF

The City of Walnut Creek is a beautiful suburban community situated in Northern California. Like many communities with an attractive downtown, Walnut Creek had a “parking problem” - parking was often hard to find during busy hours in the downtown core, whereas plenty of available spaces remained unused in the peripheral areas.

To resolve this imbalance of parking demand and supply in a data-driven fashion, the City adopted the goal of managing parking to “make it reasonably available when and where needed” and established “a target on-street occupancy rate of eighty-five percent (85%)” (§8, Ord. 2121, eff. 1/16/14).

By partnering with Smarking, the City has not only successfully implemented parking demand management programs, but also has built the foundation for a holistic urban mobility solution. Through the “Purple Pole” program (discussed below), the City rebalanced parking demand between the Downtown Core and the Periphery, bringing both areas closer to the 85% occupancy target while creating more convenient parking options for employees of downtown businesses.

With a wealth of parking data at their fingertips at all times, the City is now able to understand parking behavior with greater time sensitivity and granularity, which has led to a more effective and efficient parking management program. By leveraging data visualization from the Smarking dashboard and the dynamic on-street occupancy map, Walnut Creek is now able to effectively communicate progress toward policy targets and goals with interested stakeholders. Leveraging Smarking’s data infrastructure, the City has built a first of its kind public-private partnership to facilitate data sharing and communication, enabling real progress towards its Smart City vision.

Results at a Glance

The City engaged Smarking in order to track and manage parking policy and operations more effectively and also to create a holistic urban mobility platform. Utilizing Smarking, Walnut Creek attained the following results:

• From 2017 to 2018, Walnut Creek increased the number of weekdays achieving peak occupancy goal - from 39% to 79% in the downtown, and from 51% to 87% in the periphery

• Increased average occupancy in the periphery by 13%, and decreased occupancy in the downtown by 6%

• Over utilization in the downtown decreased from 59% to 18%, while underutilization in the periphery decreased from 49% to 13%

• An additional 298 people daily (on average) have utilized the purple pole program – long term parking in the periphery – a major goal for the city

• Established the cities first public-private partnership to facilitate data sharing and communication

"We are proud that, now in Walnut Creek, parking is one of the most data-driven components of our urban mobility policies. As we look more broadly at mobility issues, we will leverage the Smarking data infrastructure to integrate, manage, and analyze all sorts of data to support our decision-making." - Carla Hansen, Assistant to the City Manager of Walnut Creek

Achievement of Three Core Goals Through Smarking

To address the imbalance between parking demand and supply in different areas of downtown, Walnut Creek Assistant to the City Manager Carla Hansen worked with the City’s Transportation Commission to create and deploy a “Purple Pole” program (the name originates from the purple color of the poles identifying ‘periphery’ parking), which, starting in September 15, 2017, eliminated a 2-hour parking time limit in the peripheral zones.

With this program, the City encourages long-term parkers, typically employees, to park in the periphery, reducing congestion in the downtown core and freeing up spaces for visitors and customers. Using Smarking’s data analytics and visualizations, Carla quickly and effectively tracks and measures the status and impact of the Purple Pole program on a daily basis. In short, below are several of the program’s goals and results:

Goal: Manage parking against the 85% occupancy target

Results: Both the Periphery and Downtown Core have moved closer to the “ideal” occupancy range (50%-85%). During the first half of 2018, in the Periphery, 87% of the weekdays achieved ideal peak occupancies, an increase from 51% in 2017 (Fig. 1); in Downtown Core, the percentage of weekdays with ideal peak occupancies increased from 39% to 79%.

Fig 1. Percentages of days by peak occupancy level (Jan - Jun, 2018 vs. 2017, weekdays only)

Goal: Increase parking utilization in Periphery and reducing congestion in Downtown Core.

Results: The average occupancy over the first half of 2018 increased by 13% YoY in the Periphery and decreased by 6% in Downtown Core (Fig. 2). Measured by daily peak occupancy, the percentage of weekdays with low parking utilization (peak occupancy below 50%) in the Periphery dropped from 49% to 13%, while the percentage of weekdays with congestion (peak occupancy exceeding 85%) in Downtown Core dropped from 59% to 18% (Fig. 1).

Fig 2. Average hourly occupancy in Periphery (left)