I argued recently that Donald Shoup's parking ideas point towards a market-oriented approach to parking supply policy. I said it offers much more than just a nifty way to price on-street parking efficiently.
Now here is the key point I want to make today. Such a market-based approach is NOT, repeat NOT, the same thing as the 'parking management' philosophy on parking.
Both of them do present a challenge to the conventional, supply-oriented approach but they are completely different from each other. Parking reformers need to get this straight I think. Parking management thinking sees parking as a TOOL of wider policy. This is actually in stark contrast with 'letting prices do the planning' as suggested by Prof Shoup.
|Parking management in action?|
Yet, if you have been following American parking policy debates lately, you may have the impression that parking supply policy comes in only TWO basic varieties.
For example, Todd Litman talks of two 'parking paradigms'. Todd's book is a fantastic resource on parking policy. But I think he errs when he paints a simple dichotomy between the 'old paradigm' (the conventional suburban approach with its excessive parking requirements) and a 'new paradigm' (a reformist approach in which parking supply is emphatically not the only solution to parking problems).
TWO NEW PARADIGMS?!
Parking reformers have focused so much on opposing the 'old paradigm' that many of us have failed to notice that there are actually (at least) two very different alternatives to the conventional approach to parking. Some of us have been pushing one, some have been urging the other. Much confusion has resulted.
Let me spell out in more detail below the three broad approaches to parking supply policy as I see them. I first explained these in a paper for Transport Reviews (journal paywall version; earlier pre-print version PDF).
The three approaches (dare I say 'paradigms'?) are:
- Conventional parking policy treats parking as a type of infrastructure. It assumes that every premises needs parking.
The primary goal of parking policy is to make sure each building has parking to meet its own demand. This usually involves imposing minimum parking requirements. (see Minimum parking requirements are like restroom requirements)
This approach assumes that parking "spillover" is always a bad thing.
Conventional parking policy is especially common in suburban locations designed around the automobile.
- Parking management also sees parking as infrastructure. However, it is infrastructure for each neighbourhood rather than for each premises.
Under parking management, parking is viewed as a tool for serving wider goals in transport policy and urban planning. These might include traffic reduction or mode split objectives or favouring retail customers over long-term parking.
Parking management can involve a diverse set of policies, including pricing and time limits to encourage turnover, parking maximums, and many others.
Todd Litman's writings on parking are mostly in this paradigm.
From a parking management perspective, spillover of parking outside each premises can be managed with pricing and other tools. So spillover need not be an excuse against deliberately constraining parking supply if necessary.
Parking management is common in inner city areas in North America and Australia and is very widespread in Europe. Some of the parking management literature ignores the surburbs and focuses mainly on city centres.
- A market-oriented stream in parking policy calls for market-based parking prices that are responsive to supply and demand conditions and allows private decisions to shape supply. Clearly, minimum parking requirements are anathama.
This requires on-street parking to be managed with demand-responsive pricing so that the off-street parking market is not undermined by underpricing and saturation in the streets. This would let prices and private choices optimise parking supply and demand.
This already happens in some places (like some city centres where private garages are most of the parking supply).
Shoup's parking policy proposals point towards fostering local markets in parking in many more locations than just city centres.
In a market-oriented perspective, spillover parking is perfectly natural and normal. It is not seen as a problem but is expected. Obviously, people will exercise their choice of which parking business to patronise (which will not always be in the same premises as their destination).
Can you think of a parking policy debate which has been muddied by a failure to make the distinction between Shoup-style thinking and parking management thinking?