Parking in Downtown areas



My name is Patrick and I have grown up in a metropolitan area my whole life. I along with many other people around me have found parking to be an annoyance in many cities I visit. This is largely due to me either not having change, or seeing many people just accepting tickets and parking wherever. I have often visited cities with more modernized parking systems but have still found flaws. Things such as broken meters, not having change, “I don’t know how long I’ll be,” and “I’ll only be a short amount of time” are some of the main problems that plague parkers everywhere.


An “outdated” coin only meter, also needing repair


There is a growing problem in many downtown areas involving parking. Due to many cities not updating their parking systems as technology advances, it is becoming increasingly difficult for residents and workers to park in cities at a reasonable price. They are often given tickets or paying high prices for parking in areas that would be convenient for them. Many meters are still operating on coin only payments, a problem for many people that are using electronic or paper currency.

Quick Survey

While some cities and towns have already begun to modernize their parking systems, we can use game theory strategies to devise which would be the best way for people and the city to approach this problem. In conjunction with switching to machines that accept cash, coins, and credit cards I would like to propose the idea to also bring in parking permits. The permits would work by corresponding to the car. Each permit provides unlimited parking in any designated permit spot for a weekly, monthly, or annual fee.

Plans for Change

Below is a payoff matrix of the different strategies that the city or the parkers could use to come out ahead. I would like to show this to the city I live in in order to show how it would be beneficial for them to adopt permits in the parking system.

People Parking

A1: People paying with only their permits.

: People paying only through meters.

C1: People using a combination of both meters and permits.

The City

A2: Making better spots more expensive and only for meter parking.

B2: Raise all meter prices–encouraging more people to by permits.

C2: Have better spots be for permit parkers only.

The city
People Parking (X1,Y2) A2 B2 C2
A1 (-1,1) (1,1) (2,2)
B1 (1.5,1.25) (0,2) (-1,1)
C1 (1,1.5) (1,1.5) (1,1.5)

Outcomes/Reasons for payoff

(A1,A2)–The person won’t be able to park anywhere. The city will gain money from others parking in the spot as well as the persons permit

(B1,A2)– Although paying slightly more, the person has a convenient walk. The city is getting the slightly increased pay from the meters.

(C1,A2)– Person pays both, but no matter what will have a good parking spot. The city gets money from both as well.

(A1,B2)– Person does not have to pay the increased cost of the meters. City still makes money off of the permits and others who pay increased meter costs.

(B1,B2)– Person is constantly having to pay the higher meter costs. City is making bank off of their increased prices.

(C1,B2)– Person will not have to pay for the higher meter costs. City is making money on permit.

(A1,C2)– Person always has a convenient spot, and over time cheaper parking. City will profit from people feeling obligated to get permits which may not even be used often.

(B1,C2)– Person will have inconvenient walks. The city will make money off of the permit holders and the meters the person uses.

(C1,C2)– Person always has convenient spot but paying for for parking meters and permits. City is making money on both permit and people paying meters.

Survey pt. 2

Solution Using Game Theory Techniques

The city should go with option B or C in order to make the most money. Using dominance we can see that option B is better than option A in every way. We can also see that although it is not the same order, option C has the same numbers as B, making it the other equally optimal choice. In order to choose, the city should look at the people’s payoffs and do what would lead to something called the “Pareto optimal outcome.” In other words, this is known as the best possible outcome for both parties. Using this the city should choose strategy C.

 For the people, strategy C would be the safest way to play this game, but not necessarily the best. With the knowledge that C is the most likely move by the city, the people playing should also aim for the “Pareto optimal outcome” and play strategy A.

The solution to this game should be point (A1,C2) or a payoff of 2 for each player.

What did you think the solution would be?

Final Question/Call to Action

Share this project
  1. April 28, 2017 by Michael J

    I think this is a really interesting topic. I live in a relatively suburban location, so parking is not a huge issue for me. However, when I go downtown or to another city, I see how this issue exists for many people in the world. I really like the inclusion of logic in your post, and I think it is useful to see the cause and effect of everything that happens regarding parking in the city.

  2. April 28, 2017 by P. Fernandez

    I liked how you took a complex problem like lack of parking in downtown areas used game theory to solve it. I am not familiar with game theory, but I thought your presentation made a really good job of breaking down the steps so that anyone can understand it. Your presentation made me try to reconsider solving issues I had already mentally labelled as impossible by showing the many different scenarios and solutions that can be created.

  3. April 29, 2017 by Ryan F

    I like how you applied game theory to a problem that you have encountered throughout your life. I like in a suburban area about 25-30 minutes South of San Francisco. I don’t go there enough to warrant buying a parking permit, but when I do go it is a hassle to find parking. It has discouraged me enough to the point where I just use a service like Uber/Lyft to get there rather than taking my chances in a garage. I definitely agree with your conclusion though because it’s best for locals who take their cars to work every day.

  4. April 29, 2017 by Jesse L

    I really like how you brought up a problem that possibly many other people around the world weren’t aware of. At least for me, in Hong Kong, parking is well known to be an issue but not in China. Hong Kong as small as it is, has a population of over 7 million people. Many roads with yellows line at the edge don’t allow cars to park or they will get fined and towed away. Having cars park at the side of roads like in some U.S cities would result in a lot of congestion if implemented in Hong Kong. The one good aspect of parking in Hong Kong is that all residential areas and malls near each subway station have excessively large carparks with multiple floors so as long as you near one of these places, finding parking is not an issue. However, like many other big cities around the world, parking in Hong Kong is certainly expensive.

  5. April 30, 2017 by Kristin L

    Hey Patrick! This is a really interesting topic and I think it’s so cool how you broke different parking scenarios down to a mathematical standpoint. Your project is very detailed and logical. I’m taking Abnormal Psych this semester, but this is really important because bad parking –> stress!! See what I did there? I recently went to Boston and you literally can’t park anywhere, everyone just uses the subway/buses/Uber. It was pretty hectic because there just wasn’t any parking. However, I think they solved it with the subway system, which is actually really pleasant and efficient. That could be an alternative to parking.

  6. May 04, 2017 by Fahim Choudhury

    This is a great topic. I love how game theory can be used for downtown parking! It’s really cool how you broke down the people and even wrote the reasons behind their parking!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.