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: http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=ReinventingParking.
  • 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.

1 comment

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Puzzling policy: price controls on private-sector parking

Puzzling policy: price controls on private-sector parking
Would it surprise you to know that some cities control the price of parking even for private-sector off-street parking operations? 

Beijing, Guangzhou, Hanoi and Jakarta do control parking prices, so I assume the practice is common throughout China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The parking operator at this shopping centre in Jakarta was exceeding the regulated prices late in 2009. The official rates specified Rp2000 (US20c or so) for the first hour and Rp1000 for each subsequent hour.
Controlling private sector parking prices seems highly unusual to me. Surely most cities around the world allow such parking to have market prices? Am I wrong? Can you tell me of any other places that regulate parking fees charged by private-sector parking operators? Please use the comments to let me know.

Such a policy seems unwise.
  • The politics of parking pricing is difficult enough for public-sector parking. On-street parking pricing and state-run hospital parking prices seem especially controversial. Why add to your troubles by also trying to control private-sector parking?
  • The usual economists' arguments against price controls apply here. With regulated prices we inevitably suppress supply, inflate demand and throw away the information value of market prices.
  • In certain cases, such as airport parking, there may be a monopoly problem so that high parking prices are a sign of market failure, which could justify regulation. But within urban areas this is rarely the case. In neighbourhoods with commercial parking, there is usually competition.
  • Finally, in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, private car owners tend to be high-income people. Why does an elite group need to be protected from market prices?

I am assuming that the price controls keep the prices lower than the market would. But is it true? 
  • I am pretty sure of this for Hanoi, where there are many complaints of saturated parking and of high black-market parking prices, suggesting official prices are much too low.
  • In Jakarta in late 2009, many parking lots were charging slightly higher than the official rates. This actually prompted enforcement action in February 2010. Clearly, if parking prices were deregulated in Jakarta they would generally be higher than they are now under the strict price controls. There has recently been talk of a parking price revision in Jakarta but deregulation of parking prices is not yet on the radar.
  • In 2008 Guangzhou’s price controls become more restrictive than before, provoking complaints from the private parking industry. In Guangzhou our study found most prices were at the city-decreed price level but some were below it. So maybe the official rates in Guangzhou are not yet too different from market prices.

Officially sanctioned parking prices in Guangzhou.
Why do these cities control parking prices? I heard several different answers. None of them seemed persuasive to me but they are obviously carrying the day locally. They are interesting enough for some detailed discussion, which I will tackle some other time.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Hospital parking charges - a learning moment?

It looks like English hospitals will keep charging fees for parking after all.

The United Kingdom's new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has announced a probable reversal of the plan (by the previous Labour government) to stop hospitals in England charging for car parking:
In 2009 Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham promised to scrap the fees, which raise about £110m a year. But the Department of Health has now said the idea to scrap car parking charges was not properly funded. A Department of Health source said it was not a U-turn, because the current government had never committed itself. Health minister Simon Burns said: "For a long time we have been unconvinced that Labour's car parking idea was properly funded and practical.
This seems a good decision to me. But it isn't a popular one. The public reaction so far in England has been hostile.

Will the Coalition government explain persuasively why this is a good policy? If it can, then this could be a good learning moment in parking policy. I don't have high hopes on that but let me explain why I think this is a good decision. I am refining and building on my earlier comment on this (in August).

Hospitals and the UK's National Health Service have a clear mission - health, not parking.  I don't see how this mission can be stretched far enough to justify using the health budget to subsidize all hospital parking.

However, some might say, 'but hospitals can't properly fulfill their mission if getting to them is a hardship for too many people!' It is not a bad point. NewsTechnica, gets at this with a (spoof!) quote in a funny post, "NHS budget in parking-led recovery":
“The NHS remains free at the point of contact,” said health minister Simon Burns. “But we didn’t say anything about getting to the point of contact.”

But I would argue that wanting free parking for everyone who visits a hospital is stretching this logic too far!
  • It DOES make sense for access to hospitals to be a central issue in hospital location decisions. But since it is impossible to have a hospital on every corner, there will always be some costs involved in getting to them. Parking is just one of those costs.

  • Does it make sense for the health budget to pay for ALL transport costs in accessing a hospital? Obviously not.

  • On the other hand, it does seem reasonable to help some people with some of their transport costs to hospitals. Using health funding for the hospital transport costs of people who really need it could be seen as serving a health objective more than a transport objective. There is no clear cut line between the two but a line has to be drawn.

  • So, by all means do give a reasonable travel allowance to those who really need it, such as long-term or needy patients and their families who visit them.
     
  • If such an allowance is well-targetted and if the sum given in each case is about the same as the parking charges that would be incurred, then this should be much cheaper than free parking for all.

  • It should also be consistent and mode-neutral. Don't just give free parking to the needy ones who have cars and give nothing to other needy folk who don't drive! Better to give all the deserving cases a travel allowance, which can be used towards any transport costs, not just parking charges. What is so special about parking that it must be subsidized when other transport costs are not. 

Have I convinced you? Or do you still think hospital parking should just be free?

Don't forget that this is a government that is committed to deep spending cuts. Adding some new poorly-targetted subsidies for parking would be a weird thing for such a government to do, while simultaneously cutting important public services?  

Parking is never 'free'. The only question is who faces the costs.
1 comment

Friday, September 10, 2010

Walkway parking - a problem almost everywhere?

Walkway parking - a problem almost everywhere?
Parked vehicles on pedestrian facilities are a serious problem in many cities around the world. Are they a problem where you live?

This post will not be a carefully thought-out treatise on this subject. I will merely offer a series of brief examples and photographs. This post is about highlighting the issue and showing that it afflicts several continents. Today I am not trying to analyse or solve it. Those tasks will have to wait.

Seoul has not cracked this problem.

A quick search in various world languages (using Google Translate) suggests this is an issue in many countries! Try clicking one of the searches below.
Translated results for sidewalk parking
Language
Translated query

Spanish  
acera de aparcamiento

French
stationnement trottoir
1,110,000 results
Arabic
وقوف السيارات على الرصيف

Chinese (Simplified)  
人行道停车

Portuguese  
Estacionamento calçada

[Update: Fixed the French language search term]

Many Chinese cities have rampant parking on walkways. This was a key issue highlighted by ITDP's report on parking in the Daoli district of Harbin in China.

Pavement parking is common in many of China's cities. This is in Guangzhou, which is actually better than most.

San Francisco's problem with sidewalk parking has prompted a wonderful blog: the San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking. The last post was from January 2010 but the site has numerous examples and some interesting analysis of the problem.


4 comments

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How not to privatize your parking meters (insight from the Urbanophile)

If you don't yet have a firm opinion on City of Chicago's recent parking meter lease, the Urbanophile (Aaron Renn) has an August post which will help.

After reading it you may not agree with everything he says but you will understand the fundamental issues that are at stake. He argues that it is inherently risky to effectively 'lock in' one particular policy arrangement for a significant part of the urban public realm for 75 years!

Now he has followed up with a critique of the very similar contract in Indianapolis that soon goes to its city council for approval. He sees the Indy deal as even worse than Chicago's.

For those in a hurry, here are some key quotes from the Urbanophile's discussion of the Chicago deal
... even if Chicago didn’t extract the last penny of value out of the parking meters, so what? It’s highly unlikely you are going to win huge in every deal. In fact, the more of them you do – and Chicago has done several – the more likely you’ll encounter a loser...

I’ve long said that most of the critiques of the Chicago parking meter lease are overblown... But even so, this deal, and any deal like it, contains serious fatal flaws.

The main problem with the parking meter lease is that it locks the city into a particular policy structure on parking for the next 75 years. In order to get someone to pay $1 billion up front, you have to give them certainty as to the quantity, location, hours, and rates of the meters. All of these matters are thus written into the contract. In effect, Chicago has irrevocably set public policy with regards to parking for the next 75 years.

This might not matter for something like a toll road ...

But with on street parking it is very, very different. Parking spots are the curb lane of your streets. Your streets are the primary public space in your city. They are intimately connected with everything that happens in the city, which is one reason parking policy is so politically controversial. ... The city of Chicago has ceded a portion of its urban planning powers to a private company. ...

The other tragedy is that Chicago has locked itself into a parking policy at just the moment that we’re on the cusp of a revolution in on-street parking management. ... dynamic congestion pricing is coming to parking. ...

We have no idea what the world is going to be like 5, 10, 25 years down the road, much less 50 or 75. Anything that locks cities into a particular policy framework for the long term for areas where there isn’t a strong track record of success poses a high risk. I would strongly advocate that cities avoid entering into long term on-street parking leases until successful models have been developed and have proven themselves through shorter term, successful contracts.
The Urbanophile is even more scathing of the Indianapolis contract (as currently written). Go take a look
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Conventional parking policy has not one but TWO challengers (and they are very different)

Conventional parking policy has not one but TWO challengers (and they are very different)
This post is especially relevant to a key goal of this blog, which is to help you to clarify the nature of parking policy choices faced by your community.

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: 
6 comments

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Singapore public-sector parking (part 3): pricing solutions for HDB parking problems?

Singapore public-sector parking (part 3): pricing solutions for HDB parking problems?
I was quoted on parking issues in today's Sunday Times (the Sunday edition of Singapore's Straits Times). The article by Jeremy Au Yong is a commentary on the 'think' page: 'For convenient parking, pay more'. The article is behind a paywall for now, sorry, but I hope to be able to post a link later. [UPDATE: OK. Here is a link to the article.]

This post is the third in a series (see one and two). 

The headline of the ST article is a little misleading but it may grab some eyeballs I imagine. It is misleading because performance-based parking pricing is not necessarily only about raising prices.

Jeremy Au Yong''s article discusses the idea of using pricing solutions along the lines of SFPark's demand-responsive parking pricing to address the current 'parking crunch' problems in Singapore's public housing (HDB) estates.

This might seem odd at first glance. The SFPark example and others, such as in Park Slope in New York City, involve demand-responsive pricing for short-term on-street parking. By contrast, HDB parking is off-street and serves mainly residential purposes. Nevertheless, it is an interesting suggestion that is worth thinking about. I am quoted in support of this possibility.

I feel the need to discuss a few points.
  1. It was not mentioned in Mr Au Yong's commentary, but it is for visitor parking that demand-responsive pricing would be most obviously worth a try. Performance-based pricing applied only to visitors should be able to guarantee that residents can find parking when they return home, so long as there are enough parking places for all the season permits. This should help a great deal since many areas have problems because of the overlap between visitor parking and residents' parking in the evening and on weekends.

  2. Au Yong's article focuses on nudging season parking prices so that on a local scale they vary from parking lot to parking lot within a neighbourhood. He suggests that this could shift demand around a little, away from the most crowded carparks towards slightly less convenient ones, within each neighbourhood. I think he is correct that this could probably help in some areas where there is not an absolute shortage but a rather a shortage of very convenient parking spots.

    Mr Au Yong observes for his own home area, Ang Mo Kio, that the nightly parking shortage is rather localised. The most convenient parking lot near his home cluster of HDB blocks is 'perpetually full' while a larger one a little further away is usually half empty, he says. Clearly, somehow pricing the full lot a little higher than the empty one should help redistribute demand a little. The right price difference could emerge from trial and error.

    However, it is important to note that this could be done in a less ambitious way than trying full-blown demand-responsive prices, which might be problematic unless they are part of a wider set of comprehensive reforms (see my point 3 below).

    In localities with this kind of very localised problem, this could simply involve nudging prices of unpopular lots down a little to draw motorists to them and nudging the prices of the most popular lots up a bit to dampen their demand a little. However, the average for an area could remain the same as the standard prices, rather than varying from area to area.

  3. Au Yong's article also suggests that season parking prices could come to vary across the whole of Singapore under such a demand-responsive pricing arrangement. Unfortunately, if we did that we would get some perverse results initially. 
    I think Mr Au Yong makes a mistake when he talked about a 'crowded HDB carpark in town' versus 'a half-empty one in Punggol'. Actually, the current shortages are NOT necessarily in the central areas. My impression is that parking crunches are mostly in estates far from the city-centre, such as Sengkang, Punggol, Tampines, Pasir Ris, Bukit Batok and others.

    If that is true, then the initial results of any shift to making HDB season parking prices more demand-responsive could be a rather odd. Season parking prices would rise in some outer areas and might drop in some inner areas. Strangely, parking could get more expensive in some places with cheap HDB housing and cheaper in some places with expensive HDB flats!

    These perverse effects would arise as a legacy of HDB's current policy of trying to supply enough parking to meet demand in all its estates at uniform prices regardless of the location.

    So it would be problematic to shift only pricing onto a demand-responsive basis without also making supply policy take account of both parking prices and land values.

    Au Yong is right to point out that it is odd that parking prices are the same regardless of land prices and flat prices. Why should parking cost the same in Queenstown or Duxton Pinnacle with their expensive flats as it costs in Yishun or Woodlands, which have cheap flats? But fixing that oddity would require a more radical set of reforms than just a simple change to the pricing mechanism. [I may write about these more radical possibilities some other time.]
In any case, Jeremy Au Yong is probably right to say that nothing along these lines is likely to happen very soon in Singapore. As I mentioned yesterday, residential parking is politically sensitive in most countries and Singapore is no exception.

This neighbourhood in Pasir Ris is one of those said to be facing a parking crunch at night. Notice that HDB has already reserved all of the parking here for season permit holders only at night.
1 comment

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Singapore public-sector parking - part 2: HDB's full parking lots

Singapore public-sector parking - part 2: HDB's full parking lots
In this post I want to focus on the problem of residents' complaints over full parking lots in many HDB (public housing) estates. The aim today is to understand the problem and the existing approaches to addressing it.

When I started writing this, I intended to consider whether performance-based parking pricing might be able to help. This would be of wide interest, since US experiments with such pricing so far have not included residential parking (which would be even more controversial). But this post is already long, so I will save that topic for another day. 

In part 1 on Thursday I expressed surprise that Singapore has not tackled parking issues with its trademark demand-responsive pricing approach. But when it comes to residential parking issues I guess it is not so very surprising. Residential parking the world over is especially political. Furthermore, Singapore's other pricing solutions in urban transport are not exactly popular so you can understand wariness about adding another one.

Supply decisions respond to demand but prices don't

As I mentioned in part 1, HDB parking prices generally don't vary from place to place. The agency balances supply and demand with a predict-and-provide approach (which takes the existing prices as a given rather than using them to dampen increases in demand). So over the long-term, expanding supply to meet demand is the main strategy. This is less problematic and is easier in Singapore than elsewhere because of the control over the rate of growth of the car fleet.

HDB also has a range of non-pricing tactics to give residents priority over visitors.

For example, nighttime (10.30pm to 7am) visitor parking can be forbidden altogether in locations with high overnight demand. Many residential parking lots in HDB are currently free on Sundays and public holidays. This can be withdrawn if demand is too high.

Red line markings ('red lots'*) indicate parking spots that are reserved for season permit holders only. 'White lots' can be used by visitors at any time. In the face of excessive demand, HDB can reduce white spaces and increase the number of red ones. This year it also introduced a new colour code ('bi-coloured lots', both red and white) to indicate more clearly those parking spaces which are reserved for residents only part time (7pm to 7am and on Sundays and public holidays). Red paint will now say unambiguously 'residents only'. 

HDB also gives priority to the first car in a household (see near the bottom of this news item). Subsequent cars are at the end of the queue and therefore get season parking permits only in parking lots with enough space. These may be further from the home. In the debates over the current 'shortages', some folks have also suggested charging second and subsequent cars a much higher price for season parking.

An HDB multi-storey car park with roof-garden (in Sengkang)

Recently, HDB broke with the pattern above and announced a price change

HDB is doubling the overnight (10.30pm-7am) visitor parking fee (from S$2 to S$4). This will help a little I think but it doesn't address the crux of the current problems (as observers, including ruling-party MPs, have noted). But is it a sign of things to come?

What is the problem really?

Despite Singapore's vehicle quota system, car ownership rose more rapidly than intended in recent years. This has apparently overwhelmed HDB's residential parking supply in certain areas. So some estates are now facing a 'parking crunch'.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Around the block: parking links roundup #1

Here is a compilation of recent parking policy highlights (and some curiosities) from around the web.

Three short video clips reporting on "Parking woes in Singapore" from the Straits Times online's Razor TV. I am not sure if this link will be permanent. Includes some breathless exclamations over expensive parking (over prices that are actually quite low compared with CBD prices in many rich cities around the world). 

Straight Outta Suburbia highlights the power of mapping the land lost to parking (using the example of a light rail station vicinity in Los Angeles).

UC Berkeley research on how parking lots affect the environment. Interesting approach and findings.

UK's Living Streets organisation calls for exclusion zones banning parking around school gates to encourage walking to school.  

Hyderabad also going after 'parking norm violators' (The Times of India). See also my post on similar events in Ahmedabad.

A deadly 4-hour street battle in Beirut was reportedly triggered by a parking space dispute! (Parking was clearly not the underlying cause) 

My new paper on parking finally out in Transport Reviews (behind pay-wall sorry) "Off-Street Parking Policy without Parking Requirements"

A planning boad member reflects on parking code follies: in Orange County, California. 

Sikkim, India is to demand proof of parking as a condition for car registration (see my take on this topic

Performance-based parking pricing reaches Los Angeles (but no sign of any easing of parking requirements yet) (via Market Urbanism)

A video of a VERY narrow parking space in a Dutch house. In compact cities it is not easy to minimize opportunity cost of parking.

Mumbai is spending big on park-and-ride facilities. But is Park & Ride really good planning for high-density cities?

Jakarta on-street parking ‘protection’ shakedowns (via The Jakarta Post here and here)

A local council representative muses on the thankless task of addressing car parking woes in SS20 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Via the Nut Graph.

Thoughtful analysis from the Urbanophile on 'Parking Meters and the Perils of Privatization'

The Australian Parking Conference 7-9 November.

Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking, will be at a full-day seminar at Melbourne Town Hall on November 4.  Details here.

NYCDOT's Park Smart program, which raises the price of on-street spaces when demand is highest, has helped more people find parking in Park Slope while relieving the traffic caused by cruising for a space, according to new data released by the agency. [via Streetsblog NYC]
No comments

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Singapore public-sector parking pricing - part 1

Singapore public-sector parking pricing - part 1
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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Important parking ruling by India's Supreme Court: Does it outlaw 'unbundling'?

Important parking ruling by India's Supreme Court: Does it outlaw 'unbundling'?
India's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that developers cannot sell parking spaces as independent real-estate units. The court ruled that parking areas are 'common areas and facilities'. This upholds an earlier Bombay High Court ruling.

First, let's understand the ruling.

According to PTI news agency (via YahooNews):
A Bench of Justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik in a judgement rejected the argument of a real estate development company that they are entitled to sell garages/stilt parking areas as separate flats to owners who intend to use it as parking facilities.
...
"The promoter has no right to sell any portion of such building which is not flat within the meaning of Section 2(a-1) and the entire land and building has to be conveyed to the organisation. The only right remains with the promoter is to sell unsold flats.

"It is, thus, clear that the promoter has no right to sell stilt parking spaces as these are neither flat nor appurtenant or attachment to a flat, Justice Lodha writing the judgement said. The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal of the promoter Nahalchand Laloochand Pvt Ltd challenging the Bombay High Court''s ruling that under the MOFA (Maharashtra Ownership Flats Act) a builder cannot sell parking slots in the stilt area as independent flats or garage.

Housing in Ahmedabad with parking at ground level between the stilts.

I fear that this ruling may be misunderstood to mean that unbundling of parking has been forbidden completely or that charging for off-street parking has been outlawed. 

Do you know what I mean by unbundling? Here are some basics on parking unbundling from this nice primer from Boston:
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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Donald Shoup responds to the Antiplanner on 'free parking'

Donald Shoup responds to the Antiplanner on 'free parking'
Prof Shoup has tweeted a link to a 10-page open-letter (PDF) with his detailed response to Randal O'Toole's 'Antiplanner' post entitled, Free Markets for Free Parking. Shoup's letter seeks to correct some misunderstandings and misrepresentations of his work in 'The High Cost of Free Parking'.

Plentiful parking in the suburbs. If it were purely a private, market-driven choice would there be so much? Or do minimum parking requirements have something to do with it?

I have extracted some highlights from Prof Shoup's letter below. I have chosen mostly sections that focus on the theme of minimum parking requirements. I particularly like the swimming pool comments in the third exchange.


[UPDATE: Streetsblog NYC has now posted the whole Shoup letter in a readable format (not pdf).]


O'Toole:  “Shoup’s work is biased by his residency in Los Angeles, the nation’s densest urban area. One way L.A. copes with that density is by requiring builders of offices, shopping malls, and multi-family residences to provide parking. Shoup assumes that every municipality in the country has such parking requirements, even though many do not.”
Shoup:  Even Houston, which does not have zoning, has minimum parking requirements, and they resemble the parking requirements in almost every other city in the United States. Houston requires 1.25 parking spaces for each efficiency apartment in an apartment house, for example, and 1.333 parking spaces for each one-bedroom apartment. Here is the link to the minimum parking requirements in Houston’s municipal code: http://tiny.cc/iaj35
...
Since you say that many cities do not have minimum parking requirements, can you provide a list of some of these cities?


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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parking basics: 'Performance-Based Parking Pricing'

Parking basics: 'Performance-Based Parking Pricing'
San Francisco's SFPark trial has raised the profile of performance-based pricing for on-street parking (see a video on this at the end of this post).

I first wrote about this kind of parking pricing in 2008 under the title: "Performance-Based Parking Pricing" - Don't Yawn! It could be the next big thing. It's nice to make an accurate prediction now and then. Here is an updated and improved version of what I said in 2008: 

If the topic of parking pricing makes you yawn then think again! This is a hot topic in urban transport policy at the moment. Lately, I have been asking students and training groups these questions about on-street parking:
What is the right price of kerbside parking in a busy shopping street in a city? And how can we tell when we have the wrong price?

I have tried this with three groups so far. With a little prodding they agreed that (if pricing is to be the main mechanism to encourage turnover):
The price is too low if there are no empty spots, so most motorists take a long time to find a vacant parking place. The price is just right if there are just enough vacancies so that most people can find a park very quickly (zero search time). And the price is obviously too high if a large number of vacancies can be seen.

They were actually working out for themselves (with a little guidance) the principles of 'performance-based parking pricing'. This innovation has been emerging recently at the urging of UCLA Professor, Donald Shoup. He didn't invent this approach to pricing but Prof Shoup has been vigorous in promoting it and it is a key component in his wider set of parking policy proposals.

Image source: Donald Shoup (2006) The High Cost of Free Parking (APA)
Here is an excerpt from a Shoup article on this at Planetizen:
We can call this balance between demand and supply the Goldilocks principle of performance-based parking prices: the price is too high if many spaces are vacant, and too low if no spaces are vacant. When a few vacant spaces are available everywhere, the prices are just right. If prices are adjusted to yield one or two vacant spaces in every block (about 85 percent occupancy), everyone will see that curb parking is readily available. In addition, no one can say that performance-based parking prices will drive customers away if most curb spaces are occupied all the time.

Here is more from Shoup's item on Planetizen:
Prices that produce an occupancy rate of about 85 percent can be called performance-based for three reasons. First, curb parking will perform efficiently. Most spaces will be occupied, but drivers will always be able to find a vacant space. Second, the transportation system will perform efficiently. Cruising for curb parking will not congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air. Third, the economy will perform efficiently. The price of parking will be higher when demand is higher, and this higher price will encourage rapid parking turnover. Drivers will park, buy something, and leave quickly so that other drivers can use the spaces. For parking, transportation, and economic efficiency, cities should set prices to yield about an 85 percent occupancy rate.

New York's StreetFilms produced a great 5 minute on-line video to illustrate these ideas in 2008. Last month, SFPark brought out a wonderfully clear video explanation of performance-based parking pricing. Scroll down to see the SFPark video.

My guess is that this approach to pricing should be relevant almost everywhere, including parking-scarce Asian cities. In fact, the idea does not just have to apply to on-street parking. It could also be used for off-street parking that is owned by municipalities and governments.

Does anyone know of any attempts to price parking in this way anywhere else besides the current American trials? I think Taipei's approach may come close but the prices don't vary much across the day. Any others?

Would this be legal to try in your city?

Here is the SFPark video in case you haven't seen it yet.


SFpark Overview from SFpark on Vimeo.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Do CBD parking prices in your city look expensive when compared with alternative uses of that space?

Do CBD parking prices in your city look expensive when compared with alternative uses of that space?
If a parking deck in a city-centre building were not parking, what else could it be? There are various possibilities. A basement parking lot could have housed retail or a food court for example. Ground level parking might otherwise be retail. Parking decks above ground level could otherwise be office space.

This Bangkok building (in Siam Square) has many storeys of parking which could have been office space of course. Is it useful to ask how much income the parking levels yield, compared with the office levels?

So does parking provide returns on investment that are comparable to those alternative uses?

It is not easy to answer that question but insights emerge from comparing city centre parking prices with city-centre office rents. To do that we have to express both as a price per month per square metre. This is possible with the help of data on both from Colliers International.

The underlying idea here is the opportunity cost of structured parking in central business districts (CBDs). In other words, we get an idea of the cost of the built space that is used as parking by thinking about the cost of similar space that is used for something else.

I shared data that made this comparison in a post at Reinventing Urban Transport in May 2010, titled: Parking prices from a different angle


Below the fold are the key parts of that May 2010 post (edited and improved a little)


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