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Monday, July 4, 2011

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.