Thursday, September 2, 2010

Singapore public-sector parking pricing - part 1

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Singapore is famous for its creation of market prices in road transport.
  • Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) involves demand-responsive prices for every gantry and for every half-hour period of the day. They are not demand-responsive in real time but are revised every few months, based on average traffic speeds. 
  • In addition, there is a quota for new vehicle registrations under the Vehicle Quota System (VQS). This creates a market price for the right to buy a car via on-line auctions for 'Certificates of Entitlement' (COEs). The current COE price for a small car is S$29,000. The COE price changes twice every month. This is added on top of the market price and to all of the other taxes (such as the 110% Additional Registration Fee).

Given all this official enthusiasm for creating market-type prices in transport, I have been surprised that public-sector parking prices have NOT been given the same treatment.

Don't get me wrong. Singapore's parking arrangements are a far cry from American suburban-style parking.
  • Free parking is rare. Almost all parking in Singapore is priced, as you would expect in a rather high-density metropolis with expensive real estate. Singapore motorists do not generally expect parking to be free.
  • Public housing estates have unbundled residential parking, which is a very good thing for efficiency and equity, especially since car-ownership rates are low (as a result of the quota system mentioned above).[1]
  • There are minimum parking requirements but they are very low by American standards. 
  • Private sector parking prices are not regulated and they vary widely, with the highest prices apparently found in the new parts of the financial district at Marina Bay.

However, Singapore's public-sector parking prices vary little from place to place and from time to time.  These prices are generally not adjusted in response to demand changes.[2]

The prices of parking run by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) [3] are almost uniform across the island. For example, daytime casual parking costs S$0.50 per half hour everywhere except the city centre where it is S$1 per half hour.

In HDB housing estates all over the island, car owners pay for 'season parking' permits at either S$65 (US$48) per month for open surface parking or S$90 (US$67) per month for parking in covered parking (usually meaning in multi-storey parking structures). By contrast, HDB flat prices do vary greatly from area to area.

The HDB response to complaints about full parking lots has usually been to consider adding supply. The approach seems to be to take the existing prices as a given and then to try to match supply to the predicted demand.

Could making public-sector parking prices more demand-responsive or somehow market-based help Singapore solve some of its current parking dilemmas? 

These dilemmas include how to respond to a reported parking 'crunch' at night in some HDB estates. I will tackle that question in part 2.


An inner-city example of HDB parking (the Rochor Road Car Park). This one is unusual for having basement parking. The price here is the standard $0.50 per half hour. This parking lot has different ramps for season parking and for visitors (which is also unusual I think).

Note: 

1. According to the 2007/08 Household Expenditure Survey, just over 30% of HDB households own at least one car.

2. There are some small exceptions but I don't want to get into such details here.

3. HDB is the Statutory Board that builds and manages Singapore's public housing estates where around 80% of residents live. Most are owner-occupiers, having purchased a flat under a 99 year lease, either directly from HDB or in the resale market. Here is a link to some of their residential parking information.
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