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 P 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.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Six signposts to a parking revolution

Six signposts to a parking revolution
It is sad to see so many cities trying so hard to boost parking supply with policies like excessive parking minimums. Promoting plentiful parking fuels traffic growth and car-dependence and is a horribly wasteful way to tackle parking problems.

Fortunately, a growing number of municipalities, citizens and urban professionals want alternatives. They (we!) want paths towards urban success without parking excess. But they need paths that are both practical and politically feasible.

Enter "Adaptive Parking", a new approach to municipal parking policy, which aims to:
  • Defuse parking problems (such as spillover and parking conflict)
  • Make parking supply, prices and demand more responsive to each other, to change and to each local context
  • Unleash more value for parking owners, communities and society
  • Avoid promoting traffic growth and car dependence and make possible more livable cities and diverse mobility options.
Adaptive Parking builds on Donald Shoup's efforts. His proposals aim to wean USA municipalities from their addiction to parking excess. Adaptive Parking does the same for a wider set of contexts, including internationally.

I have distilled the key thrusts of Adaptive Parking from many inspirations, including especially Donald Shoup and other Shoupistas, Todd Litman, ITDP, people at Nelson/Nygaard especially Jeffrey Tumlin, parking ideas via GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project, and the parking policies of Japanese cities.  

Here below are the key policy thrusts of Adaptive Parking. This a new and improved version. As always, feedback is welcome!

Six Signposts to point you towards Adaptive Parking

As a memory aid, think "RESPOnD":
  1. Relax about parking supply and stop boosting it.
  2. Engage with key stakeholders to ease their fears and offer value.
  3. Share parking more, in fact aim to make most of it open to the public.
  4. Price parking with rates just high enough, but no higher, for each place and time.
  5. On-street and public-realm parking needs strong design, control and enforcement.
  6. Demand management, via limiting parking, for transit-rich business districts.
Each element in RESPOnD represents a different municipal parking reform agenda but they are complementary. Each supports the others.

These policy thrusts work together

The Relax thrust confronts parking supply excesses but it is not about forcing parking shortages. It is about refraining from imposing an oversupply and thereby reaping cost and space savings and affordability and livability gains.

As you know, removing parking minimums sounds risky to many people. But relaxing about supply need not be scary if it is part of the Adaptive Parking package.

The Engage thrust focuses on addressing local concerns about parking supply, about conflicts and about parking fees. It tries to ensure the Adaptive Parking reform is a good deal for key local groups but without undermining the rest of the agenda. Unfortunately, this element of Shoup's approach has been neglected. Negotiations will lead to diverse local solutions but I think cities should be audacious in their offers! Imagine if ALL on-street parking revenue surplus were returned to, or spent on, the local community and its priorities. How would you feel about such an offer for your neighborhood, especially if paired with a residents' permit system for which new buildings are ineligible?

The Share thrust helps the Relax agenda by striking a blow against the belief that each building needs its own adequate on-site parking. Its focus on publicly-available parking makes sure parking options are available even if on-site parking is not. The Share thrust promotes walkable park-once-and-walk districts. It should help 'suburban retrofit' or 'sprawl repair' projects in car-oriented areas where most parking is currently private (for example, customers-only parking).

The Price agenda defuses parking problems. Efficient prices ration parking, prevent cruising for parking (search traffic), spread out parking demand in space and time, and send appropriate signals to suppliers. But pricing is almost always a source of fears and resentment too. These can be eased with the help of the Engage thrust. The Share agenda also eases price-related fears by increasing the range of independent public parking options within walking distance of each destination.

The On-street design, control and enforcement thrust says that you need the basics of on-street parking management, not just the pricing part. This thrust enables the Relax thrust and complements the Price and Share thrusts to prevent free-riding and chaos in the streets. Engage is important here too, as communities debate parking locations, removals, regulations and enforcement.

Together these first five Adaptive Parking thrusts can defuse spillover and parking conflicts while avoiding excessive parking supply.

Finally, the Demand-management thrust applies only to dense transit-rich business districts that are already desperate to reduce traffic. Restricting the parking supply is an effective way to do so. But, even in a transit-rich place, limiting parking supply can be scary if you are used to parking policies that obsess over shortage and spillover. Fortunately, the first five Adaptive Parking thrusts can help. By enabling parking success without the need for parking supply excess, they can make limits to parking supply an attractive option for downtowns.

Has Adaptive Parking and its RESPOnD policy thrusts got you thinking?

I hope I have set you thinking.

Maybe it seems like I didn't give enough detail on each Adaptive Parking thrust? Don't worry. I will do that in future posts.

I want your feedback! Could this set of reforms help your area achieve success without parking excess?

Please do:
  1. Share your ideas in the comments
  2. Follow @ReinventParking on twitter
  3. Join the Parking Reform International group on Facebook
  4. Sign up for Reinventing Parking email alerts so you won't miss our future posts. 

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared

How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared
Many cities poison the politics of parking fees by lacking a clearly-stated basis for rate decisions or by using a wrong-headed approach.

I see this daily in news about parking price reviews from all over the world. Examples from the last few days include Washington DC, Delhi, Singapore, and Richmond VA.

But how SHOULD cities set their street parking prices? By what criteria? And which approaches best serve parking success without parking excess?

This post takes a look at eleven different ways to set on-street parking rates.

The best approaches make improved parking-management outcomes their primary goal. Losing sight of this goal in fee adjustments is a big mistake. If the public can't see any visible benefit from parking fees they will naturally be suspicious of any increase.

Singapore is finding this out at the moment. Cost recovery was the main justification given for the just-released price increases in government-owned parking (HDB and URA parking, which includes paid on-street parking). There was almost no mention of the parking management role of parking fees. Outrage on social media has been the unsurprising response.

Eleven approaches to setting on-street parking prices 

The information below is based on Table 13 in Section 5.5 of my "On-Street Parking Management: An International Toolkit" published by GIZ-SUTP.  If you see errors or omissions, please leave a comment.

The most promising options are near the end, so scroll down to Option 11 if you want to go straight to my recommendation!

By the way, although this post is about on-street parking, many of the comments below apply to price-setting for government-owned off-street parking too.

1. Political judgement  (with focus on revenue in price debates)

If prices are not adjusted regularly, then their parking management benefits erode gradually. After some time, the management goal of setting fees gets forgotten. Parking fees come to be seen as a ‘tax’ with revenue as their sole purpose. By that stage, even modest rises become wildly unpopular and can have a high political cost.

Examples: Very many cities worldwide, sadly, including Indonesian cities and most USA cities. In 2011 Boston, USA, raised the on-street parking price for the first time in 25 years, from $1/hour to 1.25, justifying it purely in terms of revenue.

Strengths: none

Weaknesses: Ad hoc. Hampers efforts to gain support for pricing as a parking management tool. Talking about revenue goals is futile because revenue as a key objective guarantees public hostility to price rises. Efforts to avoid political backlash by keeping prices stagnant usually fail anyway, since parking management comes to be seen as a failure and as merely a tax, so pricing becomes ever more unpopular. Singapore's current parking fee controversy comes to mind here.

In Singapore payment for street parking is via coupons like this.

2. Fuel price benchmark

Involves linking parking fees to fuel prices.  This seems to be an ill-conceived populist policy aimed at restraining local governments from raising prices ‘too much’.

Examples:  European national rules sometimes link parking fees to fuel prices (for a maximum price). Hungary is an example.

Strengths:  None that I can think of.

Weaknesses: Arbitrary. Not linked with management objectives. Encourages belief that parking must not be too expensive. Provides no guidance for where/when to price and at what levels.

3. Traffic speeds/ congestion (to serve traffic reduction goals)

Implies setting on-street parking prices higher in areas that are the key destinations of congested traffic flows. Also implies setting peak-time parking prices to match traffic peak times.

Examples:   Delhi briefly proposed higher parking fees during traffic peak-hours.  A Bangalore proposal suggested zones based on traffic conditions.

Strengths:   May help complement other demand-management policies to limit traffic congestion.

Weaknesses:  Untested. Ignores parking saturation issues. Difficult to implement as a clear criterion (rather than a goal). On-street parking and its prices are NOT closely linked with metropolitan traffic flows. If on-street prices rise automatically if traffic speed targets are not met, they might keep rising without notable impact on regional traffic speeds.

4. Turnover (short durations)

Aims to ensure that convenient on-street parking spaces ‘turn over’ frequently (usually so that they will be used by shoppers and not for all-day parking). In other words, the aim is short parking durations. This approach often goes together with parking time limits.

Examples: Many cities.

Strengths: Keeping on-street durations short is especially relevant for retail areas, serving the interests of retailers.

Weaknesses: Not clear what level of turnover to target. Even if a turnover criterion is met, saturated parking can still cause problems. Turnover data can be misleading in some circumstances. Turnover is not easily/cheaply measured without digital pricing mechanisms.

5. Public transport fares as benchmark

Involves linking parking fees to the price of a primary alternative to driving, public transport. If public transport fares rise, so do downtown parking fees, avoiding an increase in the attractiveness of driving to the city centre.

Examples:  European local governments often link city-centre parking fees to the cost of a transit ticket (usually to set a minimum price). Budapest is an example.

Strengths: May slightly deter future populist attempts to lower city-centre parking prices. Prevents public transport fare increases from encouraging car use for travel to downtown.

Weaknesses:  Arbitrary – not obvious how parking prices should compare with public transport. May not prevent saturation. Suitable primarily for city centre parking. Defines only a minimum price. No guidance for where to price or on pricing hours.

6. Intensity of development

Parking price zones (usually concentric) typically match boundaries in the intensity or type of urban development. These boundaries often also reflect past step-by-step extensions of parking management.

Examples:  Seoul and various cities in Europe and China.

Strengths:  Serves traffic mitigation goals and the need to ration on-street parking more intensively in the busiest areas. Tends to match local expectations of where different policies should apply.

Weaknesses: Decisions on zone boundaries and on prices are rather arbitrary. No guidance for pricing hours.

7. Land values

Base parking prices on some percentage of nearby average land values. Based on the idea that parking pressure is highest in areas of highest land values/rents. Also alludes to the idea that parking should pay its share of land rent.

Examples: Proposed in India's national urban transport strategy. Proposed for Ahmedabad.

Strengths: Simple. Sends a helpful message about the value of parking. Parking pressure may correlate roughly with land values.

Weaknesses:  Untested. Proposals so far make parking an arbitrary (and low) proportion of estimated land prices. Insufficient evidence that on-street parking pressure correlates closely with land rents. Some low-land-price areas may have saturated on-street parking. No guidance for pricing hours.

8. On-street prices higher than off-street

Takes nearby off-street parking prices (or an average of such prices) as a minimum benchmark and sets on-street prices a certain amount or percentage higher. Aims to discourage cruising for on-street parking and encourage use of off-street parking, which otherwise is often under-used.

Examples:  Medellin; Beijing; Frankfurt-am-Main

Strengths:  Probably simple to implement. Widely advocated. Provides market-responsiveness if off-street parking has market-influenced prices. Should encourage off-street parking use and discourage cruising for on-street parking. Is in line with the fact that motorists often value well-located and well-managed on-street parking more than less-convenient off-street options, at least for short-term parking.

Weaknesses:  Limited evidence. Danger it may prompt calls to control off-street prices. Off-street parking is often under-priced due to other policies. Problems if off-street prices are not responsive enough. Does short-term on-street need to be pricier than short-term off-street, or is it adequate if on-street price for 6 hours or more is higher than the daily off-street price aimed at employees?

9. Precise occupancy targeting with tiny zones

Price setting based on a relatively narrow target range for the average on-street parking occupancy (such as 70 to 90%). Frequent price adjustments (monthly for example). Prices can change for any street section and any part of the day in which average occupancy over the previous survey period falls outside the target range.

Examples:  Los Angeles (in Express Park trial areas); San Francisco (in SFPark trial areas).

Strengths:  Highly targeted at a widely supported and important on-street parking management objective (preventing saturation). Tiny zones enable price-sensitive motorists to use their parking location choice to avoid high parking fees. Effective at reducing parking saturation and its ill effects. Makes on-street parking prices very responsive to changing conditions.

Weaknesses: High precision in space and such frequent price adjustments may not be necessary to achieve most goals. Has been tried so far only in high-income cities. Problems conveying detailed price information to motorists. Requires high capacities in data-collection, management analysis and price adjustment.

10. Non-systematic occupancy targeting

An approximation of occupancy targeting emerges if:

  1. avoiding saturation is an important consideration in price setting (with or without an explicit occupancy target range); and 
  2. there is a willingness to have different prices for specific locations or streets with high parking pressure.
Examples: Vancouver, several Boroughs in London, many places in Australia, various cities in Hungary, Taipei (almost systematic actually). Many cities that seem to use another criterion in this table may, in practice, use occupancy in this way behind the scenes.

Strengths: Widespread. Reaps some benefits of occupancy targeting (to the extent that occupancy does influence prices). May provide first steps towards systematic occupancy targeting.

Weaknesses:  Not sufficiently objective or transparent if price setting is a judgement by officials (potentially influenced by other issues besides avoiding saturation). This makes it difficult to defend price changes. So there is a risk of sliding back towards the ‘political judgement’ approach.

11. Occupancy targeting with simple zones

Price setting is based on a target range for the average on-street parking occupancy (or vacancy) rate. Price zones are not tiny (covering several streets or blocks but usually not more than about 1 km across). Price adjustments regular but usually much less often than monthly. Certain examples have some time-of-day pricing but most have a single price for all priced hours.

Examples:  central Auckland; central Calgary; Rotterdam; Seattle; possibly Budapest.

Strengths:  Well targeted at a widely supported and important on-street parking management objective (preventing saturation). Reduces the incidence of on-street parking saturation (and its ill effects such as illegal parking, double parking, and cruising for parking). Makes on-street parking prices responsive to changing local conditions. Simpler price information to motorists than the tiny-zone option above. Does not stretch data management and implementation capacity. Suited to incremental introduction and improvement.

Weaknesses:  Small areas and short periods of severe parking saturation can emerge if parking demand is not uniform within each zone and across the day. [However, this can be addressed by incremental improvements, such as splitting zones or adding time-of-day pricing as needed, as was done in Seattle’s Chinatown.] Zones that are too big often fail to give motorists the option of avoiding high prices by parking a little further then walking.


My current view is that the best choice is occupancy targeting, especially the final option, ‘occupancy targeting with simple zones’.

Most of the other approaches will typically fail to tame on-street parking saturation and its negative side-effects. This risks having pricing being seen as a failure. It also fuels the (often false) perception of parking shortage and prompts various wasteful parking efforts and investments and many misguided parking policy efforts, including excessive minimum parking requirements .

Occupancy that is neither ‘too full’ nor ‘too empty’ is a simple and intuitive criterion that is easily explained to the public.

If you want parking success without parking excess, then urge your city to consider ‘occupancy targeting with simple zones’ for on-street parking price setting.

Do you agree?


Monday, June 20, 2016

Free parking: major problem or no big deal?

Free parking: major problem or no big deal?
Do you want your city or town to shift away from promoting plentiful parking? Do you agree with Prof. Donald Shoup that inducing excessive free parking is a costly mistake?

If so, you have probably heard someone trivialize the issue. Maybe they told you that free parking is no big deal. Maybe they said it is no worse than all the other cross subsidies in society, or that it is just one more thing some of us pay for but don't use.

A wonkblog post on parking and its many angry comments

I was reminded of those claims by a post last week by Emily Bagder on WaPo's Wonkblog that provoked many comments along those lines.

Badger's post highlighted Donald Shoup's latest parking article "Cutting the Cost of Parking Requirements".

A lot of angry comments focused on the social justice angle, reacting especially to the title "Poor people pay for parking even when they can’t afford a car" and to this quote early in her post:
"People who are too poor to own a car," Shoup writes in the University of California's ACCESS Magazine, "pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store."
The post also highlighted Shoup's striking new parking cost estimates:
The cost of constructing above-ground parking in a major American city runs about $24,000 per space, in Shoup's research (this doesn't include the cost of buying the land underneath). An underground spot costs $34,000. 
Let's emphasize again that these costs EXCLUDE LAND COSTS. Wow!

Badger then continues to emphasize the social justice aspects in Shoup's article. For example:
Regulations that require developers to bake those costs into shopping centers, offices or apartment buildings — whether people intend to drive there or not — are a matter of inequality, Shoup argues. They force people who don't drive to subsidize those who do. They assume everyone does drive when many people can't. And they make it more expensive to build affordable housing, which means we get less of it. 
Median parking requirements for office space in a set of US cities. 
This is part of a larger infographic by Seth Goodman published on the Graphing Parking site

Why parking-minimum-induced excessive free parking IS a big deal

I don't recommend delving deeply into those comments, which include many knee-jerk assumptions about Badger's and/or Shoup's supposed anti-car and/or left-wing intentions and/or stupidity.

But I do want to address this one comment, which is among those with the most "likes", and which is one of many that makes a similar point:
"Foolish article. I pay school taxes despite the fact that I never had children in the local schools. Everyone in a large and complex society pays taxes for some things they do not use, want, or need. That's just how it goes."
So what is wrong with this comment?

First, the mention of taxes is misleading. Free off-street parking is mostly about "bundling" not about tax money. In areas with plentiful parking, private owners of parking cover its costs from the rest of their enterprise (housing revenue, retail revenue, office space revenue, or whatever).

Second, the free parking a result of local government REGULATIONS! Plentiful free-of-charge off-street parking is usually NOT a natural outcome of the free market at work. Rather, it is minimum parking requirements that promote so much parking supply, especially in the USA, that the price is driven to zero.

Third, the comment seems to suggest that nothing much can be done. Not true. Prof Shoup's suggested policy reforms are a good place to start. Reinventing Parking also has various suggestions. Feel free to explore.

Fourth, shifting parking costs from direct users to everyone is not trivial. That was Shoup's key point in highlighting the enormous cost of providing each parking space in a city. Each parking space costs more than most of the cars that will ever park on it. And he didn't even consider land costs. And our own Seth Goodman estimated that, in USA cities, one parking space adds about $225 to monthly apartment rent.

Finally, just because the costs of many goods and services are not covered by user fees does NOT mean that is a good way to organize parking. User fees, especially market-responsive fees (a.k.a. market prices), send important signals to the actors in the system. In a market economy, unless there are good reasons to do otherwise we generally prefer things to be funded via prices rather than the other options, such as non-responsive fees, taxes, advertising, and imposts on specific groups of non-user beneficiaries (via targeted levies).

Yes, there are many things that are not funded by user fees/prices. For good reasons. But most of them are not relevant to parking.

For the really keen readers among you, here is more detail on those good reasons not to rely on pricing and why they generally DO NOT apply to parking.
  • Sometimes the transaction costs of imposing user fees are too high. In the past, this was often relevant for parking, but modern parking pricing technology makes parking fees easy. 
  • Sometimes bundling a cost with other goods is a business decision (fries and a drink come at a discount with a burger). This is relevant to parking. Retailers often offer free parking, even if their parking is tight, via parking validation (free parking for motorists who spend enough). But for other kinds of building, bundling of parking costs is only common when parking is plentiful, not when it is scarce. Most bundling is because of parking minimums.  
  • Sometimes a direct user fee is just not feasible (think free-to-air broadcasts or fire fighting). But, as I said, it IS easy to charge for parking. So parking is NOT a non-excludable public good. 
  • In some cases, society benefits if people get a good even if they would not or could not pay ("merit goods" or goods with positive externalities; think basic education). This argument is used for parking but is based on the huge mistake of thinking that plentiful parking is the best way to prevent on-street parking chaos. In fact, on-street parking management is the best way to deal with on-street parking problems, regardless of off-street parking supply. 
  • Sometimes, as for mass transit, the economically efficient user fee (the 'marginal cost price') is inherently lower than the cost recovery fee. There may actually be an element of this in parking, but not enough to justify excessive parking minimums or free parking.
  • Sometimes (often?), government-funded freebies are aimed at helping businesses. Unfortunately, this is indeed common in parking, with many downtowns providing free or cheap parking at taxpayer expense to help downtown businesses. If such help is needed, I wish they would find transport-mode neutral ways to do it that don't also subsidize car dependence. 
  • And, finally, yes sometimes we deviate from user pays for social justice reasons. It is a good thing that most countries enable even the poorest people to get basic health care, education, and other basics. But parking is hardly a basic need! Shifting parking costs away from its users is a horribly poorly targeted way to help low-income people.  

The bottom line

Shifting parking costs onto everyone need not be "just how it goes". In the case of parking, it is better to charge the actual users.

Some of the reasons for this can be seen as left wing. Some are usually seen as right-wing. Many are based on centrist public-policy wonkishness. It doesn't matter. I don't see this as a left-right thing. Do you?

No comments

Friday, June 10, 2016

Parking success without parking excess

Parking success without parking excess
What is parking success?

A recent trip to China reminded me of this question, which is important for cities everywhere.


Shortage problem or management problem?

China's cities have serious parking problems and most of them blame shortage.

Rapid increases in urban car ownership since the year 2000 has left many streets and residential areas with parking chaos, especially in older parts of town. Convenient parking is very often more than 100% full, causing search traffic and illegal parking on streets, on sidewalks and on public spaces. These in turn cause congestion, danger, and interpersonal conflict.

Many Chinese cities have concluded they have a huge gap between parking supply and parking needs. Simply counting their legal parking spaces and comparing this city-wide number with the registered vehicles reveals the gap.

Naturally, such gaps are blamed for parking problems.

This is despite the fact that more detailed local studies often find that off-street (especially underground) parking is under-used and that commercial areas with parking problems typically have no such parking supply-demand gap.

Weak management of on-street parking, sidewalk parking and parking in building frontages means that motorists have little incentive to seek out the less convenient underground option, which often also costs them more.

China's cities push for more parking

If shortage is the diagnosis, then supply seems the obvious medicine.

So around China, various city governments are planning boosts to parking supply, especially by:
  • Revising their parking minimums upwards (from their currently relatively low levels), and
  • Investing directly in city-built parking, despite the daunting costs. 

But many cities in China are also pushing to be 'transit metropolises'

Urban transport policy priorities in China are seeing significant changes.

For example, China's largest cities are now limiting the growth of car ownership, and the national Ministry of Transport has launched its 'Transit Metropolis' policy, in which more than 50 cities will see accelerated mass transit development.

Seeing plentiful parking as the definition of parking success is therefore a problem. This parking goal is in direct conflict with China's new urban transport policy priorities.

Urgent need for parking policies that succeed without promoting car dependence

Chinese cities do need to ease their very real parking problems which are making so many places unpleasant and unsafe.

But the solutions must not fuel car dependence. China needs parking success without parking excess.

And there are some signs of change. Shenzhen has introduced on-street parking fees after a hiatus. Rather steep fees in fact. Shenzhen has also lowered its parking minimums for buildings near mass transit. China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has also been liberalizing parking prices (many of which used to be controlled by local governments).

Do you too want parking success without excess? Then Reinventing Parking is for you.

Isn't success without excess what you want too? If you are a regular reader here, you know that this site is not offering plentiful parking as the solution.

On Reinventing Parking we seek parking success without parking excess. If you want that too, then explore the site, come back from time to time, or sign up for email alerts to new posts.

Adaptive Parking is a path towards parking success without parking excess. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

New "how to" toolkit about on-street parking basics

New "how to" toolkit about on-street parking basics
In my parking work across Asia, I repeatedly hear the same questions about on-street parking management.

Questions like:

  • How can we improve parking enforcement when the situation seems hopeless?
  • Should we ban on-street parking altogether?
  • How can we improve our parking fees system?
  • Why is there still on-street parking chaos, despite our efforts to improve?
  • How do we set the right prices for on-street parking? 

This thirst for information suggested a need. People working on parking in low-income and middle-income countries needed an accessible 'how to' reference on the basics of on-street parking management.

I didn't need to hustle the idea. Folks at the GIZ* Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) had reached the same conclusion! During a parking training in Delhi, they asked me to draft such a guide.

It was a long process (I would hate to tell you how long) but the toolkit was published two weeks ago.

Please take a look!  

Please also help get the Toolkit into the hands of anyone who needs it!

Here is SUTP's announcement of the Toolkit.

Here is a link to directly download the PDF

The full title is: On-Street Parking Management: An International Toolkit.  It is Sustainable Urban Transport Technical Document #14, published by GIZ-SUTP.

Many many thanks are due to all of the people who helped. You know who you are. Also see the acknowledgements page!

Feedback is welcome. It would he helpful to find any remaining errors and there is room for disagreement on certain issues, of course. 

* GIZ is Germany's international technical assistance agency. I have assisted GIZ with urban parking advisory and training work in China, India, Indonesia and Nepal. 
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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.


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.


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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