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Friday, August 27, 2010

Parking policy in Asian cities: an Overview

Here are highlights from the Asian Cities Parking Study that I mentioned before.

Although the final report is still under review, I gave this presentation in late May in Manila at the ADB Transport Forum 2010.


The presentation was based on a study commissioned by ADB under RETA 6416: A Development Framework for Sustainable Urban Transport - Parking Policy in Asia: Status, Comparisons and Potential. I am grateful to many people for their help with this large study.


The cities in the study were:
  • Ahmedabad and Dhaka in South Asia
  • Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo in East Asia, and
  • Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore in Southeast Asia.

Here is a summary of the presentation.

First I outlined a framework for thinking about parking policy choices. It contrasts Conventional approaches (parking as ancillary infrastructure for buildings, hence parking requirements) with Parking management approaches (parking as a tool for wider policy goals) and Market-based approaches (parking as a real-estate based service).

Then I presented some selected results:
  • Comparisons of minimum parking requirements at commercial buildings (on average) by putting them into perspective relative to approximate car ownership
  • Highlighting that several cities exempt small buildings from requiring parking
  • Comparisons of the highest on-street parking prices found in each city and their use (or not) of time limits 
  • Some survey result highlights, such as: where people park at shopping/entertainment destination (eg on-street, on-premises, etc); the proportion paying for parking (as % of respondents parking for each purpose); and the average work-based parking prices paid by survey respondents. 

I also used 2009 Colliers International data to compare CBD parking prices with CBD Grade A office rents (on a rent per square meter basis). The results are interesting.

I then mentioned an argument that parking enforcement best practices do make a difference (such as delegating this to professionals).

I argued that Japan's proof-of-parking policy is important.

I highlighted that the survey results in several cities revealed significant amounts of priced off-street parking (both private and public sector) outside of destination premises. This was most significant in Beijing, Taipei, Hanoi, Hong Kong and (apparently) Tokyo.

I raised concerns that several cities have price controls over private sector parking (Beijing, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Jakarta).

I expressed surprise that the use of parking policy for travel demand management (TDM) is surprisingly rare in Asia (Seoul is the main exception). 

I argued that there seem to be several distinct parking policy trajectories in Asia:
  1. Parking requirement enthusiasts : Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila. South Asian cities seem headed this way.
  2. TDM cities with surprisingly conventional parking policy: Hong Kong, Seoul and Singapore
  3. (Inadvertent) Market-fostering : Tokyo
  4. An intermediate path : Taipei, Beijing and Guangzhou and (perhaps) Hanoi.

I made some (slightly speculative) policy arguments at the end: 
  • Fear of chaotic on-street parking is a key motivation for requiring parking in real estate developments
  • BUT plentiful off-street parking provides no guarantee of orderly on-street parking
  • Solving on-street parking problems requires on-street parking management, not necessarily off-street supply expansion.
  • On-street parking chaos is not proof of a shortage
  • Pricing is widespread in Asian cities, especially in East Asia 
  • A surprising proportion of parking is free-of-charge (or cheap) even in cities with high property prices 
  • Price controls on private-sector parking are unwise 
  • Government-subsidized parking is a highly regressive and unwise use of taxpayers’ resources 
  • Parking requirements seem an easy option but are problematic. Audacious to think that we can predict parking demand of buildings for decades 
  • Constraint-focused parking policy deserves wider application but faces political and practical barriers in many cities 
  • Multi-objective parking management has much to offer and deserves much wider application 
  • ‘Park-once neighborhoods’ (most parking in shared public parking with market-prices) are already common and are highly relevant to Asian conditions. They could provide a useful focus for ‘market-oriented’ parking policies.

These policy implications near the end are a little speculative and don't follow obviously from the data in the earlier slides. They are based on the wider findings, on the data in the study, on my wider research on parking, and on arguments advanced in the study report itself (out later this year I hope).

  A parking meter in Guangzhou.
It serves two spaces and accepts only contactless card payment.

Think parking policy is boring? Not if you're trying to fix parking in a South Asian city

Parking policy and practice can be dramatic, especially in South Asia. This was illustrated again this week in news from Ahmedabad.

Below is a re-posting from among the best posts on parking at my other blog, Reinventing Urban Transport. This one first appeared in April 2010 as: Parking dramas in South Asian cities

I have slightly edited and improved the April post.  

On-street parking (and double-parking) in the Motijheel office district of Dhaka.
Obviously the cars on the right are there all day.

As I mentioned last year, I have been investigating parking policy in 14 Asian cities. The report, commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), should be out in a month or two later this year, I hope.

I want to share some highlights. Yes, highlights. Don't laugh! Even I was surprised how much drama there is around parking.

Basement in a commercial street in Dhaka signposted as 'car parking' (but there are stairs not a ramp and this space had obviously been used for shops before being demolished, presumably in enforcement action.)

Newly motorizing cities in parts of Asia face some alarming predicaments over parking. For example, in South Asia it is common to find something like this:
A commercial street is clogged with motor vehicles. Many are parked at the roadside, across kerbs, and on footways and dusty verges. Some cars are double-parked.

News reports highlight the ‘shortage’ and call for action. Meanwhile, basement parking lots of many buildings along the street are half empty. They charge a small fee that is slightly higher than is charged in the streets.

Municipal regulations require these parking spaces be provided as a condition for building approval. However, some buildings have shops in their basements instead of parking. Building inspectors were persuaded to ignore these violations. Occasionally enforcement action is taken and basement shops are demolished.

The city government also wants to build parking structures itself. But the projects so far have been expensive and have low returns. Moreover, they have not prevented on-street parking chaos in their vicinities. There are plans for many more such structures but budget problems are stalling the program. The latest plan involves a developer building 10 storeys of office space in return for creating five storeys of public parking.
More on-street parking (and double-parking) in the Motijheel office district of Dhaka. The guy in yellow is a parking attendant, who takes the fee (T20 or US$0.30 per DAY I think it was) from drivers, including those who are double parking. By the way, all this double-parking is possible because almost all Dhaka cars are driven by a professional driver, who stays with the vehicle when it is parked.

The current South Asian solutions to these predicaments focus on minimum parking requirements for buildings as well as on government-provided parking. Mumbai is also offering floor area bonuses ('FSI' bonuses) to developers who build extra parking and then hand it over to the municipality as public parking.

In many cities these policies have been ineffectual so far (as seen in these Dhaka photos). But where such medicine does create plentiful off-street parking, the side-effects may be worse than the illness (as in North America's autocentric suburbs). In fact, parking requirements have been especially problematic when applied in dense contexts, such as America's inner-cities.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Japan-style "proof of parking" regulations for India?

A 'proof of parking' regulation has just been enacted in the tiny state of Mizoram in India's far east.
“The government has amended the Mizoram Motor Vehicles Rules last week making it compulsory for citizens to first ensure parking space before one intends to purchase a car,” said Transport Secretary P Lalthlengliana.
With several major Indian jurisdictions debating similar rules, the Mizoram measure has triggered a hostile editorial in the Times of India and an approving opinion from Rudroneel Ghosh in the same edition.

This prompts me to explain how this works in Japan and the apparent results. I hope this may help inform the debate in India and other countries where this policy is being considered.

One result of Japan's proof-of-parking regulation has been to foster a market for off-street parking places for lease. Here is an example in an inner Tokyo neighbourhood.

Japan's version of proof-of-parking (shako shomeisho) does not require ownership of a parking space. Permission to lease the space is good enough. If you are renting in a building with no parking you are not prevented from buying a car. You would just have to find a parking space to lease nearby and prove this to the local police.

The policy was imposed in the 1950s in Japan as car-ownership first started to take off. With very narrow residential streets, there was an urgent need to prevent them becoming hopelessly clogged with parked cars. The policy generally succeeded on that goal.

However, it has had several even more important effects.

Shoup's parking ideas offer MUCH more than a nifty way to price on-street parking

Performance-pricing for on-street parking is part of Donald Shoup's set of parking policy suggestions. It is getting a lot of attention lately, especially as the SFPark trial of such pricing gathers momentum in San Francisco and the smaller ParkSmart trial continues in New York City.

However, I think there is more to Shoup's agenda than most people seem to realise. 

Another key thrust is his call to abandon minimum parking requirements. This points towards a market-based approach to parking supply. This has more profound implications than most commentators have noticed and I argued as much at Reinventing Urban Transport in early June 2010. 

The original post was titled: Shoup's parking agenda is more profound than you think.  
Here is an updated and improved version of the first part of that June post.


Donald Shoup's 'The High Cost of Free Parking' points towards a profoundly different way of thinking about parking policy. It offers much more than just a nifty way to price on-street parking efficiently.

Conventional parking policy in action in New Zealand

Yet, in real-world policy debates over Shoup's parking ideas most people seem to focus mainly on his call to price kerbside parking for 85% occupancy. I am certainly a big fan of such performance-based parking pricing. But Shoup's agenda is even more interesting than that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is free parking relevant to a hospital's mission?

The UK is debating parking prices at hospitals. Scotland and Wales have made it free. In England visitors to hospitals are still charged for parking. This issue has provoked a debate between John Van Horn of Parking Today and Peter Goldin of sister publication, Parking World. A recent post at JVH's Parking Blog includes the latest points from both.

Their discussion strayed briefly from parking to the National Health Service (NHS) and contrasting UK versus US (and left versus right) views on health policy. I don't want to go there (For various wonkish reasons I lean towards a single-payer approach like the NHS by the way).


But this does illustrate an important parking policy question: Why should any organisation with a mission be involved in providing parking?

Conventional parking policy forces every development to take responsibility for its own parking demand by providing on-site parking (or sometimes parking nearby or a payment towards such parking). We are so used to this that we think it is normal and reasonable. We assume that it is the building manager's responsibility to make parking easy and affordable. But should it be?

I made a comment at JVH's blog:
Here is another way to think about it. What is the core 'mission' of the NHS? Surely the purpose of the NHS is health and medicine, not transport and certainly not parking.

Providing a travel allowance to a small proportion of clients, such as chronically ill patients and their care givers, can be justified as in line with the mission. Some of the recipients would use such an allowance to help with their parking costs, if they drive.

However, providing free-of-charge parking for all visitors and all staff at hospitals, paid for from the NHS budget, seems to me to be way outside the mission and a misuse of taxpayer's money. After all, NHS does not pay for anyone's bus tickets or taxi fares does it?

Can you imagine a parking policy in which we do NOT expect hospitals to subsidize parking in general? Can you imagine not expecting universities or schools or park agencies or any building managers to do so? Under such a parking policy, we would expect both onsite and off-site parking to be run as a business with maximising revenue as the primary objective. This would be best done by professionals whose core business and mission is parking, not health.

Would this mean a lack of compassion for patients and their families? I don't see why.

Some people do deserve help with the burden of transport to hospitals and they should get it from the hospital or health agency (the NHS in the UK case). Without the burden of subsidizing everyone's parking, there would actually be more money available with which to offer transport allowances to those who really need help in accessing the hospital. In other words, such assistance would be much better targetted at those in real need.

If I were a UK taxpayer I would object to precious NHS funds funding the parking of people who don't need such help. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ahmedabad threatens demolition of shops 'encroaching' on parking space

Ahmedabad's famous boulevard, CG Road, was featured in the 'Boulevard Book'. In fact, it was designed with help from the great Alan Jacobs.

Today many of CG Road's shopping centres face a 'demolition drive' of enforcement action against their violations of the municipality's parking space requirements. 

The 'multi-way boulevard' arrangement of CG Road, Ahmedabad.

In fact, many cities in South Asia face difficulties enforcing their minumum parking requirements. Developers and building managers often find it tempting to divert planned parking space to other uses. In this Ahmedabad example, shopping centres that are required by city by-laws to have a basement devoted to parking have often allowed shops to oocupy that basement.


The Times of India reports from Ahemedabad:
Shops in the basements of many commercial buildings  on the CG Road face demolition, and are to be razed in just a couple of days. The drive is aimed at clearing basement parking spaces in 52 buildings on the city's only boulevard.

After sending a number of warnings and notices, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has finally decided to act against irregular constructions on the CG Road.

The west zone office of the AMC has drawn a 'hit list' of 52 buildings on the CG road. In most of these buildings, the parking lots have been crammed with a variety of shops. "We will now target the CG Road where we have noticed irregularities, like building shops in the parking space of commercial complexes," said a senior AMC official. "To set the record straight, we are armed with a High Court order, which directs that all parking space be freed of encroachments and defaulters fined. We expect the members of the commercial complexes' association to co-operate with us."

I find this very sad.

Minumum parking requirements are coming under increasing attack in the west and have been abandoned in some inner city municipalities in favour of parking maximums. Yet here we see them being enforced ruthlessly in a densely developed Indian boulevard.

Is it time for Indian cities like Ahmedabad to consider alternative approaches to parking policy? Such alternatives will need to be adapted to Indian conditions of course.

The illegal conversion of parking basements to other uses is actually undestandable. The on-street parking is free or incredibly cheap and the financial return from the parking space in these buildings is tiny. So the incentives to evade these rules must be significant, especially for buildings serving middle-income or low-income customers, most of whom will not arrive by car anyway.

This CG Road shopping centre appears to have shops in the basement space. Presumably, they now face demolition?

Ten motorcycles per car parking space?

Small motorcycles and scooters can be amazingly space efficient to park. Up to 10 small motorcycles can be parked in one car parking space. 

I wrote about this in May 2010 on Reinventing Urban Transport in a post titled: Motorcycles squeeze into urban nooks and crannies

Here is an edited version of that post. 

Parking on the door-step (literally) in Hanoi

The space efficiency of motorcycles is important for many Asian cities.

Traffic engineers usually assume that motorcycles consume about half the road space of a car. In other words, two-wheelers' PCU value is typically given as 0.5 'passenger car units' in heavy traffic.

But motorcycle parking can usually squeeze in many more than two machines per car space.

These Taipei scooters may be an extreme case. How do they get them in and out?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Minimum parking requirements are like restroom requirements

Wikimedia Commons
Most planning systems require parking with buildings in almost exactly the same way as they require toilets with every building.

I am re-posting a June 2010 post at Reinventing Urban Transport in which I outlined the analogy between parking and toilets in the planning system. However, even though parking is indeed planned like toilets, the two are very different. Planning parking like toilets is probably a bad idea.

Below the fold is an edited version of the post from 10 June 2010, which was entitled: Parking slots are like toilets (according to conventional parking planning)


Planning systems treat parking and toilets in very similar ways and for similar reasons (such as to deter people from 'doing it in the streets'). Is this just a funny observation? I guess it is quite funny but I also have a serious point.

Planning toilets like we plan for fire-escapes, elevators and plumbing does work quite well (mostly). However, planning for parking like we plan for toilets is problematic. Below, I list ways that conventional planning does in fact treat parking and toilets in the same way. Then I highlight key differences which make planning parking like toilets seem like a very bad idea.

Be cautious about Park-and-Ride, especially in dense areas

Park-and-ride was the focus for two posts at Reinventing Urban Transport in May 2010. They questioned the wisdom of spending large sums of taxpayers' money to subsidize parking at urban mass transit stations, especially in places with high property prices. 

The two posts were:  Is park-and-ride a bad idea? and More on park-and-ride in dense parts of Asian cities

Below I have put the two posts together into one and edited a little.

Park-and-ride facility at Chatuchak, Bangkok
(This one is free-of-charge. And notice the institutionalised double-parking arrangement?)


The idea that car parking should be provided at mass transit stations has taken root in Asia.

The team that helped me investigate parking policy in Asian cities in 2009/2010 found active park-and-ride programs in Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Singapore and Taipei. Park-and-ride facilities have been debated in Ahmedabad and Jakarta for their BRT systems. Delhi wasn't in our study but park-and-ride at Delhi Metro stations has been a hot topic there too.

Interestingly, we found no government-sponsored park-and-ride in the Tokyo region, although there are private parking lots used in this way (without public subsidy) in the outer reaches of the metropolitan area.

I doubt the wisdom of building park-and-ride in dense parts of Asia's cities.

That statement may shock some readers. Park-and-ride seems to have a halo of virtue and is rarely questioned. After all, doesn't it entice motorists onto public transport who might otherwise drive into congested city cores?

But ask yourself, is this the most cost-effective way to get people into public transport?

Bangkok MRT park-and-ride structure at Lad Prao (above) and its dense urban context (below)

Is parking really the best use of space near high-capacity, high-frequency mass transit systems being built in these cities? Is this the best use of precious public funds?

In many Asian cities park-and-ride is widely assumed to be a good thing almost by definition. This is a mistake.

Proposals for park-and-ride facilities in dense urban contexts should be subject to more scrutiny. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vivid illustration of the impact of under-priced on-street parking

In March 2009, I highlighted a post at the Grush Hour blog, which provided a great example of how the under-pricing of on-street parking causes problems for everyone.

The original post at Reinventing Urban Transport was titled:  The high cost of cheap on-street parking - a vivid illustration

Here is the post from 2009: 

So you think on-street parking is public property and should be free? Do you think local governments that charge for on-street parking are uncaring and money grabbing? Maybe you doubt that cheap on-street parking causes any problems?

Then please take a look at Bern Grush's vivid description of the "cruising for parking" in one specific trip and all the problems it causes.


The trip should have been 5km but searching for parking by driving in circles at the end made the journey 8.25km! And that is the least of the problems that Grush describes.

The image above is from the post at the Grush Hour blog and shows just that last part of the journey.

You couldn't ask for a better explanation of the need for performance-based pricing for on-street parking.