Friday, November 27, 2015

Strong Towns and Parking

Strong Towns and Parking
It is exciting to see the US-based Strong Towns movement taking aim at parking minimums this week with a fascinating series of blog posts.

All this activity was warm-up for today's #BlackFridayParking event, an annual crowd-sourcing activity to highlight America's parking excesses. The idea is to photograph parking areas on 27 November, the peak retail parking day of the year. It turns out that, even on Black Friday, many shopping center parking areas never fill up. I last featured it here two years ago.

Below are some highlights from #BlackFridayParking week at Strong Towns with links to the various posts over there. It is great stuff and helpful even if you are not in the USA.

Well done Strong Towns!

Motivation from Strong Towns founder and president, Chuck Marohn

To kick off, Strong Towns founder and president, Chuck Marohn, explained the background and motivations for the week's parking content.

He told of his journey from faithful user of parking minimums (as a municipal engineer and planner in Minnesota) to doubter and then to reformer.

First he noticed the lie:
I simply started observing how, despite my assumptions, the parking lots really weren't full on Black Friday. Not even close. And if they weren't full on Black Friday, when would they be full?

Then he began to count the costs:
I also realized how parking minimums were another way the scales are tipped in favor of the corporate chains and against the local upstart... Parking minimums stop a countless number of projects before they even get through the dream phase... I was also frustrated over the cost. In a property tax system like we have here in Minnesota, all those parking lots were not paying their way. For sales tax states, it's even less.

Marohn recounted how #BlackFridayParking started as a little fun exercise for his family and then expanded into the crowdsourced event it is now.

He invited us to do what we can to change the conversation on parking minimums and to be inspired by the week of parking content.

Three podcasts focused on parking

Donald Shoup of course!!

John Anderson, real-estate developer and writer of the RJohntheBad blog. John is blunt and entertaining. I liked this comment on where parking standards come from,
... it looks like grown ups have been hard at work with calculators and have come up with these things, but unfortunately, they're done more by rumour and bad habit than anything else. I mean, often the metric is, 'how much parking would we have to require to eliminate getting phone calls about not having enough parking'. 

Joe Minicozzi of Urban Three on how parking lots take away value and tax revenue from our cities. This complements the post by Joshua McCarty mentioned below.

Map of cities reforming parking minimums

Strong Towns shared its crowd-sourced map of municipalities around North America that have been reforming their parking requirements (and in some cases abolishing them altogether in certain areas).

I was surprised to see so many small cities and towns on the map.

Do you know other examples? Visit their survey and let them know!

The case of Phoenixville, PA

On Monday, Rachel Quednau interviewed Ray Ott who helped Phoenixville PA eliminate all parking requirements on the main street and adjacent side streets. Ray was surprised that the push to abolish the parking requirements went so easily. He advises anyone wanting to decrease parking minimums to use photos to doument the space taken by parking.

Why have parking minimums where it is easy to NOT own a car?

Also on Monday, Andrew Price had strong words for Hoboken and places like it. Why would a place where a car is less necessary than almost anywhere in the US still require off-street parking spaces with new or redeveloped buildings?

Mapping the Effects of Parking Minimums

On Tuesday, Joshua McCarty from Urban Three shared a set of stunning 3D visualization maps, using Des Moines, Iowa, as an example.

Joshua's post features stunning maps of the distribution of parking in the city (in red) versus buildings (in black) juxtaposed with maps of property tax production per unit area. This lets him examine how different configurations of buildings and parking contribute to tax production efficiency.

He ends with this striking map in which height represents value per acre, redder properties have a greater proportion of parking, and bluer ones have more building.
Image copyright Urban Three
Notice anything? Parking is deadweight for cities dependent on property taxes, says Joshua.

Robust Development in Fargo without Mandating Parking

On Wednesday, Jason Schaefer shared the encouraging case of Fargo, North Dakota, where in 2000 parking minimums were eliminated in the special downtown 'Renaissance Zone'. Far from hindering development or causing problems, the intitiative has spurred a huge amount of development and vitality for the area.

Write to your local paper to end parking minimums

In another helpful post Rachel Quednau urges us to take local action against parking minimums by writing to our local newspapers. She makes the case that you can make a real difference this way. She also provides excellent tips on what to include.

If you are in the USA, you can participate in #BlackFridayParking

On November 27, get outside and take pictures of the parking lots in your town.

Upload your photos to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #blackfridayparking. Bonus points if you include the location and estimate how full the lot is. (Turning on location services will also greatly aid us in mapping out these posts all over the country.)

Visit the Strong Towns website on November 27 to view other peoples' photos from across the country.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Are you thinking about parking all wrong?

Are you thinking about parking all wrong?
I made the mistake of looking at the comments below this news item from Melbourne in Australia. It discusses a proposal to make zero-parking residential developments easier for local governments to allow (in certain circumstances).

It is a modest proposal. But many of those commenting on the article are utterly outraged, asking how anyone could be so extreme or so crazy to want to allow buildings with no on-site parking. Why are they so shocked and angry?

I think these reactions are based in a particular mindset on parking.

This mindset has been fostered for decades by mainstream planning for parking and is still being reinforced in most cities. Most people never question it. Proposals that are not consistent with this mindset will seem shocking to such people.

The parking revolution we talk about at Reinventing Parking depends on very different mindsets on parking supply.

Three weeks ago, at the 6th Asia Pacific Urban Forum in Jakarta, I had eight minutes to try to change some parking mindsets. Here is a summary of what I showed and said.

Rethink Parking Planning!

Most cities plan parking  in the same way they plan toilets

In other words, planning for parking thinks of parking as an ancillary infrastructure service needed with every building, just like the plumbing and washrooms. 
Most local government planning or zoning codes have on-site toilet requirements for most land uses that look just like their minimum parking requirements, except the numbers are different. Parking standards look just like restroom standards.

But parking is NOT like toilets!

Toilet requirements actually do help people not to have to go outdoors. And we don't need much enforcement to make public urination or defecation a rare event. By contrast, most motorists prefer parking in the street when possible. So off-street parking minimums make little difference unless matched by strong on-street parking management that nudges motorist parking choices around.

We are confident we can predict toilet usage rates far into the future. Does anyone seriously think parking usage rates will remain as now in 2040? Or even in 2025?

The costs of providing more than enough restrooms are modest. Not so in the case of parking.

The impact on the built environment and on human behaviour of having more than enough toilets is negligible. Not so in places where plentiful parking is required on every development site.

Forcing every site to have plentiful on-site parking is harmful

In any case, the way to encourage developers to build about the right amount of parking is to make sure on-street parking is well managed.  

So how should we think about parking planning?

1. Think of on-street parking as a “commons”

On-street parking is not private property. No individual person or company owns it.

It is a commons. And, just like a river is prone to over-fishing unless fishing is regulated and managed, an on-street parking commons without good management is prone to over-use, which results in parking saturation in busy areas at busy times.

Believers in minimum parking standards tend not to have much faith in on-street parking management.  Or they are hostile to it. They don't believe that the parking commons can or should be intensively managed.

I say on-street parking can and should be well managed.

2.  Think of off-street parking as a real-estate service for each area (not each site)

Off-street parking is different. Unlike on-street parking, most of it is private property. The supply is not fixed. The real estate industry can provide more or less, depending on the returns on their investment and other incentives.

An important focus of good on-street parking management should be to make sure developers, building owners, purchasers and tenants all know that there will be no free-riding on on-street parking.

For example, residents of new buildings built after easing of parking minimums, can be made ineligible for on-street parking permits. This has actually already been done by Moreland Council in Melbourne, which was the focus of the news item mentioned at the top of this post.

Once we are more confident in on-street parking management, we can all relax and let the real estate industry worry about how much parking to provide with each development. Let developers take the risk and pay the price if they get it wrong and provide too much or too little parking.

Have you changed your parking mindset?

Proposals to deregulate parking supply will not make sense if you think of parking as essential ancillary infrastructure for each development (like toilets).

So think differently.

1.  Think of on-street parking as a commons that can and should be managed.

2.  Think of off-street parking as a real-estate based service for each area. Like hot food outlets or meeting rooms or hotel rooms, we can let the market-based real-estate industry handle its supply.

With this parking mindset, proposals for zero-parking buildings right next to urban rail stations make perfect sense.

Did you like this post? Click here to get Reinventing Parking by Email and never miss an update 

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How much does one parking spot add to rent?

How much does one parking spot add to rent?

Parking is expensive. It costs thousands of dollars per stall to build. It occupies valuable real estate. It is ubiquitous, accompanying nearly every building built across the United States. Yet at nearly every destination, drivers don't directly pay for the parking they use. Instead the cost is hidden, bundled into the grocery bill, benefits package, and rent of every shopper, employee, and tenant.

Everyone pays the same amount for parking whether she or he walked, rode transit, carpooled, or drove alone, but rarely does anyone see that price itemized on a receipt. As a result, most people are unaware of the heavy financial burden they bear for the sake of parking. The above graphic takes a look at one area where parking adds significantly to a household's expenses: Rent.

So how much does one parking spot add to an apartment's rent? There is no single answer to that question. Construction costs are affected by local soil conditions, zoning requirements, site constraints, regional differences in construction costs, and the type of parking to be built. On the other hand, the rent needed to justify an initial capital investment varies according to local property taxes, financing costs, resident turnover and delinquency rates, et cetera. The graphic attempts to present the range covered by these variables while providing numbers that might be considered typical for structured parking in the United States. 

The effect of each parking spot on affordability is significantly higher in urban communities than suburban ones both because the land occupied by parking is more expensive in urban areas and because building structured parking is many times more costly than paving surface lots. This reality affects the ability of lower income households to live in urban areas since parking costs roughly the same to build whether an apartment is luxury grade or modest. An $18,000 spot might not have a noticeable impact on the rent of a $300,000 unit, but it would definitely be noticed by someone renting a $75,000 unit.

Even when minimum off-street parking requirements are eliminated (and on-street parking is properly managed), the practice of bundling parking with rent may persist. It is imperative that cities find a way to separate rent for cars from rent for people either by encouraging or mandating that parking be rented separately.

People should be allowed to make their own transportation choices, especially when all the other choices are more sustainable and equitable. When renters have no choice other than to pay for car storage regardless of whether they possess a car, they are not truly given that freedom. People with the means to own a car OR to live centrally but not to do both, should be allowed to choose the latter.

Cities have many reasons to encourage their citizens to live with fewer cars. Fewer cars owned and operated in a city reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, eases traffic and infrastructure burdens, and increases households' disposable income. Hiding parking costs in rent runs in direct opposition to those goals.

Source Links:

Carl Walker (2014) “Parking Structure Cost Outlook for 2014”

Rider Levett Bucknall “Quartery Construction Cost Report: First Quarter 2015”

Litman (2012) “VTPI Parking Cost, Pricing, and Revenue Calculator” (alternative to rule of thumb)

Also Read to compare results and assumptions:

Shoup (2014) Transport and Sustainability, Volume 5, Ch.5 “The High Cost of Minimum Parking Requirements”

VTPI (2013) Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis II, Ch.5.4 “Parking Costs”

Portland, OR Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (2012) “Cost of Onsite Parking + Impacts on Affordability”


There are some who have argued that construction costs, whether higher or lower, have a negligible effect on rents because property owners will charge whatever the market will bear regardless of upfront costs. This might be true if one assumed that construction costs have little effect on local supply. Furthermore, any one building is unlikely to strongly affect rents in an area. A lone developer who constructs a new apartment building in a market with strong demand will not undercut existing rents simply because the new units cost less to build. Over time however things will change as long as there is available land to be redeveloped at a higher density. 

Every dollar invested in creating an apartment translates to a higher minimum rent required just to break even. If a developer does not expect a new unit will command this target rent, that potential project will not be built. If the amount of parking can be reduced or eliminated, the money saved on construction will lower the required rent to break even and make some projects viable that were not viable before. More viable projects translates to more units getting built resulting in greater competition and thus lower local rents if demand holds constant.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The video of that SUTP webinar on how to improve on-street parking management

The video of that SUTP webinar on how to improve on-street parking management
In my webinar on 8 May I urged cities to "Take On-street Parking Management Seriously".

Here below is the video (click here to go straight to the youtube version).

See the summary below if you want to jump straight to a certain topic. I spoke for 40 minutes or so, then took questions.

Our cats tried to inject some light relief at two points but mostly this is just unsexy but important stuff that no city can ignore. 

Feedback welcome as always.   

Don’t trust casual observations (you need data!) (2:26)
Good On-street parking management dramatically improves the streets (6:24)
On-street parking management eases your off-street parking dilemmas too (9:18)
Decide where to allow parking and design carefully (17:15)
Improve (and digitize) enforcement (21:46)
Smarter pricing (26:57)
Better on-street parking management is possible! (41:28)
Questions/Discussion (42:50)
Thanks again to GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) for this chance.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

On-Street Parking Webinar this Friday 8 May (08:00 UTC)

On-Street Parking Webinar this Friday 8 May (08:00 UTC)
Reinventing Parking has been a little quiet lately because I have been busy on various projects. The biggest is a toolkit about on-street parking management for GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP). It is now under review and should be out within a few months.

You can get a preview of key ideas from the toolkit this Friday by joining my SUTP-organized WEBINAR: "Reinventing Parking – How to Improve On-Street Parking Management".

CLICK HERE for more information.  Or just send a short email to milena.keuerleber at to register.

The webinar will take place at on Friday, 8 May 2015 at 08:00 UTC, which is:

  • 5:00 – 6:00 in Brasilia, Buenos Aires (UTC-3)
  • 10:00 – 11:00 in Johannesburg, Berlin (UTC+2)
  • 11:00 – 12:00 in Kiev, Istanbul, Nairobi (UTC+3)
  • 13:30 – 14:30 in Delhi (UTC+5:30)
  • 15:00 – 16:00 in Bangkok, Jakarta (UTC+7)
  • 16:00 – 17:00 in Beijing, Manila, Singapore (UTC+8).

I plan to talk for about 30 or 40 minutes, followed by some open discussion. Do join us!

On-street parking management is one of those seemingly mundane but vital things that all cities need to do well but which most fail at. As I have said before, it is the "unglamorous secret" to all parking success.

Some cities that improved their on-street parking management

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Less parking, more city": short animated video from ITDP Mexico

"Less parking, more city": short animated video from ITDP Mexico
Parking revolutionary Prof. Donald Shoup has announced his retirement from full-time academia, prompting various glowing tributes, such as this, this and this. I won't add to them today.

But today's post includes evidence of Shoup's international influence.

The folks at ITDP Mexico (who include Reinventing Parking author, Andrés Sañudo) have released a short animated video to complement the report.

And Donald Shoup's epic intellectual battle against minimum parking requirements has clearly influenced their work.

The video, "Less parking, more city" (Menos cajones más ciudad), is relevant almost everywhere, not just to Mexico.  It is in Spanish with English subtitles.

It is only 2 minutes 49 seconds long. So take a look right now and feel inspired.

To learn more about ITDP Mexico's parking work, see here and here (in English) and here (in Spanish).

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides

Parking in TODs (part 2): webinar slides
It is more than a year since part 1. How embarrassing.

To resume my Parking and TOD series, here is a presentation from my July webinar with Pawan Mulukutla of Embarq India.

I hope you find it thought provoking! It was aimed at an India-based audience but it includes arguments, frameworks and examples that are relevant to every city.

The slides are a mix of mine and Embarq's. Thanks to the Embarq India team for organizing the webinar (my first!).

If you can't see the Slideshare slideshow above and you want to, please get in touch and I will send you a pdf.

Click here for more on Embarq's work on Transit Oriented Development in India. 

During the webinar we posed these "poll questions" to the audience.
  1. Should reforms to make real TOD much easier to develop be a high priority for India's cities?
  2. Improved ON-street parking management is needed to enable reform of OFF-street parking regulations in India’s cities. Do you believe local authorities in India can dramatically improve their management of on-street parking?
  3. São Paulo’s new master plan eliminates parking minimums citywide and imposes parking maximums within the TOD zone along transit corridors (one space per residential unit). If developers want to build more, they will be charged an extra fee per parking space in excess of the maximum (like a ‘deficiency charge’ in reverse). Would you support such a maximum along with an excess parking fee for TOD zones in India? 
  4. For a place like Ghatkopar TOD Zone, would you support a cap on parking supply?   (so that the net number of car parking spaces is fixed at the existing number or less)
What do you think?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part II
In my previous post, Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut Part I, I reached three main conclusions about the city’s parking minimum approach:
  1. Parking is the land use growing at the fastest rate.
  2. Most real estate projects in the city provide an amount of parking close to the legal requirement.
  3. There is no relation between the amount of parking built and the distance to a mass transit station, since the minimum is the same citywide and developers provide as close to the minimum as possible.
Based on data on parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, Part I ended with the phrase “this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to”.

In other words: this suggests that demand for parking is lower than the minimum requirement. 

Let me explain.

Look at Figure 1 below. By making it illegal to build less parking than the minimum, the law makes it impossible for us to see all of what could be happening below that value (on the left side).

Figure 1. Actual parking (as % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments

Imagine that the minimum is abolished. The distribution above should converge to a normal distribution with a shape that resembles a bell (Gaussian bell). The highest point of the bell is the expected value of the variable, in this case the market demand for parking.

We are now in the position to evaluate three possibilities about the relation between the parking minimum regulation and the market demand for parking:

Possibility #1. Market parking demand equals the regulation

If this is true the bell curve would have a similar shape to the figure above, where the highest point is exactly where the minimum is. So, the data shown does not automatically refute this possibility.

But is it really plausible?

We know that the regulation is 30 years old. And it was created using the usual “rigorous” process of copying other cities’ parking requirements.

Is it possible that by an amazing coincidence, the regulation had the good fortune of precisely predicting parking demand 30 years later? If so, the planners may deserve a Nobel Prize in Economics for predicting the demand for parking so well three decades in advance.

That seems an improbable coincidence of too many factors.

Possibility #2. Market parking demand is higher than the regulation

We can easily reject this possibility with the following argument.

The only limitations on building more parking than the amount required are the market and the physical and financial realities of each site. There are no legal impediments to providing more parking, such as parking maximums and/or parking caps per zone. The amount of parking is only limited by the budget and expected profit of the project.

So if this possibility is true and the demand for parking is significantly higher than the minimum, then we would expect the highest point of the bell to be further to the right on our graph (as shown in Figure 2 below).

Figure 2. How parking distribution would look if demand was higher than the minimum

Clearly, the data on parking supply is not consistent with possibility #2.

Possibility #3  The parking minimum exceeds the demand for parking

We are left with this third possibility. The minimum parking requirement must exceed the demand for parking. The peak of the bell curve is probably well below the current minimum.

In the absence of the parking minimum, many projects would build less parking.

Retail is the exception

Retail is the lonely exception to the comments above. Retail has a significantly higher observed percentage of parking spaces above the minimum compared with the rest of the projects in the study (see Figure 3 below).

Retail (big-box) projects added 22.4% more parking than required on average, while in general it was 10.4%. Mixed use developments provided 7.6% above the minimum when housing was part of the equation and 5.6% when there was no housing in the mixed use development.

Figure 3. Percentage of parking above the minimum per land use

It seems that retail construction is the only case with a strong desire to provide more parking than required by the regulation. These projects are malls, characterized by their automobile oriented design that requires large sites.

However, less parking is built when retail has a smaller scale (human oriented design) and when it forms part of a mixed use development.

We see two main reasons for these retail parking supply patterns:

  1. Large retails seeks to provide enough parking for peak demand days of the year (such as the Christmas season) amounting to no more than 30 days of the year, even if it stays underutilized the rest of the calendar. 
  2. Retail developments in Mexico City gain revenue from priced parking in the retail parking garages. 

It is also said that anchor stores require 50 to 100% more spots than the law as a condition to their leasing contracts in some areas.

Extra parking helps us to understand why retail projects use a lower percentage of their zoning rights than the rest. Retail projects develop only 68.8% of their rights on average, when the overall average is 81.9%. Financial, land, underground and space resources in a project that are devoted to parking cannot be used for the primary use of the site.


Minimum parking requirements that exceed parking demand impose additional costs on development. This undermines density and increases the living expenses of the whole population, car owners or not. This amounts to a subsidy for driving in the form of cheap ample parking that will bring more congestion in the future. Contrary to the claimed rationale, required parking in no way mitigates the urban impacts of real estate development.

Instead of excessive parking minimums, the city should encourage new urban instruments such as parking maximums and taxes to capture some of the money invested in parking and redirect it to better transit, cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure.

For example, 1.2 million square meters of new offices are expected in the city within the next 3 years. Under the regulation (1 parking space for every 30 square meters), 40,000 new parking spaces are mandated with a conservatively estimated construction cost of 500 million USD. Is it a “social benefit” to encourage 40,000 more cars to commute every day through the principal corridors of the city?

With that money the city could build 70 km of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and move more than 600,000 commuters instead of 40,000. Or we could add 50 km of complete streets (with BRT included), 140,000 publicly shared bikes, more than 8 million square meters of high quality sidewalks or more than 1,000 km of cycle lanes. Such options, not mandated parking, would provide true mitigation of real estate development.

ITDP will soon publish the English version of the report Menos Cajones, Más Ciudad (Less Parking, More City).

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

Parking policy can be confusing.

North American parking experts Todd Litman and Donald Shoup both urge a shift away from the standard practice of relying on minimum parking requirements set at cautiously high levels. Therefore, many folks assume that their respective 'new paradigms’ are similar. In reality, most of their central suggestions and their key assumptions are strikingly different! (as explained below)

There are many similar cases of confusion over parking policy options around the world. Parking policy debate is too often muddled!

We need a clearer picture of the key municipal parking policy alternatives and of the different reform agendas

To begin, consider the diagram below and focus first on the two questions in red at the top and on the right.

These define three paradigms (three of the four boxes at the 'back' of the diagram): Conventional Site-Focused; Area Management; and Responsive.

Then a third question, along the top-left diagonal, defines further sub-categories along a third dimension: attitudes to parking supply.

This might seem puzzling at first but I argue that this scheme captures most parking policy diversity. Even more importantly, it also captures the thinking behind such diversity.

Some examples:

Parking policy in classic auto-oriented suburbia (with conventional site-focused and seeking to ensure plentiful supply)
contrasts with that of Downtown Santa Monica near LA (with area management and roughly matching supply to demand)
City of London skyline
and contrasts even more with policy in central London (area management with supply deliberately limited)
Seattle - Chinatown gate 11
or Seattle's Chinatown (similar to Santa Monica except with more effort to foster responsiveness in prices, demand and supply)
or Japan's cities (on paper, seemingly site-focused, but in actual practice amazingly responsive, with much parking on a commercial basis with market prices and supply responding to demand via price signals).

Regular readers might remember my earlier efforts to explain these issues.

I claimed that conventional suburban parking policy has several rivals, not just one.

I highlighted the contrasting assumptions of these different approaches, which 'frame' parking itself in different ways. I searched for useful analogies to get this message across.

I talked about three flavours of parking policy. And I claimed that we can get three main paradigms of parking policy from two key questions.

I have now developed these ideas much further in a new paper:

“A Parking Policy Typology for Clearer Thinking on Parking Reform” in the International Journal of Urban Studies, 2014.   
here is the journal's page for the properly formatted and copy-edited final version of the paper (paywalled sorry):  

Here is a more detailed version of the graphic above

It sums up the new way to categorize parking policy approaches that I propose in the paper. This version also portrays three parking reform agendas and provides more detail on the policies associated with specific positions in the scheme.

As mentioned above, the three key questions are in red. The two questions at top and right define three main paradigms (shown in red-brown all-caps). They are: the conventional site focused, area management and responsive approaches.  And each main paradigm has different varieties depending on the attitude to parking supply (which is the third dimension in the typology).

Reform thrusts

The scheme suggests three key thrusts of parking reform (blue arrows) along each dimension (and usually in the direction indicated for those of us who are seeking to ease the grip of car dependence and car dependent assumptions in planning).

This brings us back to the contrast between Litman and Shoup.

Most of Todd Litman's parking policy suggestions involve two of these thrusts:
  1. reforms to shift backwards along the supply-attitudes dimension by reducing oversupply (or to even limit supply) while improving management so modest supply causes few problems;
  2. reforms to shift leftwards from the site-focused approaches towards an emphasis on shared and public parking, which requires better on-street management but also opens up many more parking management policy opportunities. 
Donald Shoup and the Shoupistas focus especially on:
  • fostering market responsiveness (upwards on the diagram), by abolishing parking requirements (deregulating supply) and by having demand-responsive pricing, while also improving management and sweetening the deal for relevant stakeholders to make this politically feasible. 

Specific positions on the diagram explained in more detail

The small black writing in the detailed diagram provides brief explanations of the parking policies that correspond to each position in the scheme.  You will probably need to click the image and enlarge to read them.

  • Parking policies in the suburbs of most automobile dependent metro areas, with their reliance on excessive parking minimums, are at the extreme front and lower right on the diagram.
  • Places taking steps to slightly moderate the level of their parking minimums (right-sizing the requirements) are a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension but still in the conventional site-focused lower-right section.
  • A district that allows fees-in-lieu of required parking (pdf) but which still aims to ensure plentiful public parking that is free-of-charge is still at the extreme front of the supply-attitudes dimension but this time at the lower left position. Despite plentiful free parking supply, this is a case of area management, with an emphasis on public and shared parking.
  • Many town centres adopt the approach above, focusing more on public rather than private on-site parking, but with a little less emphasis on plentiful supply. This often spurs them to start pricing and managing their parking more aggressively. Downtown Santa Monica is an example. On the diagram, it sits a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension and still within the lower-left area management section.
  • Busy districts that actively restrict parking supply, such as central London, central Seoul, central San Francisco or central Sydney, are at the back and left on the diagram. As shown, such places vary in the extent to which they enable market responsiveness.
  • The Shoupista approach emphasises market responsiveness and is in the upper left section, as is my Adaptive Parking agenda and the interesting case of Japanese cities. Seattle's Chinatown is an example of a place that has been trying parts of the Shoupista agenda.

If any of this intrigues or puzzles you, then please click through to the paper for details.

Please share if it seems useful! 

And feel free to ask questions or give your views on this in the comments.


Monday, October 27, 2014

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums
In "São Paulo's parking U-turn" I reported that:
Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.
The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!
A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.
However, Rafael Lemieszek from São Paulo commented on the post with a helpful clarification. Thanks! (and apologies that I didn't notice the comment at first)

He points out that "maximums" is not quite the right word. However, with no concise alternative, I can see why reports on the issue decided to use it.

The description above is OK for a rough idea but parking policy wonks may want a deeper understanding. 

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr.Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Here are Rafael's key points:
Up until recently, parking space didn't add to the net area used to calculate FAR. [...]
But what the article calls the "maximum" number [of] parking spaces is actually the amount of spots that are exempt of the paid FAR. [...] Whatever exceeds that "maximum" is counted as built area as much as anything else. 
Rafael also gives some important context on how FAR is now being used in São Paulo zoning:
Recently we've been implementing what we're calling [...] "paid allowance for building rights" - so the basic FAR has been set to 1 in most of the city and you can reach up to a maximum FAR in certain areas (up to 4 around transit corridors in SP).

Confused? Let me recap: 

  1. Previously, even if developers built more parking than the parking minimums required, none of that parking counted towards the floor area total used in calculating the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) (called FSI in some places). 
  2. Now, for the first time, there is a limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area. 
  3. Developers can still build parking beyond this limit, but it will count as floor area. 
  4. This extra parking attracts a fee ("paid allowance for building rights"), just like any kind of built area in excess of the basic FAR for the relevant area. 

This is actually similar to the rule in Singapore. 

However, in Singapore it is simply the minimum requirement that defines the limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area.

As I explained in a previous post "Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?", Singapore real-estate developers
have good reason to view the parking standards as maximums and not just as minimums. Why? Because only the required parking is exempted from counting as part of their allowed floor area (gross floor area, GFA) under the development controls (zoning). This means that if they build any more parking over and above the minimum requirements, they will have to reduce something else. And those ‘something elses’ (like shops, offices, hotel rooms, etc) earn much more revenue than parking (at least for now). So developers in Singapore apparently don't usually build any more than the minimum amount of parking.
By contrast, from Rafael's explanation, in São Paulo the amount of parking that is exempt from counting as floor area might be different from the minimum requirement. Presumably the exempt-parking limit is higher than the minimum parking requirement.

How important is exempting parking from floor area calculations?

I have often wondered about this.

How common is limiting the parking that is exempt from counting as floor area (like in São Paulo and Singapore)?

I suspect that this seemingly esoteric choice may be quite powerful. I think it may deserve greater attention. And it needs a name, to give us a concise way of talking about it. "Parking floor-area exemptions"? Hmm.

If you have read this whole post, you are probably quite a parking policy wonk! So, what do you think?

So thanks again, Rafael, for the detailed clarification.