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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tokyo's "coin parking lots"

Small surface parking lots with automated payment machines are a striking feature of Japanese cities. 

In May 2010 I wrote about these at Reinventing Urban Transport. 
For the next week or two I will be reposting a few more parking posts from over there. New original posts are coming too.   

Here are the key parts of my May 2010 post: Tokyo's coin parking lots

Park a car at a coin-operated parking facility and a metal plate automatically rises to trap the vehicle (see photo below). Later, you pay into the machine (with coins, notes or prepaid card) to release the vehicle. No staff required on site.

The photos above are of the same lot in Ueno (central Tokyo). Daytime price: 200 yen for 20 minutes (around US6 per hour) which seems to be the norm in inner Tokyo.

Coin parking is a common use of small vacant lots. And Japanese cities have many small vacant lots (especially since the 1990 property crash).

Some coin-operated parking lots are VERY small.
This one has room for just one car! 
In this case, someone found it too tempting to park for free at the alleyway entrance, rather than pay 100 yen per 10 minutes. 

Vacant lot parking has some good points but can be deeply problematic too. I will say more on the policy angles some other time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Are Shoup's parking ideas relevant in Asia?

This is a re-posting of part of an item from Reinventing Urban Transport. The original was Guangzhou parking cure worse than disease? It was posted on 20 February 2008 and was prompted by a news item on parking in Guangzhou which mentioned revisions to that city's minimum parking requirements. It made me wonder if it is a good idea for cities in this part of the world to be getting into zoning for parking just as the practice is coming under increasing attack in the west. This was before I looked into this in more detail via the big Asian Cities parking study.


The result of parking requirements in Kuala Lumpur?

Do decision-makers in rapidly motorising societies everywhere need to rethink parking policy? There is talk of a "paradigm shift", at least according to Donald Shoup or Todd Litman. We urgently need to know what it will mean for motorising cities. Such places have not yet make the parking mistakes of North America but maybe they are about to?

In what ways might Shoup or Litman's analysis or Shoupista policies be relevant for developing cities such as Indian or Chinese ones?

By the way, Shoup suggests:

  • eliminate off-street parking requirements, so that parking becomes 'unbundled' from other real estate
  • price on-street parking to ensure a few vacancies and eliminate cruising for parking
  • return the street-parking revenue to local benefit districts.

You may say this is premature. Shoup's proposals are aimed at North America where the problem is the oversupply of parking. No-one would say that there is an excess of parking in Delhi or Guangzhou. And in any case, rich western cities have hardly begun to put his ideas into practice.

Traders in Delhi's Green Park are not Shoupistas (not yet).

Nevertheless, I think even cities with low car ownership should be paying close attention to these new parking debates.

Spike in American parking debate after Tyler Cowen channels Shoup in the New York Times

Parking policy has never had a higher profile in the American blogosphere and econoblogs as it had this week.

An avalanche of commentary and debate was triggered when Tyler Cowen, economics professor and blogger at Marginal Revolution, wrote approvingly of Donald Shoup's parking policy ideas in his 14 August 2010 column in the New York Times then blogged briefly with some clarifications and reflections.

Some of the responses have been insightful, some muddled. Most have been interesting to a parking policy wonk like me. They are interesting not just for their actual insights on parking policy but also for their window into the assumptions Americans make when thinking about parking (the comments are often good for this too).

Below are some highlights with a focus on those who took up the issue substantively. Various other blogs offered brief summaries and comments on Cowen's piece, like this one, this one and this one. [links updated]
  • Arnold Kling was not convinced.
  • Cowen responds to Kling. Then adds some links to more discussion: "Here is Arnold's response to Robin, here is Robin on Arnold.  And yet more from Arnold.  And here is an O'Toole comment ..."
  • Ryan Avent chimes in to support Cowen and Shoup and to express surprise at libertarians defending regulations.
  • Timothy Lee at the 'libertarian' Cato Institute was delighted by Cowen's column (unlike his colleague, Randal O'Toole). Lee feels that the "important effect is on the geography of cities. Parking mandates (and other regulations) preclude developers from catering to people who want to live in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.
  • Matthew Yglesias takes up Tim Lee's point, saying it is even worse than Lee thinks, because of feedback loops.  
There has also been a flood of other blogs highlighting the debate, like I am doing now. The funniest may be from Blunt Object, with a witty juxtaposition of coarse language, snarky observations and learned insider references to the economic schools of thought behind the points made by each protagonist.

A new parking policy blog!

Why a new blog on parking policy?

I have been blogging at Reinventing Urban Transport for some time now and the most common tag over there has become parking. It seemed time to consider a blog to focus specially on parking policy.

But more importantly, I have become rather passionate about parking lately. Who knew parking could be so interesting? I certainly didn't. I spent many years being interested in urban transport and urbanism while almost ignoring parking. I now think that was a mistake. I hope you will come to share my view that better parking policy can be a huge factor in achieving better cities and better urban transport. At the same time, there is much confusion over parking policy choices and their implications. I have been watching various parking policy debates and constantly see people talking past each other without a common understanding of the issue.

There are already several blogs focused on parking (see the list of links in the right sidebar). However, I don't see any that devote themselves to helping communities understand the parking choices they face and to helping them to improve their policies. 

What are the aims of the Reinventing Parking site?

A key aim of this blog is to help inform the parking policy choices confronting decision-makers and communities. I have my own views of course and I will not be shy to share them. However, I mostly want to help you to clarify your own thinking on parking policy. I want to help you understand the implications of the various parking policy choices, so you can choose your own, with 'eyes wide open'.  If you have very firm ideas on parking policy, this site may shake them up a little perhaps.

Parking policy plays a huge role in shaping metropolitan areas and their transport patterns, yet parking is usually planned with little thought for its power. It can create enormous cross-subsidies in society, yet most people hardly notice. Parking policy choices can be pivotal for cities, yet there is widespread confusion over the nature of those choices and what they imply. We need to do much better.

I hope to 'surface' the assumptions about parking that you may have without even being aware of them. I will also strive to be open to re-evaluating my ideas in the light of evidence and reason. Parking policy debates are full of confusion and hidden assumptions (in my humble opinion).

Let's seek some clarity together! I hope this site can also nurture a community of people who see parking as important and who are seeking better ways to deal with it. Relevant comments and discussions are most welcome. I am also open to guest post suggestions.

An international perspective

This blog has a wide geographical focus. Cities all over the world have much to learn from each other (including from mistakes). I hope this site can help you see your own city's parking policies in a wider comparative perspective.

I am interested in parking policy in human settlements all over the world, rich and poor, east and west. I happen to be an Australian academic living and working in Singapore. I have lived in Southeast Asia since 1994. This site emerges from my parking research agenda which focuses on both East and West and both North and South (see here and here for now). I will be using the site to do some thinking out loud as the research continues. I hope feedback here will enrich the work.

My focus at the moment is car parking but I will also touch on motorcycle and bicycle parking as well as goods vehicles, taxi ranks, etc.

If you want to follow progress on this site, please click on one of the subscribe options to your right. You can also follow me on twitter @PaulABarter. I tend to tweet on parking quite a bit (and also on urban transport policy issues more generally).

You can get a taste of my thinking so far on parking policy by browsing the parking posts at Reinventing Urban Transport. In the next few days I will re-post some of those older posts here at Reinventing Parking (perhaps with some editing or new commentary).

If you are new to parking policy but crave more information, then try some of the links to other parking-related sites listed in the sidebar to the right.