City traffic: up to 56% is due to cruising for parking

A new study from a group of Chinese researchers highlighted the impact of cars driving while looking for an available parking lot may be worse than we usually acknowledge. Previous independent studies estimated about 30% of urban congestion to be directly linked to parking search – with negative side effects on air pollution, city livability and people stress.

In a recently published paper, Yating Zhu, Xiaofei Ye, Jun Chen, Xingchen Yan, and Tao Wang discussed the results of a sample observation around Tianyi Square in Ningbo City, China. Researchers collected data during late afternoon peak hours in a period of two weeks, including both weekends and holidays. Ningbo is a major sub-provincial city in northeast Zhejiang province, with a population of more than 9 million inhabitants.

They used a specific methodology to collect data. Park-and-visit tests with GPS and cameras were installed to capture the behavior of cruising for parking cars, while videotapes of traffic flows were examined to discriminate parking vehicles from ‘normal’ cars. The team completed about 450 observations and estimated between 9 and 56 percent of the traffic is due to cruising for parking, with the average search time exceeding 6 minutes.

They also applied a proportional hazard-based duration model to assess the influential factors related to cruising for parking. Mainly, parking search worsens city congestion by reducing the speed of flowing cars, increasing the number of accelerations and lane-changes, and increasing the distracted time of drivers.

Among the suggestions to improve urban mobility and mitigate traffic, the paper mentions the implementation of intelligent parking navigation systems: based on vehicle detection solutions, Smart Parking technologies can support the data-driven management of existing car parks, reduce idle cruising looking for a free spot, and related fuel consumption, air pollution, time waste and stress.


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