Monday, July 4, 2011

Who's afraid of the spillover bogey?

Who's afraid of the spillover bogey?
No spillover please.
Is most parking policy based on fear of a phantom?

Spillover parking is nuisance parking that takes place outside a motorist's actual destination. And fear of Spillover Parking is central to all conventional parking policy.

But wait a minute. Is parking outside your destination automatically a nuisance or a problem?

Conventional parking policy assumes that spillover almost always IS a nuisance. But are we sure about that?

Someone must be pretty certain. After all, local governments all over the world enact costly regulations (minimum parking requirements) to make sure all premises have enough parking in the hope that no neighbouring business or resident need ever fear that horror-of-horrors, spillover parking.

What do parking reformers, such as parking management advocates or Shoupistas, think of spillover? Well, compared with supporters of conventional suburban parking policy, they are pretty relaxed about it. But still they mostly seem to talk about it as a problem (albeit one they are confident can be managed or minimised).

But is spillover really a problem in and of itself? Maybe parking reformers should stop saying "it is a problem but we can handle it" and instead say clearly that spillover is NOT the real problem at all. And maybe we should even proclaim that spillover can be a good thing!

Let me spell it out before you dismiss me as crazy.

Most previous parking policy conflates nuisance parking and spillover. But if you think about it for a moment, you will realise they are not necessarily the same thing at all. What does the ultimate destination of a vehicle's occupants have to do with whether their parking is a nuisance to others? Sure, there is often an overlap between the two categories but there is no necessary connection.

Most parking policy portrays spillover parking as an externality - like pollution - imposed by a development that does not have enough parking to meet its own demand.

But is pollution really a good analogy? Unlike the victims of a polluting factory, the neighbours of a development with a full parking lot are not helpless victims. We CAN prevent parking that we don't want. Or we could welcome it and price it (and maybe even profit from it). The same argument applies to spillover parking in the streets. It can be prevented with enforcement or it can be welcomed, managed and priced.

Spillover? Bring it on!
The spillover-as-pollution analogy rests on false assumptions. And the assumptions look even worse once you start thinking in terms of park-once neighbourhoods and stop assuming that parking and destinations have to have anything to do with each other.

In a park-once, shared-parking district, parking outside your destination is not a problem. And park-once, shared parking districts are, in many ways, a good thing that we should want more of.

So this is where we stand up and unashamedly say that spillover can be a good thing. We like park-once neighbourhoods but we can't have them without spillover! Spillover that is not a nuisance! Parking outside some of your destinations is the whole idea of a park-once district where motorists walk to various destinations after parking anywhere in the area. Park where? We don't care so long as it is legal and not a nuisance.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?

Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?
The imminent closure of one of Singapore's few stand-alone parking facilities, the Market Street Car Park, has provoked some breathless reporting on a supposed 'parking crunch' in the financial district here.*

A local journalist asked my opinion on Singapore CBD parking policy. He wanted to know if the Singapore government has been deliberately restricting the amount of parking in the central area, and if so, do I think it is a good idea. I spent some time on my comments, so I have adapted them into a post.

Singapore has been reducing its minimum parking requirements over the years, especially for the city centre**. Confusingly, many people here are under the impression that these policies amount to a restriction on parking in the CBD.

Huh? These are MINIMUM parking requirements, not maximums! How could parking minimums have anything to do with restricting parking?

Actually, developers have good reason to view the parking standards as maximums and not just as minimums. Why? Because only the required parking is exempted from counting as part of their allowed floor area (gross floor area, GFA) under the development controls (zoning). This means that if they build any more parking over and above the minimum requirements, they will have to reduce something else. And those ‘something elses’ (like shops, offices, hotel rooms, etc) earn much more revenue than parking (at least for now). So developers in Singapore apparently don't usually build any more than the minimum amount of parking.

So did the LTA and the Ministry of Transport set the new parking standards low in order to control traffic?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Asian parking policy surprises (magazine article)

Global-is-Asian is the magazine of my employer, the LKY School of Public Policy, which is part of the National University of Singapore.

For the latest edition I contributed a summary of the key findings of the Parking Policy in Asian Cities study.

You can read it HERE, browse the whole magazine here or download the pdf for the magazine here. 
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

TRB 2011 parking papers for browsing

TRB 2011 parking papers for browsing
I attended my first TRB Annual Meeting in January this year. It was quite an experience.

Outside the 'Hinckley Hilton'
I have just realised that you can browse but not download many of the papers from the 2011 TRB 90th Annual Meeting via the Annual Meeting Online Portal. TRB stands for Transportation Research Board.

Here are links for browsing some of the parking papers: 
Please let me know if these links stop working. 
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Visual tour of Buenos Aires parking

Visual tour of Buenos Aires parking
Much of Buenos Aires is beautiful, even some of its parking facilities.

Beautiful?

My understanding of the workings of Buenos Aires parking is superficial and based mainly on walking around its central areas. I learned a few things from the Rosario conference but I am still a novice on Latin American cities and their parking.

So this post does not pretend any great expertise. Instead, I offer some visual impressions, comments and some questions.

There is a lot more to be said, so if you know Buenos Aires please share your insights via the comments!
 

A beautiful facade but parking inside. Hmm.


Not so beautiful ...
Lots more below. Scroll down.
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Presentation: 'Learning from Parking Policies in Asia'

A few eastern Asian cities have an unfamiliar approach to parking. They have very low minimum parking requirements but don't seem to worry about boosting parking supply.

This is part of the story I told in a talk in Argentina a few weeks ago. The slideshow is below.

I was honoured to be invited to speak on parking policies in Asia at the Conference on Sustainable Transport, Air Quality and Climate Change for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Rosario, Argentina, on May 9-14, 2011. Most presentations were in Spanish, with a few in English (including mine). You can see the programme and view all of the presentations HERE.

Here is a part of the story that I tried to tell.

As I have said before, parking policy has THREE families of approaches. Each involves thinking about parking in a very different way.
  • ‘Conventional’ approaches see parking as ancillary infrastructure for each building (like its toilets)
  • ‘Parking management’ approaches see parking as infrastructure for whole neighborhoods (like streets) and hence they also see parking as a potential tool for wider policy goals
  • Market-oriented approaches to parking policy (like Donald Shoup's for example) also see parking as a service for whole neighbourhoods but also tend to see parking as real-estate (or as a real-estate based service industry, like hot food outlets).  
At the start of our Asian Cities Parking Study I expected parking management to be common in Asia. Why did I expect that? Because most Asian city areas have ideal conditions for park-once, shared parking environments (high urban densities; mixed-use urban fabric; high use of non-car modes; acute problems arising from rapid motorization) and in the West such conditions are the home territory for parking management approaches.

But to my surprise we found that all of the cities use minimum parking requirements. Does that mean the conventional approach to parking policy is common in Asia? Well it sure does dominate parts of Southeast Asia and South Asia (where many cities now have excessively high minimum parking requirements).

However, a few East Asian cities don't seem to worry much about parking supply. 

Tokyo (and Japan generally) is the main example but several other cities also show some signs of this. You could think of their model as a ‘relaxed pragmatic’ version of the conventional approach to parking policy. These cities have minimum parking requirements but their policy settings don't show much concern about parking shortages or the usual bogey, 'spillover'.

My guess is that this is because their ‘park-once neighborhoods’ adapt easily to changing parking conditions (especially when prices are left to market forces). There is also adequate control of on-street parking and Japanese cities have little on-street parking anyway. So, without great pressure to solve parking problems, these cities didn't need to update those low minimum parking requirements even though car ownership and use has increased.

This seems to me to be a strange hybrid between the conventional approach and market-oriented parking. It is a surprising mix that we don't find in the West (to my knowledge). By the way, I don't want to imply that Japan's approach was a well-thought-out strategy. More likely it was something of an accident.

[I should also mention that Tokyo's parking policy is still far from perfect! For example, it is probably much too liberal in allowing vacant lots to be used for parking.]

Anyway, I ended the talk by suggesting that these eastern Asian experiences might prompt others to consider relaxing a bit about parking supply by doing the following: 
  • Get adequate control of on-street parking
  • Foster ‘park-once neighborhoods’ with most parking open to the public, not restricted to customers or tenants only, and with market prices
  • Even if you can’t lower or abolish minimum parking requirements, at least don’t increase them!
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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Urban India gropes for parking solutions

Urban India gropes for parking solutions
Karthik Rao-Cavale tackles parking policy in India's cities in a recent post on his blog, "India lives in her cities too!"  It is a really good overview with clear thinking. Certainly, India's parking policy debates urgently need clearer thinking!

He makes an excellent point about the opportunity India has to get its parking policies on track NOW:
India, however, has a tremendous advantage in this regard. It is estimated that 90% of the commercial buildings that will exist by 2050 are yet to be built. Cities like Bombay are preparing themselves for large-scale redevelopment of entire neighbourhoods. If India changes its parking policy today, it can effectively rebuild its cities in a way that does not privilege the interests of automobiles over the interests of the city at large.
A local government parking structure in the old Walled City area of Ahmedabad.

Karthik outlines the unfortunate ways in which Indian authorities are currently trying to boost parking supply:
  1. direct municipal provision of parking (especially popular in Chennai he says)
  2. giving private builders incentives (additional FSI) to build parking for public use (tried in Mumbai)
  3. the conventional model using minimum parking requirements to force all residential and commercial developments have “sufficient” parking (Delhi already has amazingly high minimum parking requirements and India's Urban Development Minister recently called for no new construction to be built in India without parking space).
He argues that all of these approaches are doomed to failure while also causing various problems. They place responsibility for parking on the wrong heads: on government or on developers.

The alternative that he lays out is inspired by market-oriented and Shoupista thinking on parking. Karthik suggests that responsibility for parking should rest ultimately with vehicle owners, who must be willing to seek parking space as a commercial transaction from willing market providers. Government should stay out of the parking business to make way for this commercial industry to emerge.

He outlines a number of principles for putting this into action (see his post for more explanation).

Is chaotic on-street parking proof of a shortage (here in Ahmedabad for example)?

One small criticism. I have a quibble with his opening sentences: "It is incontestable that there is a shortage of parking in Indian cities. One only needs to look at the number of vehicles parked on the streets to guess that the number of off-street parking spots in the city is insufficient ...". The conclusion may be true but chaotic on-street parking does not necessarily prove there is an overall shortage. No amount of off-street parking will solve the on-street problems magically if on-street enforcement remains weak. My guess is that some Indian shopping streets that are believed to have parking shortages actually have some empty basement parking because visitors and employees alike prefer to park more conveniently in the streets and in the frontages.

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