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Saturday, September 4, 2010

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 This can be withdrawn if demand is too high.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'.

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]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

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).


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.

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. [Update: you can see the full ruling here.]

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:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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:
Since you say that many cities do not have minimum parking requirements, can you provide a list of some of these cities?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

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)