Sunday, January 14, 2018

Walkable Parking: How to Create Park-Once-and-Walk Districts

Walkable Parking: How to Create Park-Once-and-Walk Districts
This post is about how to promote Walkable Parking. But, first, I had better talk about what it is, since the term is not (yet!) widely used. 

Planning for Walkable Parking basically means working to create more park-once-and-walk districts where much of the parking is open to the public, even if it is privately owned. It means enabling local ‘parking pools’ and not caring if any particular site has enough on-site parking.

“Walkable Parking” is a way to make parking policy serve walkable urbanism, downtown revitalization, transit-oriented development and suburban retrofits. If you want a more multi-modal, less car-dependent, mobility system, Walkable Parking should be part of your strategy.

Walkable Parking usually reduces the pressure to build too much parking (albeit indirectly). It also opens pathways towards parking success without parking excess, especially when combined with the rest of the Adaptive Parking agenda.

That’s a big deal since so much conventional parking policy feeds traffic growth and car dependence. Conventional parking-minimums-based parking policy is harmful not only by promoting excessive parking but by promoting excessive ON-SITE parking. The result is that anyone arriving or departing by car typically does so directly to and from their destination building's parking lot. That is awful for walkability because most never engage on foot with the public realm nor the other businesses in the area.

As the name suggests, walkability is intimately linked with the Walkable Parking agenda. Each helps the other.

To learn more about Walkable Parking and why cities should promote it, read this 2016 post.


Below is a long list of possible steps. Consider urging your local government to make use of them and to adopt Walkable Parking as a goal.

I decided to write this because it seems to fill a need. I have seen only scattered and rather skimpy guidance on park-once-and-walk planning.

The key thrust of the Walkable Parking agenda is increasing the fraction of parking spaces that is open to the public. Some steps merely shift some of the parking closer to the open-to-the-public end of the spectrum and further from the completely-private-parking end.

This is a preliminary list! Pushing towards public parking and park-once planning is a relatively undeveloped policy agenda. I may update and improve this from time to time. So feel free to suggest amendments or additions.

[One gap I can see myself is details about how to engage with all of the relevant local actors to seek cooperation and a collective commitment to making it work. Instead I have focused on practical steps, leaving the politics and community engagement to you!]

First, here is a summary. Below that I give a little detail on each one.

A. Facilitate and smooth the path for private actors
A1  Parking guidance systems
A2  Consolidate small private parking areas and make them public or shared
A3  Allow privately-owned parking to join the city’s parking management systems
A4  Provide advice on how to make private parking public 
B. Get government out of the way
B1 Regulatory audit to avoid inadvertently blocking Walkable Parking changes
B2 Encourage rent-my-parking-space type businesses
B3 Be liberal towards valet parking businesses
C. Direct action on local government assets
C1  Manage the on-street parking well
C2  Avoid “residential permit holder” zones that exclude public on-street parking
C3  Improve Walkability
C4  Lead by example with parking at City Hall and City-owned facilities
C5 Public city-owned parking 
D. Use of planning powers and planning tools
D1  Abolish minimum parking requirements in Walkable Parking areas
D2  At least relax parking minimums and add flexibility in ways that promote Walkable Parking
D3  Design standards for off-street parking
D4  Planning and walkability
D5  Mixed-use planning
D6  Use planning-based incentives to encourage private parking to be made open to the public and designed as such
D7  Mandate that most (or all) new on-site parking be open to the public and designed as such
D8  Master planning for greenfield and brownfield developments
D9  Siting policy for large facilities
E. Financial incentives or disincentives
E1 Financial incentives for private parking to open to the public (or share)
E2 Private-parking levy (disincentive for private parking)

Now more details. 

A. Facilitate and smooth the path for private actors

Opening parking to the public usually requires active parking management. However, there are cost and knowledge barriers to this which tend to deter the owners of small private parking areas.

So one set of Walkable Parking steps involves local government efforts to reduce obstacles and costs that may deter private actors from opening their private parking to the public, or from taking smaller steps in that direction, such as entering parking sharing arrangements.

A1  Parking guidance systems

Private-sector public parking should be included in parking guidance systems not just city-owned parking. These systems help parking-once-and-walk areas to work better by making it easier for motorists to find public parking and to know which facilities have spaces available.

A2  Consolidate small private parking areas and make them public or shared

Local governments seeking a Walkable Parking approach can facilitate amalgamations of the private parking on several neighbouring sites (where layouts make this feasible), ideally also with improved parking management. Local governments in Australia often assist multiple shops on old main street strips to create a common public or shared parking area behind them.

Merged parking at the rear of shops along Goodwood Road, Goodwood, South Australia.  

A3  Allow privately-owned parking to join the city’s parking management systems

Agreements to apply the city’s own parking management systems to previously private parking are another way to lower parking-management hurdles that may deter making private parking open to the public.

This is reasonably common for enforcement. I have heard of examples from Australia, the UK and Canada. The private owner and the city agree for the municipal enforcement system to enforce the rules. Any revenue can go to the city or be shared. This arrangement is also helpful to reduce the problem that private-sector off-street parking enforcement can sometimes be predatory.

The same idea can also be applied to parking fees (although I know of few examples so far). A private sector owner and the municipal parking fee system can work together to establish parking management goals for the fees and also share the revenue. 

A4 Provide advice on how to make private parking public 

A Walkable Parking strategy will usually need more than just waiting for private owners of parking to spontaneously make their parking open to the public. Most may need encouragement or help from local governments (or a higher level of government perhaps), such as:
  1. Outreach and encouragement of shifts from private to public parking (or second-best steps in the right direction, such as parking sharing agreements).
  2. Advice on how best to manage public parking on private property and on how to engage reputable professional parking management service providers. 
  3. Information on current and predicted parking patterns in the area and what to expect as parking is made public. This might include insight on supply and demand to allow wise supply and management decisions. 
  4. Make owners aware of the possibility of joining the city’s parking management system (as in A3 above).
  5. Facilitate shared-parking arrangements (a matchmaker service). Some of Beijing’s District Governments have been active in this area for example.  
  6. Facilitate parking amalgamations with collective parking management (as mentioned in A2 above).

B. Get government out of the way

This section focuses on getting government out of the way of private initiatives that are helpful to Walkable Parking.

B1 Regulatory audit to avoid inadvertently blocking Walkable Parking changes 

Many cities have parking related regulations that would hinder the kinds of changes discussed in this post. An obvious example is parking minimums (see D1 and D2 below). Others may deter shared parking arrangements. In some cities, there are regulatory obstacles to the pricing of parking by private owners. Any city wanting to pursue Walkable Parking may need to conduct an audit of its parking related regulations then work to remove such obstacles.

B2 Encourage rent-my-parking-space type businesses

A specific example worth mentioning is the new phenomenon of app-based businesses that allow owners of private parking spaces to rent them out (short-term or long-term). This effectively and relatively easily opens private parking to the public.

Examples around the world include JustPark, ParkEx, SPOT, ParkHound, CurbFlip, ShareMyPark, Rakupa, ParkPNP, ParkShare and many more, including several in China. Governments should be liberal about these or even encourage them (while seeking appropriate tax payments).

This phenomenon might be alarming in congested places that have been using parking maximums or parking supply caps as TDM measures. Municipalities may worry that allowing too much private parking to open to the public will undermine the TDM and increase traffic. However, public parking with a market price is still healthier for the area than private parking. It is highly consistent with Walkable Parking and the Adaptive Parking agenda, which encourages market responsiveness in parking (among other things). So, rather than banning such enterprises, it may be better to continue to restrain parking supply by other means. For example, the city could further tighten parking maximums and gradually reduce the supply of city-owned parking (either off-street and on-street) while reclaiming some of that space for better uses.

B3  Be liberal towards valet parking businesses

Valet parking can help ease the pain of highly localized parking demand hot spots while making good use of public parking around the area. This business needs appropriate regulation but be as welcoming as possible. Valet parking can help Walkable Parking areas work better.

C. Direct action on local government assets

This section highlights direct action to further Walkable Parking by local governments applied to their own assets, such as streets, city-owned parking facilities, and parking at city-owned institutions.

C1  Manage the on-street parking well

In many localities, the on-street parking is the most obvious and easily-accessed public parking. It is the original park-once-and-walk parking. But it needs to be managed well.

If public parking is scarce in an area, on-street parking will be very important, especially in the early stages of a Walkable Parking strategy. Cities often have good reason to remove certain on-street parking (for bicycle or bus-priority lanes for example). This point is not about promoting on-street parking per se.

But be wary of removing on-street parking if it is the only open-to-the-public parking in the area. Walkable Parking requires some (well-managed) public parking in every locality.

C2 Avoid “residential permit holder” zones that exclude public on-street parking

In managing residential permit districts, avoid completely excluding vehicles without permits, which would diminish the pool of public parking that Walkable Parking depends on. Instead allow public parking in parking permit zones and ration such public parking with strong enough parking management. It is reasonable for residents to expect well-managed streets with public parking rationed effectively but they should not expect exclusive use of the parking.

Hackney, London

C3  Improve Walkability

You didn’t know that improving walkability was a parking policy did you? But walkability feeds the park-once ideal. If people are going to happily park and then walk to destinations, then walking needs to be comfortable and safe.

So local government efforts to improve the environment for walking are a key part of walkable parking. This is a big topic of course.

C4  Lead by example with parking at City Hall and City-owned facilities

Make on-site parking at City Hall, other local government offices, and other city-owned facilities (such as swimming pools, libraries, parks and so on) open to the general public to the extent possible.

This will usually require improved management, such as parking fees, if demand is high enough. Ideally, this should apply also to employee parking (with daily fees not monthly), which can be made more acceptable via parking cash-out or commuting allowance programs.

C5 Public city-owned parking 

City-owned public parking is often part of park-once strategies. Having at least some public parking in every vicinity is essential for Walkable Parking.

Some cities overdo this. Waiving on-site parking requirements (for a fee) and building abundant public parking instead was famously part of the downtown revitalization strategy in Downtown Santa Monica in the Los Angeles region.

But Walkable Parking is nevertheless an essential step towards parking success WITHOUT PARKING EXCESS. It helps open the way to many complementary parking reform steps that are otherwise very difficult if the city is trying to force parking into every development.

Buenos Aires

Some cities lease or purchase existing parking lots from willing sellers and add them to the public supply (pdf). This is about turning private parking lots (which may not be open to public) into public lots that are open to the public.

But let me say again, please don't overdo it. Be cautious about sinking city funds into parking facilities. Certainly don't invest if you have not yet established strong on-street parking management. Oversupplied parking is an extremely poor investment. And remember that public parking is much more efficiently used than private parking so,many cities find they do not need as much public parking as they thought they would. The process of opening some private parking to the public often eases local shortages (real or perceived).

D. Use of planning powers and planning tools

The suggestions in this section focus on local-government planning powers and tools, such as zoning and building codes, to encourage public parking and park-once outcomes.

D1  Abolish minimum parking requirements in Walkable Parking areas

Minimum parking requirements (=parking minimums) undermine Walkable Parking by encouraging plentiful on-site parking with every building. The "on-site" part of this is just as important as the "plentiful" part in reducing the chances that off-street parking will be opened to the public and managed.

Paradoxically, having a little parking scarcity tends to promote opening of parking to the public, since it prompts parking owners to manage their parking more actively (often with pricing), which allows them to deal with outsider parking and to profit from doing so. Consider that much of the parking in many downtowns is open to the public while most parking in car-oriented suburban strips is private.

Abolishing parking minimums is an increasingly common step around the world. Mexico City is the most dramatic recent case but there are many others. At the very least, do so in any area where Walkable Parking (park-once-and-walk planning) is the strategy.

Parking minimums are also unnecessary with Walkable Parking. A new building with zero parking may be no problem for a park-once-and-walk district if the local pool of public parking (as well as the non-car access options) can absorb the new demand, a process eased by good parking management including market responsive prices

More fundamentally, parking minimums are based on a parking mindset that assumes that parking should take place in the on-site parking of each destination and that public parking (especially in the streets) is a problem called spillover parking. This mindset  runs completely counter to Walkable Parking, which is based on planning for parking to happen anywhere within a park-once-and-walk area.

D2 At least relax parking minimums and add flexibility in ways that promote Walkable Parking

If your city is not yet ready to abolish parking minimums it is still possible to reduce their harm and make them more compatible with Walkable Parking. A key goal is to reduce their rigidity and increase the chances that parking is off-site and potentially shared or open to the public.

Key possibilities include:
  1. Lowering the level of parking minimums (Singapore is an example)
  2. Allow even less parking if the building is near suitable public parking, good public transport and/or implements TDM measures (many cities)
  3. Exempting small buildings (many cities) and even many medium-sized buildings (Japan)
  4. Allow payments-in-lieu-of-parking (unconditionally) to enable developers to build less than the required parking if they wish (many cities around the world)
  5. Allow required parking to be off-site but nearby (as in Stockholm)

D3 Design standards for off-street parking

Many cities now have guidelines to make parking design more compatible with walkable urbanism than it has been in the past. These fit well with a Walkable Parking strategy. Examples include:
  1. Prevent parking in the frontage areas of buildings or between buildings and sidewalks.
  2. Discourage surface open-lot parking and parking occupying the ground level of buildings  
  3. Even for sites that are devoted to parking, try to have them lined with active land-uses such as retail, avoiding having parking or dead walls by the sidewalk. 
  4. Encourage pedestrian links in and out of public parking to link with the broad public realm (rather than channeling them only through private buildings).  
  5. In streets where parking is allowed, ban new curb cuts (= kerb cuts = driveways) to private off-street parking with only a few spaces since these needlessly create conflict with people on foot for little or no net gain in parking spaces.
  6. Adopt design guidelines/building controls that encourage parking to be public by default and by design
Parking structure with ground floor retail. Adelaide, South Australia

D4  Planning and walkability

As mentioned in item C3, good walkability is essential for Walkable Parking to work well. That suggestion was about improving the public realm for walking. This one is about urban planning and zoning for walkability. The planning literature has much to say on this.

Advice includes encouraging narrow building frontages, having buildings “address the street” (avoiding large set-backs), maintaining permeability for pedestrians (including through large developments), preferring small and medium sized development sites rather than enormous ones, and many others.

D5 Mixed-use planning

A fine-grain mix of land-uses is part of planning for walkability. But it deserves its own item because of its special implications for parking. Having different land uses in close proximity enables efficient use of public parking (or shared parking) by having complementary peak demand periods. So planning reforms to better enable land-use mixing will help with Walkable Parking.

Examples include steps to legalize corner shops, ground floor retail, mixed use complexes, and many others. Emulate the Japanese approach to zoning, which is liberal towards many kinds of land-use mixing.

D6  Use planning-based incentives to encourage private parking to be made open to the public and designed as such

Municipalities in many countries use a range of planning bonuses (such as density bonuses) to encourage developers to provide various amenities. These tools can also be used to encourage on-site parking to be designed to be open to the public and not private. This is best done at the design stage so that public parking is compatible with building security arrangements, among other issues.

Public priced parking in a private mixed-use building. Pereira, Colombia.

D7  Mandate that most (or all) new on-site parking be open to the public and designed as such

This may be too rigid an approach but may be relevant to some cities. The need for exemptions for certain buildings would arise with more force than if incentives are used.

D8  Master planning for greenfield and brownfield developments

Large integrated developments, which often see detailed design and planning from the local government, present an opportunity to directly plan for Walkable Parking. The issues above are relevant of course.

In addition, such master-planned developments can be planned with common public parking to serve a whole area with many buildings (and located peripherally or underground). This parking should be intensively managed to take full advantage of the benefits of shared and public parking while still serving the needs of residents, tenants, employees, businesses, customers and visitors.

Examples with some of these characteristics include the peripheral parking of the Vauban area of Freiburg, Germany and the common parking in several recently developed districts in Singapore, such as Biopolis.

D9  Siting policy for large facilities

Large facilities such as stadiums, hospitals, education campuses, large places of worship, large stores, etc. are often built with enormous amounts of dedicated parking that is the antithesis of Walkable Parking.

To be compatible with Walkable Parking, we should instead site such things in walkable locations and design them to be part of walkable districts (with multi-modal access options), rather than isolated car-oriented locations.

We should also plan for their parking to be part of the local Walkable Parking (park-once-and-walk) area. They would then be able to make use of existing public parking and to avoid too much new supply. Conversely, any new on-site parking built with the facility should also be open to the public to become part of that same local pool of parking in the park-once-and-walk district.

Lucas Oil Stadium and its relatively walkable urban context. Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. 

E. Financial incentives or disincentives

Various Walkable Parking characteristics can also be fostered with financial incentives or disincentives to private actors, especially owners and managers of parking. Planning based incentives were mentioned in D6 above. Here we are talking about money changing hand.

E1 Financial incentives for private parking to open to the public (or share)

A possible example might be a property tax rebate for every off-street parking space opened to the public (and a smaller property tax incentives for parking to be shared). There would need to be occasional monitoring to ensure the parking really is open to the public.

Taipei, Seoul and Beijing all have incentives for buildings to make their parking open to the public

E2 Private-parking levy (disincentive for private parking)

The opposite approach is to penalize private parking with some kind of levy. Spaces open to the public would be exempt and spaces in qualifying sharing agreements could be partially exempt.

Such a levy would need to be high enough to give an incentive for parking owners to open their parking to the public but not so high that it makes opening to the public effectively compulsory. The idea is to offer a nudge but to allow ongoing private parking on sites where public parking is not wanted or feasible.

Such a levy might be used to fund the rebate mentioned in E1 or other efforts with significant costs, such as those in A4 or C3 above.

Walkable Parking is about the S in RESPOnD

I mentioned above that Walkable Parking is a key part of seeking parking success without parkig excess. It does this best as part of the wider agenda, Adaptive Parking, which regular readers may remember. This post has been all about the “S” in the Adaptive Parking memory aid, RESPOnD. It stands for “share” and includes the agenda of making more parking completely open to the public.

If you found this article useful, please subscribe and never miss a future post. Use the box at the top of the page. 

This post by Paul Barter appeared first on Reinventing Parking.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On-street parking fees despite zero public transport?

On-street parking fees despite zero public transport?
Can on-street parking fees really help places with poor public transport?

I was asked this many times in Pune, India, while I was there three weeks ago*. Parking is a hot topic in this Maharashtra city of about 5 million people because many Pune streets have extreme parking problems and because the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has a new and progressive draft parking policy awaiting approval. However, public transport in Pune remains unappealing for vehicle owners. Hence the question.

The short answer is yes! 

Double parking and parking on footways are common sights on Pune's FC Road.

Well-designed on-street parking fees can help regardless of the state of public transport. 

Don't get me wrong. Public transport is important. I think it deserves a very high priority in urban transport planning. And it does help parking management to have a good transit alternative, not least because the politics of on-street parking fees tends to be a little easier if public transport is strong.

Nevertheless, it is still true that on-street parking fees can work most of their magic without the help of public transport.

Here is an example:  Saudi Arabia's cities have very little public transport. Yet these before-and-after shots highlight the visible benefits of implementing on-street parking fees (along with improved enforcement, of course) in several downtown streets in Jeddah.

A slide by Andrew Perrier of Mawgif (the company that implemented Jeddah's downtown on-street pricing) from his presentation at the 2nd Annual Parking Management Conference, Singapore, Feb. 2017 (used with permission) 

But how can this be? 

Don't motorists need a good public transport alternative before they can change their parking behaviour? Actually no.

Public transport is just one of many options open to motorists faced with new or increased on-street parking fees.

The number one way that well-planned on-street fees help is by persuading some motorists to change their parking LOCATIONS.

In a training event in Pune I had the participants do a simple hands-on simulation of parking in and around a small commercial area.

  • We simulated car arrivals and departures across a weekday morning.  
  • Participants used stickers to "park" the simulated cars on the map of the area and to mark the spaces empty again when cars leave. 
  • The participants had JUST ONE CHOICE to make: where to park that car. Their options were off-street (in either the core area or nearby) and on-street (legal in the core area, illegal in the core area or legal in the surrounding quieter residential area).
We ran the simulation twice:
  1. with weak parking management (almost zero enforcement; on-street parking free-of-charge; priced off-street parking, albeit with low fees)
  2. with strong on-street parking management (decent enforcement; on-street parking fees but only in the commercial core area; off-street parking fees as before; the on-street fees in the core are higher than the off-street fees in the same area).
Can you guess how it turns out?

Without fail, every group gets results that look something like this.   [BTW, blue is the colour for commercial on Indian zoning maps.]

Weak parking management results in all-day parking hogging most of the prime on-street spaces in the commercial area. Off-street spaces were usually little used. Illegal on-street parking was common.

Strong parking management always resulted in all-day parking in the residential periphery and off-street, leaving the prime on-street spaces for short-term parking with high turnover. Off-street parking became well used and illegal on-street parking became a rare event.

Many participants were astonished that such simple policy changes made so much difference.

The simulation has limitations but I hope participants became a little more willing to believe that on-street parking management can often ease parking problems without the need for more off-street parking.

Notice that these striking results were achieved without any mode shifts. 

All we did was use on-street fees and enforcement to nudge most all-day parking to off-street options and/or to quieter streets where parking demand is lighter.

Of course, in reality, some motorists do respond by changing travel mode (to walking, biking, motorcycle, taxi, ride-hail, family drop off, or even to public transport). And any such mode shift will be a help. Parking location shift is usually the primary parking management result but it is not the only one.

Mode shift is usually not essential to on-street parking management

You can achieve a lot with well-planned on-street parking fees without any shift to public transport.

In fact, parking management can often drastically ease parking problems (like illegal parking, double parking, cruising for parking and complaints of shortage) even if no-one at all changes travel mode.

So please don't wait for excellent public transport before deploying on-street parking fees as a key parking management tool!

*  My trip to Pune was supported by GIZ’s Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) and the workshop was organized by ITDP India’s excellent Pune team.  Many thanks to both!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The on-street parking foundations for success without parking excess: my talks at PIE 2017

The on-street parking foundations for success without parking excess: my talks at PIE 2017
Last week I was at the Parking Industry Exhibition 2017 in Chicago with more than a thousand other participants. I learned a great deal from many fascinating attendees with diverse connections to the world of parking. The 26-hour journey was worth the effort.

Many thanks to the friendly organizing team at Parking Today for inviting me to give two keynote talks at my first PIE!

I want to use this post to simply share my presentations.

My central goal was to help stiffen spines regarding on-street parking management while arguing that parking management is the foundation on which to build parking success without excess.

I also introduced the basics of Adaptive Parking and offered some international flavour to entertain an audience drawn mostly from North America.

My slides are below so scroll down to browse both the Monday morning keynote and then the Wednesday morning keynote.

If you can't see the slideshows below (Slideshare is blocked in certain countries), then let me know.

On-Street Parking Management: Confront the Key Choices

Shoupista bonus: did you spot Prof Donald Shoup and his wife in one of the photos?

What do you think? Any questions or comments?

I had 24 hours at the end of PIE for a look around in Chicago. This included sniffing out various parking curiosities, which I may share in another post.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Don't do the wrong thing "better". Do the RIGHT thing!

Don't do the wrong thing "better". Do the RIGHT thing!
Last year, Brent Toderian, former chief planner of Vancouver, British Columbia, sent out this tweet:

So, are your parking reforms doing the right thing? Or are they just doing the wrong thing a little "better"? 

We can see these alternatives in two North American cities' contrasting efforts to tackle excessive minimum parking minimums.

One is sticking with the old On-Site-Parking mindset but applying it a little more carefully.

The other has taken a large leap towards a more promising parking-policy mindset: Walkable Parking thinking.

Victoria is considering lowering some parking minimums

I hear via Todd Litman that Victoria (in British Columbia, Canada) is talking about reducing some of its off-street minimum parking requirements.

It is studying how to keep doing the wrong thing slightly less wrongly.

The announcement explains the key idea:
A review of off-street parking is being conducted to align the regulations with actual demand, current trends and community objectives.
The study included new assessments of local parking demand. It also compared Victoria's parking standards with 'comparable' communities elsewhere in Canada.

The resulting draft proposal calls for modest reductions to some of the parking minimums. It also provides for more geographical differentiation of parking regulations based on location or context based on the areas shown in the map below.

City of Victoria 2016. Review of Zoning Regulation Bylaw Off-Street Parking Requirements (Schedule C). Working Paper Number 5, Preliminary Recommendations. 

Victoria is trying to right-size its parking minimums and make them match each context more precisely.

However, parking minimums are to continue for almost all kinds of development everywhere in the city, EVEN in the downtown core. [As far as I can tell, Victoria still has parking minimums for all uses even in its Downtown. This surprised me. Am I missing something?]

These proposals are attacking the "excessive" part of "excessive parking minimums" but not parking minimums themselves.

But right-sized parking minimums still do the wrong thing!

Right-sizing is better than doing nothing. Parking minimums that better match existing observed demand in each context are better than excessive parking minimums, of course.

But even right-sized parking minimums still try to do the impossible and make long-term predictions of parking demand. They still force that amount of parking to be provided on-site with each real-estate development.

Right-sizing tries to make the demand prediction more accurate. But it is still foolish to think we can predict parking demand for every development site far into the future. This is especially obvious now as urban mobility patterns seem very likely to change radically within the useful life of new buildings.

Victoria's review of its parking minimums is tinkering. It fails to even hint at a challenge to the idea of parking minimums and to the mindset behind them.

Buffalo's abolition of parking minimums

Buffalo (in upstate New York, USA) recently got a lot of attention for becoming the first USA city to ABOLISH its minimum parking requirements.

This is a large step towards doing the right thing.

Buffalo’s new Green Code states on page 8-5:
“There are no provisions that establish a minimum number of off-street parking spaces for development."
That may sound radical. And in some ways it is but possibly not in the ways you think.

It is not radical because of any short-term impact on parking supply.

Even if the city was totally abolishing its ability to require on-site parking the short-term impact on parking supply would be modest. Many developers would keep building parking whenever they see the need, as they do in London for example.

And development is a slow process. So any change in parking supply would be gradual.

Buffalo has not completely given up its ability to require parking

Page 8-5 of the Green Code says this:
"However, certain development proposals are required to complete a transportation demand management plan, per Section 8.4, which can result in the provision of off-street parking.”
These TDM plans must include expected travel demand for the project and details on modal share objectives and how that demand will be met "on-site or off-site" including "number of on-street vehicle parking spaces, off-street vehicle parking spaces, or shared vehicle parking arrangements", provision for diverse transport modes, and strategies to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips, reduce vehicle miles traveled by site users, and promote transportation alternatives (according to page 8-12). (my emphasis)

And on page 8.13 we find:
“In making its decision, the City Planning Board must make written findings of fact on the following matters:
1. The project includes performance objectives to minimize single-occupancy vehicle trips and maximize the utilization of transportation alternatives to the extent practicable, taking into account the opportunities and constraints of the site and the nature of the development.
2. The project must meet the anticipated transportation demand without placing an unreasonable burden on public infrastructure, such as transit and on-street parking facilities, and the surrounding neighborhood."  (my emphasis)

So is Buffalo really doing the right thing then?

Perhaps it is not quite there yet.

It would be better if Buffalo would totally refrain from ever requiring parking. And I wish the Green Code spelled out explicitly what it means by "an unreasonable burden on public infrastructure".

And Buffalo's reform will also work better if it ALSO adopts other complementary policies from the Shoupista or Adaptive Parking playbook, including boosting on-street parking management. I wonder if Buffalo does have any such plans?

Nevertheless, Buffalo IS taking a big bold step, unlike Victoria

Buffalo's parking policies are now on a much more promising trajectory now than Victoria's.

A key stated aim of Buffalo's Green Code is to revitalize development in the city. And a key goal of the parking changes is to stop letting parking minimums hinder developments and redevelopments.

This revitalization goal suggests that city will probably NOT let the TDM plans (with their ability to require parking) be used as parking minimums in disguise (at least not by the current elected officials).

So developers should no longer face the time-consuming and costly process of seeking parking variances.  Buffalo has indeed swept away the complicated apparatus of parking minimums, with their different standards for every land use category.

Notice too that many developments are exempt even from the possibility of required parking under the TDM plans provision.
  • For new construction, buildings of less than 5,000 square feet (465 square metres) are exempt. 
  • For substantial renovation a TDM plan is required only if the gross floor area is at least 50,000 square feet (4,645 square metres) AND there is a change of use. 
  • A TDM plan is not required for single unit dwellings nor for double-unit dwellings. 
  • And TDM plans are never required for ANY project in areas zoned D-IL (Light Industrial), D-IH (Heavy Industrial) or D-C (Flex-Commercial, which are general commercial and mixed-use areas, which typically benefit from flexible form standards and are separate from, but within close proximity to, residential neighborhoods).
It is also clear that Buffalo's new approach is not longer stridently fearful of spillover parking!

Although the TDM plans may require non-exempt developments to avoid "placing an unreasonable burden on public infrastructure", providing on-site parking is only one possible response. On-street parking, off-site parking and shared parking arrangements are also mentioned as options. It seems clear that some spillover is considered acceptable and manageable.

Furthermore, it would take a LOT of spillover to place an unreasonable burden on parking in many areas of Buffalo.

Why? Because Buffalo has a LOT of parking! Here is parking in Downtown Buffalo as revealed by a 2003 study by local non-profit, the New Millennium Group.
Map from Joe the Planner "Putting parking in its proper place"

My guess is that in the near term, new parking-lite developments with plentiful under-used off-street parking nearby will rarely be judged to be "placing an unreasonable burden" on local parking.

A mindset change!

This lack of fear of spillover is what makes Buffalo's parking reforms more radical than Victoria's.

Victoria is sticking with the On-Site-Parking mindset, which insists that every single development site should be served by its own on-site private parking. Victoria's review of its parking requirements retains the usual abhorrence of spillover parking. It even explicitly rejects the idea of a shared parking program.

By contrast, Buffalo has taken a decisive step towards embracing Walkable Parking’ thinking in which parking facilities are assumed to usually serve their whole surrounding area, not just specific sites.

Buffalo no longer assumes that all parking demand from each building must be met with on-site parking. The city is well on the way towards the mindset behind park-once-and-walk planning.

Buffalo's parking reform is radical because it marks a drastic change in the parking policy mindset.

Wait a minute! Doesn't Buffalo have way more ugly surface parking than Victoria? 

Well, yes it does.

There are many historical reasons for Downtown Buffalo's existing parking surplus and its many parking craters. There are also various historical factors behind Victoria's much more intact downtown fabric and relative lack of surface parking.

But this article is not about how well these cities did in the past. It is about today's reforms that will help shape the future.

Two different reforms of excessive parking minimums

In summary, we can see in these cities two very different approaches to parking minimums reform.
  1. Victoria is taking aim only at the excessiveness of some of its minimum parking requirements but it is not questioning the idea of parking minimums themselves. 
  2. Buffalo is abolishing its parking minimums and, despite retaining some ability to require parking in some cases, is well on the way to embracing a parking policy mindset in which parking minimums make no sense anyway.   
I don't want to seem too harsh on Victoria here. At least it is trying to do something about excessive parking minimums.

Many cities around the world are still simply doing the wrong thing and rigidly (even ruthlessly) applying excessive minimum parking requirements!

The Victoria and Buffalo examples highlight that parking minimums are about TWO different things at the same time:
1. plentiful parking AND 2. on-site parking.
Successful reform should take aim at both!

So, don’t just say “we need less parking” without challenging the On-Site-Parking mindset.

Right-sized parking minimums are merely doing the wrong thing a little bit better. Do the right thing and abolish the parking minimums completely.

1 comment

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to collect on-street parking fees (and why it matters)

How to collect on-street parking fees (and why it matters)
Today, a primer on mechanisms for collecting on-street parking fees.

But first, why should you care?

I think of you, dear Reinventing Parking readers, as having a keen interest in making parking policy wiser. But I don't expect you to be deeply into the technical details. I don't expect parking to be your main preoccupation.

Even so, I think a primer on this technical issue might help you! Why?

Because a basic understanding of pricing mechanisms, especially recent digital ones, is important in many of the parking policy debates you might get involved in.

Busy places need effective on-street parking management. And that almost always means a smart approach to on-street parking fees. There is no escaping pricing if we want parking success without parking excess.

Unfortunately, public support for parking fees can be fragile, to say the least.

Most of the unhappiness is about charging fees at all. Some anger is about the price levels.

But irritation or anxiety about the physical act of paying can make resistance to parking fees very much worse.

News items about street parking fees invariably include complaints like these:
  • I suspect that the parking attendant cheated me
  • I didn't have enough coins
  • I paid for an hour but my appointment took two and I got a penalty notice
  • I paid for three hours but ended up only needing one
  • It was pouring with rain and I was soaked before I even got to the parking meter
  • Paying seemed so complicated
  • This payment system ignores my disability
  • I heard this fancy parking fee system cost a bomb! What a waste!
  • The meter was broken
  • It is such a hassle!
I could go on but you get the idea.

The good news is that some modern options can minimize such worries. Don't let pricing mechanism mistakes make things any worse than they need to be.

Today's article, like the earlier one, 'How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared', is based on a section in the toolkit on On-Street Parking Management that I wrote for GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).

As always, please alert me if you find any errors! I will try to look into them and correct if necessary. This is a complicated and fast-changing arena.

Let's get started.

If you are in a hurry, scroll straight down to the most advanced digital options near the end (from option 9 onward).

An aside about payment methods

This article is mainly about Pricing Mechanisms (how parking fee payments are physically organized, such as in-street parking meters and so on).  

But we can't help dipping into the related issue of Payment Methods too, at least a little bit. 

Payment methods refers to how the money transfer for the payment is handled. Choices include cash (coins, notes or both), credit cards and debit cards, stored value cards, payment through a mobile telecoms carrier, mobile wallets or direct debits from bank accounts.  Keeping transaction costs low is an important issue in the choices here.

An aside about criteria for choosing street parking pricing mechanisms

I am almost ready to list the pricing mechanism choices. But first, what issues should a municipality consider in choosing pricing mechanisms?  
  • Overall costs (capital and operating combined). This is always important but it is make-or-break if the parking is cheap. Low costs are also important if more than one pricing mechanism will be running in parallel (for example, meters and mobile payments).
    Capital cost. Mechanisms with significant street infrastructure tend to have high capital costs.
    Operating cost. Labor costs may dominate here.
    Transaction costs. Important especially where parking is high-demand, short-duration. Be wary of significant flat fees per transaction with certain mechanisms/payment methods. 
  • Convenience for users. This includes several dimensions:
    Convenience of mode of payment Accepting only small denomination coins, for example.
    Choices of payment mode. Having more options (such as coin. note, card AND phone) is usually equated with convenience.
    Not having to predict length of stay in advance.   Ability to extend parking sessions.
    Convenience for diverse users. Especially for motorists with disabilities. 
  • Ease of price adjustments. Includes the ability to set different fees for different locations and for different times of the day and week. 
  • Ease of special offers. This includes the ability to offer discounts to special groups (such as local residents or for short vehicles)
  • Ease of enforcement/ integration with enforcement. The costs and efficiency of enforcement of the pricing system can be heavily influenced by pricing mechanism choices. 
  • Ease of data collection. Digital pricing mechanisms often enable cost-effective data collection, which is a great boost for evidence-based, outcomes-focused parking management.
  • Trustworthiness.  Resist or deter theft/leakage.   
  • Robustness/reliability Will it cope with severe weather, vandalism, power failures, computing failures, and operator or user errors? 
  • Suitability for motorcycles. In many parts of the world motorcycles are important and usually need on-street fees too.  
By the way, you will notice that I haven't linked to any vendors in this article. Looking at vendors is not the place to start if a municipality is in the market for parking fee mechanisms. Instead, think carefully first about the goals of pricing and which of the criteria above are important. Then start preparations for a tendering process. An early step is to publicize a Registration of Interest (ROI) call. Don't start by talking to any specific vendor!

Also be aware that mobile payment mechanisms mean that the days of awarding the contract to a single vendor should be over. Parking meters (if any) and several mobile payment options can operate simultaneously in the same streets. 

Pricing mechanisms: the options and their main strengths and weaknesses 

Let's take a look at the pricing mechanism options, starting with low-tech options and ending with recent digital mechanisms.

These are for casual on-street parking. I am omitting the mechanisms for handling permits or season parking tickets from today's list. This article is also not for off-street parking, which has a number of additional fee mechanisms not discussed here.

Non-Digital Mechanisms

The low-tech options early in our list are varied but have in common the inability to easily capture a stream of digital parking usage and payment data for the parking authority or operator.

1. Attendants: cash payment and paper tickets

Attendant seeks flat or time-based fee on arrival or departure and (in theory) issues ticket on arrival.
Pros: Simple; Very low capital cost; Convenient for motorist; No need to predict duration
Cons: Very high leakage risk; Very labour intensive; Makes time-based fees difficult so this mechanism often prompts flat fees per arrival (which undermines parking management
Examples: Most cities in Indonesia; Dhaka; Parts of Beijing, other Chinese cities, some cities in India.

2. Pre-purchased coupons (tear, pierce or scratch then display)

Buy coupons from various retailers. Indicate starting time on correct value coupon and display to prove payment for a period of parking. 
Pros: Low capital cost; Low-tech (although anti-counterfeiting effort needed)
Cons: Motorist error is common; Must predict duration; No data stream; Minor cheating (indicate arrival later than actual); Enforcement cost; Counterfeiting.
Examples: Singapore, some cities in Brazil, Malaysia, Ireland.

3. Valet (usually cash)

Pay an attendant who parks the car elsewhere. Usually a private-sector initiative.
Pros:  Can be a 'safety valve' for extreme parking problems at busiest times and places. Low capital cost.
Cons: This cannot be the general approach to on-street parking payments; High operation costs.
Examples: Common in many countries, especially in restaurant or entertainment areas with localized parking problems.

4. Mechanical single-space meters

This is the classic old-fashioned coin-operated parking meter invented in the 1930s.
Pros:  Simplicity; Familiarity (in some cities)
Cons: High capital/operating cost; No data stream; Coin-only; Must predict duration; Difficult to change prices.
Examples: Still in place in some cities but rapidly disappearing.

5. Electronic meters (early generations) - usually multi-space, pay-and-display

Deployed in the 1980s and 1990s, these are electronic meters but are less sophisticated than today's ‘smart’ digital meters highlighted later. Most such meters have been pay-and-display multi-space meters. Users walk to the meter, pay for expected duration, return to vehicle and display receipt. 
Pros:  Improved reliability and price flexibility over mechanical meters; Electronic monitoring and recording of repair and collection; Moderate capital and operating costs (one meter per 6-12 spaces); 
Cons: High capital costs; High enforcement costs for pay-and-display. Must predict duration; Limited payment methods (usually coin only). Pay-and-display is poorly suited to motorcycles 
Examples:  Still common in Malaysia, Australasia, North America (although rapidly being replaced by modern meters).

Digital mechanisms (all those below)

Modern digital parking payment mechanisms have digital capture of transaction and parking data.
Many use purely digital proof-of-payment, without printing tickets. Most allow digital payment modes (credit/debit cards and mobile payments of various kinds). Some are cashless.
Common Pros:  Easy price adjustment; Rich data stream; Usually real-time, two-way data exchange with a control centre, which has many benefits. Several digital mechanisms can often coexist. User can be notified by message or app before time expires. See below.
Common Cons: Beware of payment modes with a significant fixed cost per transaction. See below for strengths and weaknesses of specific digital options and example cities

6. Attendants and digital handhelds (pay on arrival)

Pay attendant fee for expected duration and display ticket. May allow multiple payment modes.
Pros:  Motorist convenience; Lower leakage than non-digital attendant options; Easy price adjustment; Data stream
Cons: Very labour-intensive; Must predict duration
Examples: Makati in Metro Manila; Medellin, Colombia; parts of Delhi, India; Seoul;.

7. Attendants and digital handhelds (pay later)

Attendant makes regular rounds and fixes tickets to vehicles found parked. New ticket at regular intervals. Motorists pay later online or through local retailers.
Pros: Motorist convenience; No need to predict duration; Low leakage; Easy price adjustment; Data stream
Cons: Very labour intensive.
Examples: Taipei

8. Electronic single-space or two-space meters (e-card payment)

This category refers to modern but relatively simply electronic meters with payment only by contactless stored-value smart cards.  Some cities have added contactless stored-value card payment to older single-space meters (for example, Ann Arbor, USA)
Pros:  High reliability; Low leakage; Theft proof.
Cons: High capital cost; medium operating costs; Must predict duration; Limited payment methods. Limited data stream I assume.
Examples:  Hong Kong, Guangzhou

9. Smart (digital) single-space meters

Digital meters with data connection to the parking operator.
Pros:  Multiple payment options including cash. Convenient; Can integrate with other digital options to allow extend-by-phone, etc; Easy price adjustment.
Cons: High capital and operating costs;
Examples:  San Francisco (SFPark).
[Tokyo's single space meters may be a variation on this, although they have very limited payment options (usually 100 yen coin only). And I am not sure how sophisticated their data exchange capabilities are. As far as I know, there is no integration with pay-by-phone in Tokyo. However, Tokyo's single-space meters each have an in-built sensor that detects a parked vehicle. ]

10. Digital multi-space pay-and-display meters (6 – 12 spaces per meter).  

Walk to meter, pay for expected duration, return and display receipt on/in vehicle;
Pros: Often with multiple payment modes Robust; Easy price adjustment. Often integrated with top-up-and-extend via any meter or via mobile payments. 
Cons: Relatively high enforcement costs for pay-and-display. Moderate capital and operating costs (high compared with low-infrastructure options below); Poorly suited to motorcycles
Examples: Common in Europe and increasingly in North America.

11. Smart (digital) multi-space meters with Pay-by-Space

No need to return with receipt. Parking space number is entered at meter and registered as paid for relevant period.
Pros: As above. But easier/cheaper enforcement. Often allows top-up and extend via any meter or phone.
Cons: Requires spaces to be marked and numbered; Must enter space number (prone to user error)
Examples: Various OECD cities
Ann Arbor digital pay-by-space multi-space parking meter. By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

12. Smart (digital) multi-space with Pay-by-Plate (or Pay-by-License)

No need to return with receipt. Vehicle license number is entered at meter and registered as paid for relevant period.
Pros: As above; Easy LPR enforcement; Often allows top-up and extend via any meter or phone; Integrates well with discounts and permits;
Cons: Privacy concerns; Users must remember their license plate number. Relatively new.
Examples: Increasingly common in OECD; Mexico City’s ecoParq; Chennai.

Pay-by-Phone: Several variations below.

Each can register either a parking space number,  small parking zone number or the vehicle license plate number.   Often used as a complement to digital meter options above. Rapidly growing % of on-street parking payments in many cities.
Pros: Low additional capital costs; Eases enforcement, especially if licence-plates used. Easy price adjustment; Discounts and permit integration; Easy extension of time paid. Suits motorcycles.
Cons: Prior registration usually; Capital cost savings only if street infrastructure removed; May need alternatives for certain users; Extra complexity in enforcement if combined with pay-and-display.

13. Pay-by-phone call

Call automated phone line and enter details including space or zone and desired time.
Pros: As discussed above for pay-by-phone options;
Cons: Significant cost per transaction;
Examples: Shenzhen; various OECD cities.

14. Pay-by-sms

Send text with space, zone or license plate number and desired time
Pros: As for pay-by-phone options above; Convenient payment often via mobile phone bill;
Cons: Significant fixed cost per transaction
Examples: Dubai; Sharjah; and many others.

15. Pay-by-smart-phone-app

Pre-register payment account and license plate. When parking use app to register location and desired time.
Pros: As for pay-by-phone options above; In addition: Very convenient; Very low transaction costs;
Cons: May feel need to have other options for non-smart-phone users.
Examples: Shenzhen, Tel Aviv (mobile-payment-only cities) and many others (where this is in addition to other options).

16. In-vehicle meters

Device displayed in vehicle is loaded with pre-paid credits or linked with payment account. Manual activation is usual.
Pros: Low-moderate capital costs; Low operating and transaction costs; Usually easy price adjustment; Convenient. Pay exactly for time used; Near-field communication enables integration with enforcement.
Cons: Usually need to retain alternatives for non-locals and others
Examples:  various OECD cities; Tel Aviv.

17. Global Positioning System (GPS)-based in-vehicle meters

GPS tracks device installed in vehicle, detects parking events, calculates fees for billing or deduction. May include in-vehicle display.
Pros: Very convenient for motorist; Low-medium capital costs; Low operating, transaction costs; Easy price adjustment; Pay exactly for time used; Excellent integration with enforcement, discounts and permits; Well-suited to delivery vehicles.
Cons: Possible privacy concerns (although design can protect privacy, these worries are difficult to allay); Usually need to retain alternatives for non-locals and others
Examples: Calgary.

So You Want a Recommendation?

It is best to start with clear criteria not a prejudgment about the technology or mechanism.

But having said that, here is my view (for now).

The digital pay-by-plate options seem to do best to maximize parking-management effectiveness and minimize the pain.

They score highly on most of the key criteria mentioned earlier, especially high convenience for users, easy price adjustment, data stream, low-cost integration with enforcement, low transaction costs, suitability for motorcycles, and ability to integrate with permits and special discounts.

This means that any city tackling this issue afresh today should probably focus on these options (in pay-by-plate mode): 
12: Smart (digital) multi-space meters with Pay-by-License-Plate
15: Pay-by-smart-phone-app
16: In-vehicle meters, or
17: Global Positioning System (GPS)-based in-vehicle meters
or some combination of 2 or more of these (including all of them together).

In addition, if your city does not already have parking meters, then seriously consider skipping in-street meters completely and just use the mobile options (15, 16 and/or 17)!. These mobile phone and in-vehicle meter options have very low capital costs. But be careful to keep transaction costs down (via mobile wallets for example). For example, in Tel Aviv the only options to pay for on-street parking are pay-by-phone (two companies) and in-vehicle meter (one company).

What do you think about on-street parking payment mechanisms? And could more places skip the parking meter altogether and just use mobile payment options?

This post appeared first on Reinventing Parking.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Walkable Parking: Why Most Parking Should Be Public

Walkable Parking: Why Most Parking Should Be Public
If  you want parking success without excess, you probably know something about Donald Shoup’s book, The High Cost of Free Parking, and its three main parking policy proposals:
  1. Eliminate minimum parking requirements
  2. Price on-street parking with fees set just high enough to keep about 1 in 8 spaces open
  3. Spend at least part of any parking fee surplus on locally popular things. 
These proposals point to a vision for local parking in which:
  • parking revenue improves neighborhoods;
  • there is no free-riding on on-street parking (since if it is often full it will be priced);
  • developers decide how much parking to provide (and usually provide less than now);
  • the cost of development is reduced and space is freed for other uses;
  • the cost of parking slowly gets unbundled (so most parking is priced); 
  • market prices for parking improve our transportation choices. 
I like these proposals and this vision. They are a key inspiration for Adaptive Parking which includes versions of each of Shoup’s three proposals.

But an extra parking reform would bring about Shoup's vision faster and in more places.

Encourage most parking to be open to the public 

I will make the case for this policy thrust below. But first, what does it mean?

It means cities encouraging more of the existing parking, including on-site parking, to be open to the public. It usually doesn’t mean creating more stand-alone public parking.

It means pushing for many more places to become park-once-and-walk districts. You could call this a “Walkable Parking” policy. It both needs and feeds walkability.

It means that local governments should stop trying to force plentiful parking into every development site. Instead, foster “pools” of parking for each neighborhood.

It is the S (for 'share') in the Adaptive Parking memory aid, RESPOnD.

And it is the most important difference between Shoup’s agenda and the Adaptive Parking agenda.

In this park-once area in central Buenos Aires, most buildings lack on-site parking. 
There is a pool of public parking in the streets and in off-street parking facilities.

To be fair, park-once-and-walk districts are often a part of parking plans by Shoup-influenced consultants, especially Nelson/Nygaard, and these have been part of my inspiration. ITDP also has a nice little policy brief on ‘Shared Parking’.

But Adaptive Parking calls for more ambitious public parking efforts. Park-once districts should be standard practice almost everywhere, not just in dense urban neighborhoods.

Why push for public parking not private?

Here are some of the main reasons for Shoupistas and other supporters of parking success without parking excess to push for public parking and park-once planning.

It promotes, and is promoted by, walkability

The name “park-once-and-walk districts” says it.

Motorists need to be able to walk comfortably to and from the park-once public parking options in such areas. Such areas also have much more walking, which promotes local street-oriented businesses. So park-once planning puts pressure on the local government to improve walking conditions.

We will see below that park-once areas also work best with mixed land use, which is also crucial for walkability.

Reduced traffic 

Reduced traffic is a key benefit of park-once-and-walk planning and a public-parking-not-private policy.

Park-once areas generate many fewer short driving trips within the vicinity. Someone arriving in such an area by car can park once in public parking then walk to a series of destinations and errands.

By contrast, if private parking dominates an area, each new destination and errand involves another short car trip and parking event in another customer-only, employee-only or clients-only parking lot.

Conventional suburban development versus a mixed-use, park-once district, as illustrated by Patrick Siegman of Nelson/Nygaard at the Kinder Institute speaker's series on Thursday, February 19, 2015 (pdf here).

Less parking is needed

In mixed-use areas, if parking is mostly public rather than on-site private parking. the times of peak parking demand for the various activities are complementary to some extent. It is like the shared tables in food courts which are more efficient than dedicated tables for each outlet. This is also a reason to support planning reforms to allow mixed use.

Public parking spaces can serve several land uses across the day and week. Source: ITDP, Shared Parking, 2015.  

Politically easier to lower or eliminate parking minimums 

Park-once planning with a pool of public parking eases opposition to this reform as it becomes apparent that less parking is needed and for several other reasons discussed in the paragraphs below.

Being a park-once-and-walk area is arguably more important for enabling abolition of parking minimums than having good public transport service.

Spillover parking becomes less scary 

Having parking spill beyond any particular site is not a problem in an area with a public pool of parking. Such park-once-and-walk areas have various alternative public parking options nearby over and above any on-street parking (which is also public of course).

In fact, the whole notion of spillover becomes meaningless in park-once-and-walk districts! We simply no longer expect parking to be contained on site. By defusing fear of spillover, public parking and a park-once mindset make the whole Shoupista vision much less scary.

Park-once planning changes mindsets about on-site parking

Faith in parking minimums is not just backed by a fear of parking shortage and a desire to keep parking plentiful.

Something more powerful is at work: a moral assertion that each site should provide its own on-site parking. People feel that it is irresponsible or even crazy to do otherwise.

But park-once planning offers an alternative mindset in which it is perfectly normal and completely ethical for some sites to have little or no parking, so long as the neighbourhood ‘pool of parking’ is working well.

With small and medium-sized buildings exempted from parking minimums in Japan, many buildings have zero on-site parking. Yet, spillover parking is not a problem in park-once-and-walk districts like this one in Tokyo.

Public parking speeds the transition to efficient supply

Car-dependent areas often have enormously excessive parking supply. In Shoup’s vision, his three policies are enough to reduce this problem.

But it seems likely that if most off-street parking in an area is private then oversupply will ease only very slowly, even without parking minimums. Any parking lot owner proposing to close an under-used parking lot will still provoke objections from tenants who see few alternatives to on-site parking.

Such objections will be eased if a decent proportion of parking in such an area can be converted to public parking. So park-once areas with public parking open up new opportunities to convert low-return parking to other uses.

This is one reason why park-once-districts without minimum parking requirements are much more welcoming of infill developments and of adaptive reuse of existing buildings than areas with mostly private parking.

Might park-once planning reduce the need for so many parking spaces here in Noarlunga Centre, South Australia?

Public parking is more likely to be managed and priced than private parking

Owners of public parking still need to ration access. Many may want to give priority to customers and serve employees. Being public, they don’t simply exclude outsiders, but they don’t want free riding from those outsiders either. Various management and pricing strategies enable parking to be open for casual public parking but still serve other priorities.

Why is this good? Management and/or pricing further ease the fear of spillover. And, of course, pricing can reduce parking demand, especially for employee parking, further reducing the supply needed and reducing traffic in the region.

This mixed-use retail/residential development in the walkable retail area of Maroubra in Sydney offers 2 hours free parking then an escalating fee structure, starting at $5 per hour. 

Public parking is more responsive to local market signals

Private parking resists being affected by changes to surrounding parking conditions. But park-once planning copes with changes in demand or supply through resilience instead.

As mentioned just now, responses from parking suppliers and managers tend to focus on management and pricing, not exclusion. These responses help reduce, cushion and disperse the impacts of changes, including feared changes such as a sudden drop in supply or increase in demand.

Public parking reaps more value from less parking space

With less oversupply, public parking in park-once-districts tends to be well-used, with shorter periods of very low occupancy, and is more likely to be priced.

All of this means that each parking space in such an area provides more value for owners and for local communities than the under-used and under-priced parking in areas with mostly private parking.

Can you think of more reasons to like park-once planning and a preference for public parking over private?

Or maybe you dislike this approach?

Please share your reactions in the comments.

This post has focused on the why question, with little mention of how municipalities can promote park-once-and-walk districts. Stay tuned for more on how to promote public parking and park-once-and-walk districts.

Was this post helpful for your efforts to get parking success without parking excess? If so, please share it.

[UPDATE January 2017: I have created a Local Parking Assessment kit that focuses on the Walkable Parking thinking in this post. 

The kit allows you to assess any small study area and its potential for embracing the Walkable Parking mindset. If you are keen on parking success without parking excess, then I think you will find it useful and thought-provoking.

The kit is a gift for new subscribers to Reinventing Parking. So to get access simply enter your email address in the box at the top of this page and click "subscribe".]