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The City of Portsmouth Reduces Congestion by Adjusting Parking Rate Structure

Updated: May 6, 2022

As cities begin to emerge from the restrictions of COVID-19, they can be hesitant to raise parking rates due to the fact that it tends to be perceived as ‘tone-deaf’ and can create backlash from business owners and local residents.

But the reality is that pricing appropriate to market factors, and turn management techniques help control demand, and create turnover to support business activity, while reducing congestion, encouraging walking and lowering a city’s carbon footprint.

The City of Portsmouth first partnered with Smarking in 2017 to blend multiple data sets from various types of metering systems into a single dashboard to gain real-time visibility into the performance of its Parking assets. Portsmouth Parking Director Benjamin Fletcher uses Smarking’s Business Intelligence platform to actively monitor the performance of each of the City’s multiple parking zones.

Smarking provides real-time data access on a single dashboard to assist municipalities like Portsmouth by giving Parking Directors actionable insights that are readily available, avoiding time-consuming data mining from multiple vendor platforms. Collected data is utilized to make policy and ordinance recommendations that affect the management of demand and turnover of the City’s parking inventory.

Settled in 1623, The City of Portsmouth is a coastal city in New Hampshire known for its historic seaport, fine restaurants, tax-free shopping and waterfront views, drawing thousands of visitors each year.

Note: If you want to avoid congestion and find parking by your destination, try SmartPass. Smartpass allows you to book parking spots ahead of time so you can save time, money and effort.

The Challenge

Duration limits can be an effective strategy to increase turnover and availability so that congestion caused by commuters seeking parking can be managed. However, time limits can also severely impact residents and visitors’ ability to relax and enjoy all that Portsmouth has to offer.

Given overall demand for its on-street inventory and consistent, vocal demand for longer-duration stays, Portsmouth worked with Smarking to develop a plan to allow visitors an opportunity to stay longer than the 3-hour time limit, while still encouraging a turn at the 3-hour data point.

Eliminating Time Limits and Implementing a New Rate Structure

The City of Portsmouth implemented its Smarking Stay & Pay pricing model on August 17, 2020. While keeping the cost of the initial three hours unchanged, the Stay & Pay program eliminated time limits, but increased the metered on-street hourly rate from $2 per hour to $5 per hour in high occupancy zones and $1.50 per hour to $3 per hour in other areas for users staying beyond 3 hours.

For On-Street Zone A (High Occupancy Zone)

  • 3-hour time limits were eliminated

  • First three hours: $2.00 per hour (unchanged)

  • 4th hour and beyond: $5.00 per hour

For On-Street Zone B (Non-High Occupancy Zone)

  • 3-hour time limits were eliminated

  • First three hours: $1.50 per hour (unchanged)

  • 4th hour and beyond: $3.00 per hour

“The primary objective of the Stay & Pay Program is to continue to encourage a turn at three hours while allowing residents and visitors who chose to do so an opportunity to continue a parking session” said Ben Fletcher, Director of Parking
“The program encourages greater use of the City’s two parking garages, both of which offer a flat hourly rate and do not escalate pricing at the 4th hour and beyond. The Stay & Pay program has reduced overall congestion and dramatically increased the year-over-year length of stay in both parking garages.”

Restructured Rates Improve Both User Experience and Year-Over-Year Revenue

Between August 17th, 2020 and May 31st, 2021, the Stay & Pay program has resulted in the following initial success:

  • 91% of On-street and Lot users continue to vacate their space at the 3rd hour

  • 42% and 26% year-over-year increase in revenue per transactions at the Foundry and Hanover garages, respectively

  • 14% year-over-year increase in revenue per transactions for all lots and On-street parking.

  • 48% increase (from 4.8 hours to 7.1 hours) in average length of stay at the Foundry garage

  • 10% increase (from 3.6 hours to 3.9 hours) in average length of stay at the Hanover garage

As Portsmouth moves into summer 2021, Mr. Fletcher expects year-over-year comparisons will represent a more accurate representation than at present, when current-year figures are compared to pre-COVID demand and usage figures. Smarking’s real-time data allows clients to monitor transactions and shape the decision-making process going forward.

See how Smarking supports and partners with municipalities to enable data-driven policies: Schedule a meeting for a free consultation with our team:


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