The simple complex phenomenon of urban parking

Itzhak Benenson, Nir Fulman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


During the last few decades, the complex systems theory has successfully disclosed the basic features of urban and regional dynamics. The time has come to make the next step, and apply our knowledge of urban complexity to forecasting and controlling particular urban phenomena. The latter requires deep understanding of the selected subject, including the necessary components of urban infrastructure, factors that govern the phenomenon and verifiable models of human behavior and finally, extensive and representative data on all these components. Until very recently, the lack of data restrained complex system theory from becoming operational. We claim that this barrier has been rapidly dissolving during the last decade. We apply complex system theory to studying the problem of urban parking dynamics - a critical component of urban traffic in every big city. Urban parking is only loosely connected to the general traffic and can be thus considered as a relatively simple phenomenon. At the same time, parking dynamics exhibit all major attributes of a complex system - non-linearity, emergence and path dependence. We aim at deep understanding of parking dynamics for establishing urban parking policy, the two major goals of which are inherently conflicting: to reduce parking search time for car drivers on the one hand, while enforcing urban resident and visitors to abandon private cars in favor of public transport on the other. Urban parking dynamics are an outcome of the interplay between parking supply and prices that are controlled by the city and parking demand created by residents and visitors. We represent these dynamics with a hierarchy of models, starting from an aggregate and non-spatial model, proceeding with a model of parking search in an abstract homogeneous space and concluding with an agent-based spatially-explicit model of parking search. Modeling drivers’ parking search demands comprehensive depiction of their decision-making and we disclose this behavioral component with serious parking games. The proposed set of models fully captures urban parking dynamics and adequately forecasts the consequences of parking policy decisions in real cities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Cities and Complexity
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781789900125
ISBN (Print)9781789900118
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


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