Best way to parallel park on a crowded street

(ORDO NEWS) — You drive slowly down the street looking for a parking space. You come across a long section of parallel parking. But to your disappointment, the seats left by other people are not long enough for you to fit. The search continues.

Based on our own bad parking experience, we decided to answer this question once and for all: What is the best way to park a car in parallel? Our research has revealed a simple answer.

You should always park at one end of a parking space, leaving as much space as possible at the other end. It doesn’t matter from which end – just remember to leave yourself a place to exit.

While it may seem obvious, a quick look at the street near your house will reveal that many drivers find it best to park in the middle of a space – or simply don’t think about it. Parking optimization in cities is of great importance, since free parking spaces are by their nature a limited resource.

As the world gradually recovers from road closures, we are increasingly getting into our cars. Mobility data shows that our cities are revitalizing and our travel behavior is in turn changing.

Even if many of us still work from home, commuters are reluctant to return to public transport. You probably already noticed the result on the example of road traffic. The number of cars on the roads of Australian cities has already reached or exceeded the levels that existed before the introduction of COVID, as well as the demand for parking.

How can we all park better?

Everyone is familiar with marked places where drawn lines show where to park. They help with our frustrations with insecure parking, but they are detrimental to density, as each space must be able to accommodate a large vehicle.

In our research, we focused on unmarked parallel parking, such as on most residential streets. This is due to the fact that here we can control exactly where we put our cars.

We tested four strategies that drivers can follow in these parking lots:

  • always park as far back as possible
  • park at either end of the space
  • park in the middle of the space
  • park randomly anywhere in the available space.

We simulated what would happen in a typical situation where demand exceeds supply, where there is always a car waiting to be parked with a driver willing to wait for someone to leave.

Worst strategy for maximizing parking? Parking in the center of the space. This can be useful if, say, you want to discourage people from parking right outside your house. Parking in the middle of a free space makes it difficult to squeeze in more cars.

We found that parking in a random location can give slightly better results. Many drivers use this strategy subconsciously.

But in general, the best strategy for accommodating as many cars as possible in a scarce street parking lot is to park at either end of the space. It doesn’t matter which end you park at, and it doesn’t even matter if you choose the same end as your neighbors. In this scenario, any street can accommodate the largest number of cars.

best way to parallel park on a crowded street according to science 2

Above: Four parking strategies we tested. Time goes from bottom to top, cars leave and are replaced. Cars are represented by colored rectangles, the width of the rectangle is the length of the car, the height of the rectangle is the parking time. The gap along the curb is marked in white.

We also analyzed what happens when there is a short distance between access roads or intersections. If you live on a street with shorter curbs, parking at either end of the patch becomes even more profitable.

How significant is this approach? In many residential areas, you can nearly double the number of cars that can fit on the road by parking in front of or behind empty spaces.

Parking Issues

Parking is a limited resource that needs to be carefully managed to stimulate other modes of transport such as public and active. Storing cars on valuable land is also a waste of real estate.

If autonomous cars come along, we may see a future where cars drive themselves into remote parking lots and free up all the easily accessible land that is currently used for street parking.

If we wanted to reduce the demand for parking, we would have to encourage more people to return to public transport through measures such as lowering fares, raising the cost of parking or fuel. We could also build additional car parks near train stations or bus stops.

But since these measures are unlikely to be taken in the near future, we must make the most of the available parking lots.

Until then, street parking management will remain a challenge, especially in our most congested cities. In Sydney, for example, locals and visitors fight with visitors for the right to park on a particular street.

Since the number of on-street parking spaces is more or less fixed, we must make the most of the available space. The next time you come across an unmarked parallel car park, try parking in front or behind it.The Conversation


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