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Friday, September 10, 2010

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
Translated query

acera de aparcamiento

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

Chinese (Simplified)  

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.

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

Monday, September 6, 2010

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).


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: 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

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.