Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá: The Golden Era, 1998-2000

Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá: The Golden Era, 1998-2000
This is the first of a guest series on parking policy in Bogotá by Carlosfelipe Pardo of Slow Research (site in Spanish).

Update: The second post in this series is here

Parking is missing from most accounts of Bogotá’s urban revolution
Much has been said about Enrique Peñalosa’s “urban revolution” when he was mayor of Bogotá, Colombia during 1998-2000. It is well known that he developed the world-renowned BRT system TransMilenio. It is also well known that he developed an aggressive agenda of public space recovery, sidewalk building and cycleway construction.

However, little is known about the parking revolution that his administration also started. This series of posts will describe parking achievements and decisions in that era and since then. Today’s post focuses on key parking changes under Peñalosa himself.

Public space for the people
Enrique Peñalosa’s main goal during his mandate was to generate equity in the use of public space. He saw that automobiles were taking away almost all space from pedestrians and other public space users, so he sought to recover as much space as possible for people, taking it away from cars. He also recovered space that had been illegally occupied by vendors, street hawkers, and even formal condos around the entire city.

Photo 1: A ‘mud street’ - paved for non-motorized use but unpaved for motor vehicles! Peñalosa's philosophy meant that, if little money was available, it should be invested in sidewalks rather than roads. Photo by Carlosfelipe Pardo
When a road was to be built in any neighborhood, he would build a wider and higher-quality sidewalk with the same money (the message was: if money is not enough, spend it on pedestrians). These efforts resulted in 77,764 square meters of public space recovery, and 863,143 square meters of newly built public space during the 3-years of his mandate.

The taming of on-street parking
An even more aggressive and contested method of recovering public space was to reclaim on-street parking space. Even though many citizens were complaining about the invasion of sidewalks and public space by parked cars, it was incredibly difficult to implement such a policy. In fact, at one point Peñalosa was at risk of being impeached, primarily due to anger from shop owners along important avenues of the city. However, the administration went ahead and implemented his policy.

Peñalosa argued that parking was not something that the city should supply, but something that car drivers (or private companies like shopping malls) should provide. As he jokingly described it once:
“Does the city give me a public closet to put my shoes inside? No, then they shouldn’t give me a parking space to park my car.”

The best example of this policy in action was on Carrera 15, an avenue in Bogotá in a high income area of approximately 5 kms length. Through this avenue there are various shops and office buildings, and some residential buildings.

Carrera 15 before Peñalosa
The situation in Carrera 15 was appalling (see photo above): more than five thousand free parking spaces were available to anyone who would arrive at a shop, while bad quality or no space was given to pedestrians along the same sidewalks. Shop owners did not see a problem with this situation, and felt greatly threatened by Peñalosa’s project to remove parking spaces and build wide sidewalks.
However, the local construction agency (IDU) did a survey which found that 80% of the vehicles parked outside shops were actually owned by shop owners and employees! Only 20% were of spaces were serving their clients. Furthermore, it was found that in some areas there was actually an oversupply of almost three times the actual parking space use (e.g. 166 cars parked in an area that had a total of 479 parking spaces). The Mayor was emboldened and the project went ahead. The results are shown in the photo below.

Carrera 15 after Peñalosa

No urban project can be perfect. 
Peñalosa’s on-street parking reforms were bold and effective. His main goal had been to transfer on-street parking spaces to off-street parking lots and this was successful. In line with this he also decided to offer tax incentives (discounts) to those who were interested in developing off-street parking lots. Many private companies took this opportunity to build a large number of off-street parking lots.

Unfortunately, the Mayor may have been too generous in encouraging off-street supply! In this he did not follow his own rhetoric which claimed that parking was a private matter to be paid for entirely by its private beneficiaries.

The shift away from free on-street parking to paid off-street parking was an important change for the city. However, time would present other challenges.

Look out for further posts in this Bogotá series.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Speaking on parking this Friday in Melbourne

Speaking on parking this Friday in Melbourne
I am interrupting my Australian holiday this Friday to give a lunchtime seminar on my parking research. It would be great to meet some Melbourne readers of the blog if you can make it.

The event is organised by GAMUT (Governance and Management of Urban Transport) at the University of Melbourne (in the Architecture Building).

Here is the blurb for the talk:
Car parking policy choices and opportunities in perspective
Interest in car parking policy has become heightened in recent years and conventional parking policy is now more contested than ever. This talk will discuss new insights on parking policy developed in two publications by the speaker. One, recently published in Transport Reviews, explores further implications of Donald Shoup's arguments calling for the abolition of minimum parking requirements. The other, soon to be published as an Asian Development Bank (ADB) working paper, reports on a comparative study of parking policy in 14 large metropolitan areas in East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. Both publications use a new typology of parking policy approaches. The results of the studies and the framework help place common parking policy controversies into a clearer perspective than usual and highlight policy opportunities which are otherwise difficult to see.
See for details. An RSVP is a good idea since they are laying on some light refreshments.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Aargh! Another city wants to regulate parking prices?

I reported before that cities in Indonesia, China and Vietnam regulate the prices of private parking facilities. Now Chennai, the largest city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is also considering price controls on private-sector parking.

Oh dear. I hope they think very carefully first. Can someone please refer Chennai's politicians to my previous post on this issue?

I am not a fan of this policy (to put it mildly). Parking price controls are a bad idea. I don't want to beat about the bush about that. They are profoundly counter-productive. Consider these points:
  • All of India's large cities claim to have a severe parking shortage. 
  • The low investment returns on parking space prompt some building owners to divert parking to other uses. 
  • Rising private-sector parking prices are precisely what is needed to get a better balance between supply and demand. 
  • Some basic needs might warrant for price controls in some situations (this is another debate!). But it is a huge stretch to claim parking is a basic need, especially in a place like India. 
  • Services based on natural monopolies do usually need price regulation. But parking is usually NOT a natural monopoly. (As I said in my previous post on this topic.)
  • So why on earth would you want to cap those prices? [Could it be anything to do with the reluctance to take effective control of on-street parking? Yes, of course! But in that case focus more energy there, not on fake solutions like controlling off-street parking prices.]

Most of the (so-called) arguments for price controls are incredibly feeble.

Many seem to consist of little more than complaints over rising prices. Local motorists and politicians are shocked (shocked!) that shopping malls and private recreation centres in the city have been "charging Rs 10 and 20 per hour for a two-wheeler and Rs 50 and 60 per hour for a car." US$1 is about Rs45 currently.  The news item from Chennai quotes breathless exclamations about the 'fleecing' of customers:
"Initially, the parking fee for two-wheelers at a shopping mall on Radhakrishnan Salai was Rs 5. All of a sudden it was increased to Rs 10. It is high time they were regulated," said PN Peter of Adyar.
I gather that Radhakrishnan Salai is one of Chennai's busiest and swankiest shopping streets.

Nevertheless, there is at least ONE substantive argument for price regulation which I see popping up (with slight variations) in many countries and which raises some important issues. I don't agree with it but it does deserve some detailed discussion (in another post soon).

The argument has to do with the ways in which parking is usually NOT counted as part of floor space which planners allow in a development and is usually NOT subject to the full force of property taxes. These issues may seem a little dry but they are important. If you want to understand parking policy choices you are going to have to grapple with some of the esoteric planning rules which govern parking and property taxes.

More on this argument some other time.

By the way, I hope this post does not come across badly as an outsider lecturing Indians on how to run their cities. [This blog lectures everyone! Not just Indian cities.]  For an Indian perspective on parking policy from a blog that is well worth following, see the latest post from India Lives in Her Cities Too.
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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:
  • 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.

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