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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parking spot squatting - an international phenomenon?

South Boston was in the news after this week's snow storm for the local practice of informally (and illegally but apparently legally) reserving on-street parking spots. When there is snow on the ground, the person who digs out an on-street parking spot treats it as theirs for a day or two or until the snow is gone. They mark their space with household objects, as reported in the New York Times which has a photograph of a colourful beach chair sitting incongruously in a wintry street scene.

Something similar happens all year round in tropical Southeast Asia, including in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Clearly snow is not a factor here!



In Singapore this seems to happen in low-rise residential areas (wealthy places in the Singapore context) where on-street parking is not priced and where spaces are not formally marked out. Singapore has no residential permit system for such areas. The residential streets shown in these pictures are in prosperous Serangoon Gardens close to commercial activity (especially restaurants busy in the evenings) on Yio Chu Kang Road. These photos were taken in the late afternoon. 

Reserving parking like this might seem brazen (I guess it is) and it is certainly illegal [Update: in the Southeast Asian cases it is illegal]. And I don't necessarily think it is widely accepted as a reasonable thing to do. As the reports on Boston make clear, many frown on this practice but that doesn't make them bold enough to actually move the objects and park there anyway. [Update: In the South Boston case, using objects to save spaces seems to have at least some legal status. The City of Boston website says it will only remove such space-savers 48 hours after a snow storm.] And Even where it is unambiguously illegal, how many people will take the trouble to report this to the authorities? Very few it seems.  

In South Boston, snow and the effort of digging out a space enhances the sense of righteousness in claiming the spot. In certain places in Singapore, it seems some residents feel justified in claiming these spaces every evening.

My guess is that residents informally reserve "their" on-street parking spaces in many cities around the world, if they can get away with it, and if they feel they need to.

Does this happen in your town? In what specific circumstances? Have you heard of good solutions?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Park-and-Ride Comparison: Vancouver, Melbourne and Perth

There is a new in-depth post on park-and-ride at the Australian public transport blog, Transport Textbook.  Author "Loose Shunter" (ahem) asks "What role for Park and Ride in an integrated public transport system?"

He or she takes a detailed look at park-and-ride policy in Melbourne and Perth in Australia and Vancouver in Canada, highlighting contrasts in their approach. 

To my mind, Vancouver does best. It doesn't abandon park-and-ride altogether but does not let it undermine transit-oriented development opportunities, feeder bus services and the environment for walking and cycling to stations. Melbourne's approach is at the opposite end of the park-and-ride spectrum.

The essay discusses many of the arguments for and against providing car parking at stations. The post also has a good bibliography for anyone who wants to dig further.

Reinventing Parking readers may remember that I have urged a skeptical approach to park-and-ride in dense, inner-urban transit station areas. This applies to many stations of most of Asia's growing mass transit systems. So I was interested to see Transport Textbook's take on park-and-ride in much lower-density metropolitan areas with more automobile-oriented suburban landscapes than in Asia.

Below are some highlights from the Transport Textbook post. The whole thing is worth a look.

Some criticisms of park-and-ride:
Hamer (2010:52) questions the effectiveness of Park and Ride as a generator of mode shift to public transport, with some studies cited claiming that Park and Ride ‘cannibalises’ existing patronage from feeder buses, walking and active transport and attracts people to driving to the station rather than using more sustainable modes. Mees (2010:174) offers the Doncaster bus Park and Ride in Melbourne as an example, where a survey found the facility’s opening in 2004 had drawn almost all its users from those who formerly used public transport for their entire journey.

Mees (2010:174-5) questions the lessening of environmental effects from the shorter car trips generated by Park and Ride journeys, claiming cold engine starts and short journeys may produce as much pollution as longer, door-to-door car journeys. He also critiques Park and Ride as not providing a real alternative to car use, serving only peak-period, peak-direction CBD trips on radial rail and bus networks. Thus, Park and Ride does not serve off-peak or non-CBD trips effectively. He argues that the size of a city’s Park and Ride stock is inversely related to that city’s ability to grow public transport patronage (Mees 2010:94).

Perth's freeway-median rail lines apparently suit park-and-ride: 
The role of Park and Ride in the Perth rail system is to extend the network’s catchment beyond walking distance from the station. This is particularly important on the newer Mandurah and Joondalup lines, where most stations are located in the freeway median with very limited walk-up catchments.

Murdoch Park n Ride south of Perth on the Mandurah rail line which runs here in the Freeway median.

But on Perth's other rail lines there is some conflict between the public transport agency, TransPerth, which wants to keep park-and-ride, and other agencies that want more Transit-Oriented Development (TOD).

Some of Perth's park-and-ride spaces are priced, using pay-and-display at A$2 per day.

Park and Ride is an important policy in Melbourne
Park and Ride has been an important element of public transport planning in Melbourne for over 40 years. The Victorian Government has invested heavily in Park and Ride facilities across the metropolitan rail network since the 1970s.
Park-and-ride in Melbourne has been criticised by Paul Mees among others, as being a wasteful subsidy for car users, as reflecting the failure to integrate rail with feeder modes, and for having a large opportunity-cost.

The Melbourne authorities seem highly committed to the policy and determined not to price the spaces.
The Victorian Government and rail operators have sent strong signals over many years that Park and Ride is a free resource to rail users. In fact, the most recent franchise agreement for the metropolitan rail network ensured that the operator would not price the use of Park and Ride facilities (Department of Transport 2009:106).
Vancouver has fewer park-and-ride slots than Melbourne or Perth and they are located at only a few stations, which are mainly near the ends of the Skytrain lines and the West Coast Express (WCE) commuter rail line. Vancouver prevents park-and-ride from undermining transit-oriented development opportunities through its ...
... long-term policy to restrict supply of Park and Ride to the outer ends of the network to maximise public transport use and promote Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) opportunities around inner- and middle-suburban stations.
Much of the parking at mass transit stations in Vancouver is priced (at C$3 per day or C$60 per month).

In Vancouver, park-and-ride is therefore a complement to the other modes of accessing stations and does not dominate or undermine them. Park-and-ride is not a feature of most of its stations.

Do take a look at the Transport Textbook post.