Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parking spot squatting - an international phenomenon?

Parking spot squatting - an international phenomenon?
South Boston was in the news after this week's snow storm for the local practice of informally (and illegally but apparently legally) reserving on-street parking spots. When there is snow on the ground, the person who digs out an on-street parking spot treats it as theirs for a day or two or until the snow is gone. They mark their space with household objects, as reported in the New York Times which has a photograph of a colourful beach chair sitting incongruously in a wintry street scene.

Something similar happens all year round in tropical Southeast Asia, including in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Clearly snow is not a factor here!

In Singapore this seems to happen in low-rise residential areas (wealthy places in the Singapore context) where on-street parking is not priced and where spaces are not formally marked out. Singapore has no residential permit system for such areas. The residential streets shown in these pictures are in prosperous Serangoon Gardens close to commercial activity (especially restaurants busy in the evenings) on Yio Chu Kang Road. These photos were taken in the late afternoon. 

Reserving parking like this might seem brazen (I guess it is) and it is certainly illegal [Update: in the Southeast Asian cases it is illegal]. And I don't necessarily think it is widely accepted as a reasonable thing to do. As the reports on Boston make clear, many frown on this practice but that doesn't make them bold enough to actually move the objects and park there anyway. [Update: In the South Boston case, using objects to save spaces seems to have at least some legal status. The City of Boston website says it will only remove such space-savers 48 hours after a snow storm.] And Even where it is unambiguously illegal, how many people will take the trouble to report this to the authorities? Very few it seems.  

In South Boston, snow and the effort of digging out a space enhances the sense of righteousness in claiming the spot. In certain places in Singapore, it seems some residents feel justified in claiming these spaces every evening.

My guess is that residents informally reserve "their" on-street parking spaces in many cities around the world, if they can get away with it, and if they feel they need to.

Does this happen in your town? In what specific circumstances? Have you heard of good solutions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Park-and-Ride Comparison: Vancouver, Melbourne and Perth

Park-and-Ride Comparison: Vancouver, Melbourne and Perth
There is a new in-depth post on park-and-ride at the Australian public transport blog, Transport Textbook.  Author "Loose Shunter" (ahem) asks "What role for Park and Ride in an integrated public transport system?"

He or she takes a detailed look at park-and-ride policy in Melbourne and Perth in Australia and Vancouver in Canada, highlighting contrasts in their approach. 

To my mind, Vancouver does best. It doesn't abandon park-and-ride altogether but does not let it undermine transit-oriented development opportunities, feeder bus services and the environment for walking and cycling to stations. Melbourne's approach is at the opposite end of the park-and-ride spectrum.

The essay discusses many of the arguments for and against providing car parking at stations. The post also has a good bibliography for anyone who wants to dig further.

Reinventing Parking readers may remember that I have urged a skeptical approach to park-and-ride in dense, inner-urban transit station areas. This applies to many stations of most of Asia's growing mass transit systems. So I was interested to see Transport Textbook's take on park-and-ride in much lower-density metropolitan areas with more automobile-oriented suburban landscapes than in Asia.

Below are some highlights from the Transport Textbook post. The whole thing is worth a look.

Some criticisms of park-and-ride:
Hamer (2010:52) questions the effectiveness of Park and Ride as a generator of mode shift to public transport, with some studies cited claiming that Park and Ride ‘cannibalises’ existing patronage from feeder buses, walking and active transport and attracts people to driving to the station rather than using more sustainable modes. Mees (2010:174) offers the Doncaster bus Park and Ride in Melbourne as an example, where a survey found the facility’s opening in 2004 had drawn almost all its users from those who formerly used public transport for their entire journey.

Mees (2010:174-5) questions the lessening of environmental effects from the shorter car trips generated by Park and Ride journeys, claiming cold engine starts and short journeys may produce as much pollution as longer, door-to-door car journeys. He also critiques Park and Ride as not providing a real alternative to car use, serving only peak-period, peak-direction CBD trips on radial rail and bus networks. Thus, Park and Ride does not serve off-peak or non-CBD trips effectively. He argues that the size of a city’s Park and Ride stock is inversely related to that city’s ability to grow public transport patronage (Mees 2010:94).

Perth's freeway-median rail lines apparently suit park-and-ride: 
The role of Park and Ride in the Perth rail system is to extend the network’s catchment beyond walking distance from the station. This is particularly important on the newer Mandurah and Joondalup lines, where most stations are located in the freeway median with very limited walk-up catchments.

Murdoch Park n Ride south of Perth on the Mandurah rail line which runs here in the Freeway median.

But on Perth's other rail lines there is some conflict between the public transport agency, TransPerth, which wants to keep park-and-ride, and other agencies that want more Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

Some of Perth's park-and-ride spaces are priced, using pay-and-display at A$2 per day.

Park and Ride is an important policy in Melbourne
Park and Ride has been an important element of public transport planning in Melbourne for over 40 years. The Victorian Government has invested heavily in Park and Ride facilities across the metropolitan rail network since the 1970s.
Park-and-ride in Melbourne has been criticised by Paul Mees among others, as being a wasteful subsidy for car users, as reflecting the failure to integrate rail with feeder modes, and for having a large opportunity-cost.

The Melbourne authorities seem highly committed to the policy and determined not to price the spaces.
The Victorian Government and rail operators have sent strong signals over many years that Park and Ride is a free resource to rail users. In fact, the most recent franchise agreement for the metropolitan rail network ensured that the operator would not price the use of Park and Ride facilities (Department of Transport 2009:106).
Vancouver has fewer park-and-ride slots than Melbourne or Perth and they are located at only a few stations, which are mainly near the ends of the Skytrain lines and the West Coast Express (WCE) commuter rail line. Vancouver prevents park-and-ride from undermining transit-oriented development opportunities through its ...
... long-term policy to restrict supply of Park and Ride to the outer ends of the network to maximise public transport use and promote Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around inner- and middle-suburban stations.
Much of the parking at mass transit stations in Vancouver is priced (at C$3 per day or C$60 per month).

In Vancouver, park-and-ride is therefore a complement to the other modes of accessing stations and does not dominate or undermine them. Park-and-ride is not a feature of most of its stations.

Do take a look at the Transport Textbook post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Uncomfortable bedfellows?

Uncomfortable bedfellows?
I mentioned Gabriel Roth and his early ideas on parking policy in a recent post (the one on requiring potential parking space rather than parking itself).

Citing Roth approvingly might alarm some readers who dislike neoliberal ideology (also known as 'economic rationalism', 'economic liberalism' or 'economic libertarianism' among others).

Parking for the Market.Roth was actually a key intellectual forerunner of Donald Shoup's thinking on parking. But it may be hard for some of you to think about this with an open mind since Roth was and is quite right-wing in his ideas on transport. He is better known for his later advocacy of public transport privatization and deregulation and for his ideas on private roads.

I don't share many of his views on those issues but I do think Roth's parking policy ideas were promising. Sadly they were largely ignored (as far as I know) until the recent upsurge in interest in Donald Shoup's proposals.

For anyone on the left of the political spectrum it may be very hard to keep an open mind to ideas that came from someone like Roth and were published by an outfit like the Institute of Economic Affairs, which is a UK 'free market' think tank. It played an important role in the rise of neoliberal policy ideas in the 1970s.

By the way, my Transport Reviews paper on parking (journal paywall version;  earlier pre-print version PDFexpressed surprise that a neoliberal thinker like Roth actually stopped short of advocating complete parking supply deregulation, as Shoup does.

I do hope you will keep an open mind to market-oriented thinking on parking regardless of your politics. After all, you have to be very far left these days to believe that markets have NO place at all in society. And you don't have to be right-wing to be open to the idea of using market-based policy tools, such as cap-and-trade for pollution problems. 

By the way, I wonder what Roth himself thinks of Donald Shoup's ideas? Does anyone know?


Monday, December 13, 2010

Around the block: parking links roundup #2

Around the block: parking links roundup #2
It has been a long time since the last roundup of links. No matter. Here goes.

View from the rails, 1972 Credit: Flicker user Hunter Desportes (cc) (via Yonah Freemark)
New Jersey Transit Authority has an enormous number of park-and-ride parking spaces which are now proposed for privatization. Market Urbanism, Yonah Freemark and Felix Salmon think it is a rotten idea. A key danger is that this will cut off numerous transit-oriented redevelopment opportunities long into the future.

Julie Anne Genter of McCormick Rankin Cagney con
sultants talks to New Zealand Radio about Shoup-style parking policy. Clear explanations and insight on parking in suburban NZ. Hat tip Pete Goldin at Parking World blog.

Beijing is reportedly considering strong traffic constraint policies. Unfortunately in the short term the rumours have prompted much debate and a surge of panic car buying. The plans are reported to include a Japan-style proof-of-parking rule. 

An academic paper has estimated the number of USA parking spaces (maybe 500 to 800 million!) and their environmental impacts.

photo of a "vertical parking lot" in Chicago, circa 1930. I am amazed these existed so early.

Residents in the West Lakes suburb of Adelaide, South Australia, are outraged, OUTRAGED!, that the local Westfield mall wants to implement paid parking (although the first 3 hours will be free). I should know better but I still find it odd how angry people can get about the prospect of priced parking in car-oriented suburbs.

Mumbai, India has second thoughts about its year-old policy that allows developers to build bonus floor space ("bonus FSI") provided they also build public parking to hand over to the municipality.

GTZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) has launched a Video Portal on urban transport policy innovations. It includes some parking policy videos.

Mark Chase at the Parking Reform blog asks, How much should parking cost?, and makes us think by reframing the question in various ways:
  • How much parking do we need at "you-name-a-price"?
  • Often the assumption is not-enough-free-parking or not enough cheap parking. Really the question is what is a target price for parking?
  • Another key question is should we subsidize parking? If yes, for everyone? 
  • What is the right *target* price for parking. This goes beyond just setting the price to achieve a good occupancy rate. Really we're asking: how high will we let price go before we build (or require a developer) new parking?

Karthik Rao-Cavale on "Parks vs. Parking: What do Indian cities need?" on his blog, India lives in her cities too!    "Chennai had prepared a plan some years ago for a multi-storey parking deck in T. Nagar where the Panagal Park now stands..."

Market Urbanism finds a paper on parking politics in 1920s Boston. The issues sound strangely familiar.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alternative ways to get the Parking Policy in Asian Cities report

[Update: the Study can also be downloaded via SSRN.]

If you had any problems seeing or downloading the Final Consultant's Report version of Parking Policy in Asian Cities via my last post, there are alternatives below.

I had feedback that downloading from Scribd requires you to sign up or login with a Facebook account. It is also blocked in China. Oops!

So I have made a Google Docs alternative for downloading the report.

And here below is a link via SlideShare which should work in China (but this still requires a log in if you want to download)
Parking Policy in Asian Cities final consultants report nov 2010
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The "Parking Policy in Asian Cities" report is here!

Today I am releasing the Final Consultant's Report version of Parking Policy in Asian Cities. Below you can browse or download the report which investigates parking issues in 14 large Asian cities.

Many thanks again to everyone who has helped with the study. I hope it will be useful. Please do give your feedback and reactions!

I plan to draw your attention to various specifics from the study over the next few months. But here below is the whole thing for you to dip into yourself. Try clicking "fullscreen" at the top of the Scribd window below. 

I have made many corrections and improvements since the May 2010 draft which I shared with various people. Today's version is now very close to final. ADB is expected to publish the study more formally after more editing to bring it in line with their publication guidelines.

[UPDATE: If you have problems with the Scribd version below, there are more options to get the report in the next post.]

Parking Policy in Asian Cities Final Consultants Report Nov 2010
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who should enforce on-street parking rules? Not the Police!

Who should enforce on-street parking rules? Not the Police!
Police tend to have bigger things on their priority lists than enforcing parking rules. But parking enforcement is important!

So most parking experts say the police force is a poor choice to tackle an illegal parking problem.

Which agency handles parking enforcement where you are? Is it working well?

Since 1991, local governments in the UK have been able to take over their on-street parking enforcement from the Police (and most have done so, such as this example). Peter Guest at the Parking World blog tells the story of "one of the decisive moments in the history of parking in the UK".  The trigger was
"... a terrible incident in London when illegally parked cars blocked fire access to an apartment building and as a result several children were burnt to death. At this point it became clear that the Police could not do the job and the argument changed from trying to get them to do a better job to taking it off them." 

Of course, that doesn't eliminate griping from UK motorists about 'overzealous parking wardens'. In fact, effective enforcement probably increases these complaints. Hint: if complaints about parking enforcement outnumber complaints about illegal parking, then enforcement is probably doing OK.

Here is a team of European experts on who should get this responsibility:
Powers for enforcement should be delegated to the local authorities in ways comparable to the Dutch, Spanish or UK approach. Legislation also must make it possible that income from parking fees and fines are made available to the local authority, being the authority in charge of enforcement. ...  This legislation should also provide for the possibility to contract the actual work out to private parties.  ...   The result is that enforcement of parking rules need not compete with the other priorities of the police and so get the priority that is needed.
[Source: "Parking Policies and the Effects on Economy and Mobility" (pdf) report of the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action 342.] 

Singapore joined the club this month when its Land Transport Authority took over the enforcement of illegal parking offences from the Traffic Police. And in Japan, a set of 2006 reforms greatly improved the effectiveness of parking enforcement by allowing local police to delegate parking enforcement to private contractors.

Of course, the authority to write parking tickets is useless if you can't impose any consequences for non-payment! This is the problem faced by Malaysian municipalities. 

Malaysian police officers in action against illegal parking in Kuala Lumpur.
If you ignore this fine, you may be unable to renew your registration next year.

This Kuala Lumpur City Hall enforcement officer is also writing citations for illegal parking (photo taken 5 minutes after the one above). However, ignoring his ticket will NOT land your car on a blacklist. For some reason, the Federal Government hasn't agreed to cooperate with local governments to make this happen. No surprise then that many motorists simply ignore parking fines issued by local governments in Malaysia. 

So in desperation, the Malaysian municipality of Subang Jaya in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, is trying something new
... motorists who double-park at USJ 10 (Taipan) may find a yellow tag attached to the side mirrors of their vehicles.  To have the tags removed, they must drive to the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) headquarters across the road and settle an RM80 fine.  The enforcement officers will then remove the tags when the motorists present proof of payment.

Again, which agency handles parking enforcement where you are? Is it working well?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This new parking management guide is a gem

This new parking management guide is a gem
Parking Management: A Contribution Towards Liveable Cities was released this month by GTZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project

You can download it HERE (4MB pdf) or visit the SUTP web site to read a summary before downloading.   

The 50-page booklet is by Tom Rye, Professor of Transport Policy & Mobility Management at Edinburgh Napier University.

It is a wonderful resource, rich with detail on parking management policy options and real-world examples. Even better, it has a special emphasis on the needs of cities outside the 'West', with examples from every populated continent.

I don't agree with everything in it but that doesn't stop me from recommending it whole-heartedly. I would urge anyone with an interest in better parking policy to download it and digest it carefully.

I will try to post a detailed review when I get some time.

For now I will just mention that, in terms of the parking policy 'paradigms' discussed in this post, GTZ's sourcebook is firmly in the 'parking management' camp in which parking is viewed as a tool for serving wider goals in transport policy and urban planning. If you like the sound of that, you will like this booklet.

This is the poster on Parking Management by GTZ which was shown
at the recent Better Air Quality Asia Conference in Singapore. 
Click the image to magnify. 
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presentations from Melbourne's "High Cost of Free Parking" seminar

Presentations from Melbourne's "High Cost of Free Parking" seminar
On the 4th of November, Australia's Institute for Sensible Transport (gotta love the name!) hosted a parking policy seminar at the Melbourne Town Hall with the title "The High Cost of Free Parking".

As the name suggests*, a highlight was the keynote by Professor Donald Shoup of UCLA. Also featured were Profs Graham Currie and William Young from Monash University.

You can now download presentations and audio files from the event from HERE.

The downloads available include:
  • A podcast of Professor Shoup's keynote address
  • Two Shoup presentations: One on parking pricing policies and one on minimum parking requirements.
  • A podcast of Professor Currie's keynote address
  • Prof Currie's presentation on the impact of the Melbourne car parking levy
  • GTA Consultants presentation on car parking strategies in activity centres

While in Australia, Prof Shoup also spoke at the 12th Australian Parking Convention and Trade Exhibition (APC2010) which was held in Sydney on 7 to 9 November.

*  "The High Cost of Free Parking" is the title of Shoup's now famous book on parking policy.

Update: fixed a broken link to the Town Hall seminar.
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Parking basics: contingency-based planning in parking policy

Parking basics: contingency-based planning in parking policy
Many municipalities would like to lower their minimum parking requirements a little to make them less excessive or to make them better match the local conditions of each site. This might seem a small and easy reform but even this most modest of parking policy changes often provokes controversy, with fearful voices raising the specter of parking chaos.

This is where "contingency-based planning" can help. Here is Todd Litman's Online TDM Encyclopedia to explain:
Contingency-Based Planning is a Planning strategy that deals with uncertainty by identifying specific responses to possible future conditions. ...
A contingency-based plan typically consists of various if-then statements that define the solutions to be deployed if certain problems occur: if parking supply proves to be inadequate then we will implement certain strategies, and if those prove to be insufficient then we will implement an additional set of strategies. 
For example, a Contingency-Based parking plan might initially allow developers to build fewer parking spaces than required by conventional minimum parking standards, with a list of solutions that will be applied if that proves inadequate and motorists experience significant problems finding parking or neighbors experience parking spillover problems. 
These solutions might include a combination of additional capacity (some land might be reserved for future parking lots, or a potential budget identified to build a parking structure, if needed), various Parking Management strategies (such as programs to encourage employees to use alternative modes, arrangements to share parking facilities with nearby buildings, and increased regulation and pricing of onsite parking), and improved enforcement if needed to address any spillover problems.

Contingency planning allows extra supply to become a last resort not the default choice.

So requiring 'potential parking' rather than parking itself (as I mentioned in a recent post) is one example of contingency-based planning applied to parking. 

In response to that same post, Donald Shoup emailed to point to an example from the Silicon Valley which is mentioned in his 2005 book:
To deal with the uncertainty in predicting the demand for parking, some cities allow developers to provide fewer parking spaces if they set aside land that can later be converted to parking if demand is higher than expected. Palo Alto, California, allows reductions of up to 50 percent in parking requirements if the difference is made up through a landscaped reserve, and none of these landscaped reserves have subsequently been required for parking. One apartment development was granted a request to defer 22 of the 95 parking spaces required by city code, using the land instead for a family play lot, a barbeque area, and picnic benches, Nearly 15 years after construction, the landscape reserve has not been needed for parking, and the open space constitutes an important environmental and social benefit for the community.
[See page 43  (and a chapter endnote from there) in the High Cost of Free Parking.]

Litman's Online TDM Encyclopedia page provides an example of a contingency-based parking management plan for a development that has been permitted to provide fewer parking spaces than traditionally required. It lists 20 interventions that could be tried (in phases) if any parking problems emerge. These would be tried BEFORE considering resorting to increasing supply. They include:
  • Improve parking information with signs and a parking facility map.
  • Shift from dedicated parking spaces to “open” (shared) parking spaces in each lot.
  • Impose 2-hour limitations on the most convenient parking spaces.
  • Encourage employees to use less convenient parking spaces.
  • Improve enforcement of parking regulations and fees.
  • Establish an evaluation program, to identify impacts and possible problems.
  • Price the most convenient parking spaces.
  • Arrange shared parking agreements with neighbors that have excess parking supply.Install bicycle storage and changing facilities.
  • Establish a commute trip reduction program.
  • Gradually and predictably increase parking fees (e.g., 10% annual price increases).
  • Improve area walkability and address security concerns.
  • Provide real-time information on parking availability using changeable signs 
  • Develop overflow parking plans for special events and peak periods.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Should all parking be easily convertible to something else?

Should all parking be easily convertible to something else?
Yesterday, I suggested an alternative to minimum parking requirements: requiring a certain amount of space in a building site be convertible to parking. I wondered if this could help wean cautious municipalities away from excessive minimum parking requirements.

That prompted me to speculate about the CONVERSE.  Should we require that parking be easily and cheaply convertible to something else? 

Could the parking levels in this condo easily be converted to other uses if car ownership drops in the future?

How could it work? 

Maybe an addition to building codes could require developers to submit a plan explaining the renovation steps that would convert the parking to general floor space. A cost estimate for these steps  would need to be below some reasonable threshold.

But why bother?

The idea is to reduce the extent to which the parking supply is locked into the landscape. This could be very important in places without much surface parking, such as many parts of many Asian cities where most parking is within buildings (in basements or parking floors above ground) and sometimes in stand-alone structures. Some of these cities are currently requiring 2 or more car parking spaces per 100 square metres of built space. Are we sure they will need that much for the lifetimes of those buildings?

If you live in a city where most parking is surface parking then you may not see an issue here. However, some layouts of surface parking relative to buildings would be easier to build on than others.

Making parking space easier to convert would be prudent if there is a good chance of a significant drop in demand within the next decade or two. An epidemic of Shoupista reforms could do that? So might peak oil or serious climate change policy action. Pedestrianization of city-centre streets can also leave parking facilities stranded, so car parks in such locations would be good candidates to be designed for easy conversion.  

How much would this add to the initial cost of a parking facility? I am not sure.

If the extra costs are relatively low but the chances of a big drop in parking demand seem high enough within a short enough time horizon, then requiring convertibility might be a good idea. I haven't done any such calculations yet but it seems like something worth thinking about.

Does the real estate industry currently foresee a big risk that today's parking supply may end up being surplus to requirements? I don't think so. What would it take for such a risk to prompt voluntary efforts to design parking for convertibility? What would it take for parking convertibility to be a selling point for buildings?

Has anyone heard of examples anywhere in the world?

I know that  a few years ago several shopping centres in Singapore did convert some of their basement parking into retail space. Junction 8 in Bishan is one example, I am told. This came after Singapore lowered its minimum parking requirements. Owners of existing buildings are allowed to reduce their  parking if it is in excess of the new standard. I don't know how challenging these Singapore conversions were or how expensive. Maybe this suggests that conversion is already relatively easy?



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Require "potential parking" rather than parking itself?

Does abolishing minimum parking requirements (as Donald Shoup suggests) sound too radical? Is there a low-risk alternative?

Maybe local governments don't really need to require parking itself. Maybe they could simply require POTENTIAL parking?

I am imagining a municipality that still wants to make sure parking supply meets demand and wants to avoid the risk that the parking associated with a new development spills beyond its parking lot into the streets or into neighboring lots.

I can imagine a conservative version of this idea, in which a city allows developers to have less parking than the current minimum but the city reserves the right to later (and at short notice) require that the on-site parking supply be increased (up to the current minimum for example) if there is evidence of any serious spillover. Such a policy would allow developers to start with modest parking supply but they would have a strong incentive to design their sites in ways that allow parking to be easily expanded.

A more ambitious and reformist version could simply require that the site have a certain amount of 'potential parking' (space which could be 'easily' converted to parking space) but then leave it to building managers whether they ever actually do any such conversion. This would be closer to a Shoupista-style deregulation and abolition of parking requirements, except that the risk of getting locked into a serious shortage is reduced. Of course, we would need to define what we mean by 'easily' converted.

This is not a new idea, by the way.

It seems to be an old one which has been forgotten. The suggestion to require convertible space rather than parking itself was apparently first made by a young Gabriel Roth in his 1965 Hobart Paper, Paying for Parking.  Roth's paper should be downloadble via VTPI - go to the bibliography at the bottom. However, I can't get the link to work right now so maybe it is broken.

I think the idea deserves more attention and debate. 

Does it sound feasible to you? Could a suburban municipality be open to requiring potential parking instead of requiring parking itself? If anyone knows of any analysis of this proposal or something similar I would love to hear about it.

I also wonder why Roth's original suggestion was ignored? (or did I just fail to find the debate?) Was it because his publisher was a right-wing voice in the wilderness at the time?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Calcutta's on-street parking "extortion rackets"

Calcutta's on-street parking "extortion rackets"
When the "parking meters" are human beings, they actually notice for themselves when the parking is saturated. As you might expect, this makes raising prices rather tempting. Indeed, something like this is happening in the streets of India's large cities.

If you are a Shoupista, then it sounds perfect to adjust prices when the parking is full.  Shoupistas are supporters of Prof Donald Shoup's parking policy ideas, which include performance-pricing for on-street parking spaces.

There is just one problem. Raising the prices is against the law.

Here is a current example from Calcutta (Kolkata) in India, as reported in The Telegraph (Calcutta) newspaper. The outcomes are far from perfect. (Note that currently US$1 = Rs 44 or so):
Extortion rackets thrive in broad daylight across the city in the name of car parking. The rackets — run by cooperatives issued licences by the civic body, in collusion with police and local goons — force car owners to shell out exorbitant sums...
Metro visited three such parking zones where owners have to pay between Rs 20 and Rs 50 per hour for parking their cars. The hourly rates fixed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation are Rs 7 for cars and Rs 3 for motorcycles.
There are more details in the rather breathless report.

Sadly, the nasty side-effects here certainly outweigh any benefits from 'rational pricing'.
  • The 'human parking meters' (employees of the cooperatives with contracts to run the parking) have become criminals. 
  • The report alleges that the local police have also been corrupted and even count cars in order to estimate their cut. 
  • Presumably the agency overseeing the parking contracts has also been compromised by graft. 
  • Since these extra parking payments have no legal sanction, only some not-so-subtle intimidation persuades motorists to pay. There is potential for real nastiness that would make the Parking Wars TV show look tame. 
  • Finally, most of the money paid is rewarding crime rather than helping to pay for much-needed services.  

These are not good outcomes!  

The journalist seems to see think better enforcement is the answer. Good luck with that when all the incentives point towards the corrupt outcome that he so vividly reports.

Maybe a better way would be to reduce the temptation to corruptly raise prices? But how?

No comments

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The opportunity cost of parking illustrated

The opportunity cost of parking illustrated
What a wonderful example to highlight the opportunity cost of parking space!

This photograph from my trip to Guangzhou last year just popped up on my screensaver and I couldn't resist blogging it quickly. 

Almost ANY space that we now devote to parking could be used for something else (either full-time or part-time as may be the case in this photo). 

This shot was taken at the edge of one of Guangzhou's 'urban villages'. This one near the Guangzhou BRT line is built up at incredibly high densities with 5 to 10 storey buildings (like those on the left) packed tightly together in a maze of narrow alleyways. I think mainly migrant workers from the countryside live here.

Car ownership is very low so here we see people putting the planned parking area to better uses. I assume both the pool games and the childrens' bouncy game involve some kind of payment per use. I suspect that the parking here doesn't. 

It makes you think.  Can we organize parking policy so that we only devote space to parking when it really is the most valuable use? How can we make parking compete with the other possible uses of the space?

Monday, October 25, 2010

What to look forward to at Reinventing Parking

What to look forward to at Reinventing Parking
What parking issues and ideas can you expect to find here in coming months?

I am back from a break and will be getting back into regular posting here. To kick things off again, here is a little preview of parking issues I hope to tackle here soon.

Tips on any of these topics would be helpful! Topic requests are also welcome.

A parking curiosity: Median parking in Melbourne's CBD
  • Does parking-free housing require car-free residents? My answer: not really.
  • Which level of government controls on-street parking policy? You might be surprised how this works in some countries.
  • Eric Bruun's and Vukan Vuchic's "Time-Area" perspective on the space-efficiency of transport modes highlights the importance of parking, especially work parking
  • Herman Knoflacher's ideas on parking policy go beyond his 'Gehzeug' (or walkmobile) stunts
  • Japan's unusual approach to minimum parking requirements: They are low. They exempt most small buildings. And they phase in gradually for medium-sized buildings.
  • Can Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize-winning ideas on the collective management of common pool resources shed light on parking? Short answer: almost certainly, yes.
  • Does performance-based parking pricing require high-tech?
  • Why does parking space so often NOT count as part of the allowable gross floor area (GFA) of buildings which is limited under zoning ordinances? Should it? How powerfully do such exemptions incentivize excessive parking supply?
  • The influence of land value taxation and property taxes on parking supply. The lack of land value taxation is another powerful force for excessive parking supply in most cities.
  • Parking, trams and traffic flow. Melbourne's 'clearways' controversy
  • Westminster's 'Easyjet' style parking pricing experience (if I can find any recent information! Help anyone? How did it go?)
  • The debate over time limits versus pricing for turnover
  • More in the Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá series from Carlos Pardo. His first post was very popular!
  • More guest posts from other folks I hope.
  • Exploring the strange thinking that makes parking price regulation seem logical
  • Parking meters (and other on-street parking payment systems) around the world
  • Surprise! Parking maximums don't cap parking
  • Office-building minimum parking requirements in international perspective
  • A call for community studies of 'cruising for parking'. New York City's Transportation Alternatives has shown how. Their method could be copied easily.
  • Is residential parking fair game for pricing solutions?
  • More on the implications of the India Supreme Court's recent ruling on parking
  • More in the "Parking basics" series. Look out for posts on: convertibility; shared parking; reducing kerb cuts (or curb cuts or 'cross-overs'); unbundling.
  • Another series idea:  "Unhelpful parking policy terms, phrases and platitudes". How about 'Free Parking' and 'Spillover' for starters?
  • Housing affordability in Asia (looking into the parking policy connections obviously)
  • Does performance-based parking pricing really frighten away customers?
  • A closer look at proof-of-parking regulations, like Japan's
  • Form-based codes and parking reform: missed opportunities?
  • Parking and car-sharing
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá: The Golden Era, 1998-2000

Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá: The Golden Era, 1998-2000
This is the first of a guest series on parking policy in Bogotá by Carlosfelipe Pardo of Slow Research (site in Spanish).

Update: The second post in this series is here

Parking is missing from most accounts of Bogotá’s urban revolution
Much has been said about Enrique Peñalosa’s “urban revolution” when he was mayor of Bogotá, Colombia during 1998-2000. It is well known that he developed the world-renowned BRT system TransMilenio. It is also well known that he developed an aggressive agenda of public space recovery, sidewalk building and cycleway construction.

However, little is known about the parking revolution that his administration also started. This series of posts will describe parking achievements and decisions in that era and since then. Today’s post focuses on key parking changes under Peñalosa himself.

Public space for the people
Enrique Peñalosa’s main goal during his mandate was to generate equity in the use of public space. He saw that automobiles were taking away almost all space from pedestrians and other public space users, so he sought to recover as much space as possible for people, taking it away from cars. He also recovered space that had been illegally occupied by vendors, street hawkers, and even formal condos around the entire city.

Photo 1: A ‘mud street’ - paved for non-motorized use but unpaved for motor vehicles! Peñalosa's philosophy meant that, if little money was available, it should be invested in sidewalks rather than roads. Photo by Carlosfelipe Pardo
When a road was to be built in any neighborhood, he would build a wider and higher-quality sidewalk with the same money (the message was: if money is not enough, spend it on pedestrians). These efforts resulted in 77,764 square meters of public space recovery, and 863,143 square meters of newly built public space during the 3-years of his mandate.

The taming of on-street parking
An even more aggressive and contested method of recovering public space was to reclaim on-street parking space. Even though many citizens were complaining about the invasion of sidewalks and public space by parked cars, it was incredibly difficult to implement such a policy. In fact, at one point Peñalosa was at risk of being impeached, primarily due to anger from shop owners along important avenues of the city. However, the administration went ahead and implemented his policy.

Peñalosa argued that parking was not something that the city should supply, but something that car drivers (or private companies like shopping malls) should provide. As he jokingly described it once:
“Does the city give me a public closet to put my shoes inside? No, then they shouldn’t give me a parking space to park my car.”

The best example of this policy in action was on Carrera 15, an avenue in Bogotá in a high income area of approximately 5 kms length. Through this avenue there are various shops and office buildings, and some residential buildings.

Carrera 15 before Peñalosa
The situation in Carrera 15 was appalling (see photo above): more than five thousand free parking spaces were available to anyone who would arrive at a shop, while bad quality or no space was given to pedestrians along the same sidewalks. Shop owners did not see a problem with this situation, and felt greatly threatened by Peñalosa’s project to remove parking spaces and build wide sidewalks.
However, the local construction agency (IDU) did a survey which found that 80% of the vehicles parked outside shops were actually owned by shop owners and employees! Only 20% were of spaces were serving their clients. Furthermore, it was found that in some areas there was actually an oversupply of almost three times the actual parking space use (e.g. 166 cars parked in an area that had a total of 479 parking spaces). The Mayor was emboldened and the project went ahead. The results are shown in the photo below.

Carrera 15 after Peñalosa

No urban project can be perfect. 
Peñalosa’s on-street parking reforms were bold and effective. His main goal had been to transfer on-street parking spaces to off-street parking lots and this was successful. In line with this he also decided to offer tax incentives (discounts) to those who were interested in developing off-street parking lots. Many private companies took this opportunity to build a large number of off-street parking lots.

Unfortunately, the Mayor may have been too generous in encouraging off-street supply! In this he did not follow his own rhetoric which claimed that parking was a private matter to be paid for entirely by its private beneficiaries.

The shift away from free on-street parking to paid off-street parking was an important change for the city. However, time would present other challenges.

Look out for further posts in this Bogotá series.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Speaking on parking this Friday in Melbourne

Speaking on parking this Friday in Melbourne
I am interrupting my Australian holiday this Friday to give a lunchtime seminar on my parking research. It would be great to meet some Melbourne readers of the blog if you can make it.

The event is organised by GAMUT (Governance and Management of Urban Transport) at the University of Melbourne (in the Architecture Building).

Here is the blurb for the talk:
Car parking policy choices and opportunities in perspective
Interest in car parking policy has become heightened in recent years and conventional parking policy is now more contested than ever. This talk will discuss new insights on parking policy developed in two publications by the speaker. One, recently published in Transport Reviews, explores further implications of Donald Shoup's arguments calling for the abolition of minimum parking requirements. The other, soon to be published as an Asian Development Bank (ADB) working paper, reports on a comparative study of parking policy in 14 large metropolitan areas in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Both publications use a new typology of parking policy approaches. The results of the studies and the framework help place common parking policy controversies into a clearer perspective than usual and highlight policy opportunities which are otherwise difficult to see.
See for details. An RSVP is a good idea since they are laying on some light refreshments.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aargh! Another city wants to regulate parking prices?

I reported before that cities in Indonesia, China and Vietnam regulate the prices of private parking facilities. Now Chennai, the largest city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is also considering price controls on private-sector parking.

Oh dear. I hope they think very carefully first. Can someone please refer Chennai's politicians to my previous post on this issue?

I am not a fan of this policy (to put it mildly). Parking price controls are a bad idea. I don't want to beat about the bush about that. They are profoundly counter-productive. Consider these points:
  • All of India's large cities claim to have a severe parking shortage. 
  • The low investment returns on parking space prompt some building owners to divert parking to other uses. 
  • Rising private-sector parking prices are precisely what is needed to get a better balance between supply and demand. 
  • Some basic needs might warrant for price controls in some situations (this is another debate!). But it is a huge stretch to claim parking is a basic need, especially in a place like India. 
  • Services based on natural monopolies do usually need price regulation. But parking is usually NOT a natural monopoly. (As I said in my previous post on this topic.)
  • So why on earth would you want to cap those prices? [Could it be anything to do with the reluctance to take effective control of on-street parking? Yes, of course! But in that case focus more energy there, not on fake solutions like controlling off-street parking prices.]

Most of the (so-called) arguments for price controls are incredibly feeble.

Many seem to consist of little more than complaints over rising prices. Local motorists and politicians are shocked (shocked!) that shopping malls and private recreation centres in the city have been "charging Rs 10 and 20 per hour for a two-wheeler and Rs 50 and 60 per hour for a car." US$1 is about Rs45 currently.  The news item from Chennai quotes breathless exclamations about the 'fleecing' of customers:
"Initially, the parking fee for two-wheelers at a shopping mall on Radhakrishnan Salai was Rs 5. All of a sudden it was increased to Rs 10. It is high time they were regulated," said PN Peter of Adyar.
I gather that Radhakrishnan Salai is one of Chennai's busiest and swankiest shopping streets.

Nevertheless, there is at least ONE substantive argument for price regulation which I see popping up (with slight variations) in many countries and which raises some important issues. I don't agree with it but it does deserve some detailed discussion (in another post soon).

The argument has to do with the ways in which parking is usually NOT counted as part of floor space which planners allow in a development and is usually NOT subject to the full force of property taxes. These issues may seem a little dry but they are important. If you want to understand parking policy choices you are going to have to grapple with some of the esoteric planning rules which govern parking and property taxes.

More on this argument some other time.

By the way, I hope this post does not come across badly as an outsider lecturing Indians on how to run their cities. [This blog lectures everyone! Not just Indian cities.]  For an Indian perspective on parking policy from a blog that is well worth following, see the latest post from India Lives in Her Cities Too.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tell me what you want from Reinventing Parking (taking stock)

Tell me what you want from Reinventing Parking (taking stock)
It is one month since I launched Reinventing Parking and now seems like a good moment to take stock of how the blog is going.

If you are new here, scroll to the bottom of this post to explore some of the popular posts so far. Otherwise, read on.

This blog has a purpose which is not just about getting a large audience (so you won't find funny 'parking fail' videos here ... or not very often anyway). But of course I am pleased that the audience is growing steadily with over 200 subscribers so far.
Nevertheless, it is time to ASK YOU what you want from this blog.
  • Is the blog relevant to your location? I can't write about every specific place every week but I hope most readers will find something of interest even in items from other continents. Am I correct? How could I make it more relevant to you? What are the burning parking issues where you are?
  • What parking policy questions are you most curious about? Have I tackled them yet? Please suggest topics for me to cover (or to find a guest blogger to cover).
  • Why do you care about parking? (I assume you do or you wouldn't be reading)
  • Tell me who you are via comment or email. Am I reaching urban planners or transport planners in government, municipalities or in private practice? Are most of you researchers or students? Are Reinventing Parking readers in non-profits or community organisations? Are you in the for-profit parking industries? Are you activists?
  • Thanks to everyone who has already sent me tip-offs for events, publications, new studies and news items to cover. Please keep them coming.
  • Thanks to everyone who has commented. But there aren't very many of you yet! Tell me what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong by commenting on this post or emailing me (see the link at the top-right on the home page).

Please share the word about Reinventing Parking!
  • If you enjoy Reinventing Parking or find it useful, please stop to think of two or three people you know who might also benefit from it. Send them a message to tell them!
  • By the way, if your contacts are in China, the site may be blocked to them. But you can invite them to subscribe by email with this link:
  • Do you have a blog or website on a related topic (eg urban planning, architecture, urbanism, urban transport, sustainable cities, public transport, etc)? Please link to me! I will try to reciprocate (if your site meets my guidelines) and link to at least your parking-related posts or sections.  Many thanks to the bloggers who have already linked here. Thanks especially to those who have written warm recommendations. Examples include: Human Transit, Market Urbanism, PCI Parking blog, Streetsblog Network, PT's parking blog and others.
  • I tweet on urban transport issues, with a strong emphasis on parking. So follow me on twitter and retweet me when I hit the spot for you.

Footway parking was a popular post. This example is in Manila.
The following posts have been particularly popular so far. If you are a new reader, they might be a good place to start:

PS. I am about to leave for a two-week holiday to see family and friends in Australia, so posting may  be a little lighter and briefer than usual. (But look out for the first guest post, coming soon from Carlos Pardo of Colombia, who will share his insights on Bogotá's dramatic parking reforms under Mayor Enrique Peñalosa in the late 1990s.)
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Provoked by PARK(ing) Day

Provoked by PARK(ing) Day
Friday's International PARK(ing) Day for 2010 was 'provoking' in more ways than one.

PARK(ing) Day came to Hangzhou, China for the first time this year. Photo from helina lass at Park(ing)Day Hangzhou 2010

It has been declared a great success by its global organisers. I agree. I love this event for the way it makes people think again about something they usually take for granted - on-street parking space

What is International PARK(ing) Day anyway?
PARK(ing) Day is a annual open-source global event where citizens, artists and activists collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public places. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world. The mission of PARK(ing) Day is to call attention to the need for more urban open space, to generate critical debate around how public space is created and allocated, and to improve the quality of urban human habitat … at least until the meter runs out!
These days, most PARK(ing) Day events have official permission. Nevertheless, a number faced problems with local bureaucracies, for example in Berlin and Brussels.

But why should special permission be necessary? This may seem a 'stupid question' but it made me stop and think. Keep reading for more reflections on PARK(ing) Day that start with this stupid question.

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