Thursday, December 1, 2011

India debates proof-of-parking laws

An issue to watch. Several Indian states are considering 'proof-of-parking' laws and a central government committee has given the idea a boost.

Some background

Since the 1950s, registering a car in Japan has involved proving to local police that you have access to an off-street parking space near your home. The intention in Japan has always been to make sure its narrow streets are not clogged with parked vehicles. The policy was NOT explicitly aimed at restricting car ownership. A key result has been to create a market for priced off-street parking even in residential areas. There is more detail on Japan's experience in my report for the ADB, 'Parking Policy in Asian Cities'.

Korea's island province of Cheju has also been giving it a try in recent years.

In India, the small, far-east state of Mizoram enacted such a policy last year. Sikkim followed suit and Karnataka has expressed strong interest, prompted by Bangalore's parking problems.

Does anyone have updated news on these proof-of-parking initiatives in Korea and India? 

India's renewed proof-of-parking debate

India's latest debate on this was sparked in mid-October this year by a central government review, the report of the so-called Sundar Committee on the amendment of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. Please note that the committee's recommendations have not yet been accepted by the Government of India.

On page 27 of the proposed new version of the Act point 29 (via the Ministry of Road Transport), 'Registration, how to be made'  includes this:
(2) The application for registration shall be accompanied by such proof of parking space as may be prescribed by the State Government.
That's it! This seems to leave all of the details, and whether to do anything at all, to the state governments.

Early reactions

Perspectives on the proof-of-parking suggestion in the Sundar report were diverse.
Via a DNA report:

Nitin Dossa of the Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) criticised the Sunder Committee, saying that the recommendations were far from practical. “It is the duty of the government to see to it that enough parking for cars is provided,” Dossa said.

Amardeep Singh Hora of the Responsible Road Users’ Club (RRUC) said, “It is an impractical idea. People will start providing fake proofs of parking. When you don’t even have clear demarcations of parking and no-parking areas on roads, how can such a radical idea be implemented?”

A senior official from the transport department said, “The ratio of vehicle population to the road length in Mumbai is already the lowest in the country. This idea needs to be implemented as it is one of the important ways to control the ballooning vehicle population, which has made commuting on roads such a nightmare.”

Meanwhile, transport analyst Ashok Datar said, “This is a very important initiative. The initiative will help curb the rising number of vehicles on roads. We should not ignore this at all.”
And from another DNA report:

VN More, Maharashtra transport commissioner, said the government wants this clause to be incorporated in the motor vehicles act. More, who was at the meeting in New Delhi, said this would go a long way in solving the city’s parking problem. “Roads are meant for the movement of cars and not for illegally parking cars,” More said. “Cars parked illegally on roads make it difficult for other cars to move freely. In a space-starved city like Mumbai, we should make optimum use of roads.”

What do you think? Is such a policy desirable? Is it feasible? Would it just create new corruption opportunities? Has the debate moved on since October?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

From private parking to public parking: part of the Adaptive Parking agenda

From private parking to public parking: part of the Adaptive Parking agenda
Alvin drives to a shopping district. First he needs some pliers, so he parks his car in the parking lot of the hardware store. Next he needs the bank, some stamps and a haircut. All are available nearby so he leaves the car where it is and heads off on foot. When he returns to the car, the owner of the hardware shop is angry that he parked there for an hour while running other errands.
Who is right?

The hardware shop parking is private and intended for customers. So maybe its owner has a point. But Alvin did buy something and it would have been ridiculous to get in the car to drive 50 metres for fruit, then again for banking, and again for the haircut. It seemed natural, once he was parked, to treat the hardware shop parking lot as public parking.

We have a conflict and a dilemma. The free private parking that is encouraged by conventional parking policy becomes a source of conflict in mixed-use neighbourhoods. By contrast, both parking management and market-oriented approaches to parking (such as Adaptive Parking), encourage public parking which is well-suited to such areas.

Don't be confused by the word 'public' here. I am not talking about government-owned parking. I am talking about parking that is open to the general public. So public parking is often privately owned.

The conventional suburban approach to parking policy assumes that most parking will be associated with just one premises. In fact, it asserts this as the norm by requiring parking with every development. In extremely automobile-oriented locations, such parking is private simply because many parking lots and buildings are isolated.

This Jeff Tumlin graphic illustrates how parking arrangements in car-oriented suburbia inflate both parking demand and traffic.

Destinations like those portrayed above have nowhere else to walk to easily. So they don't worry too much about spillover and they usually don't need signs like this one below.


However, we have a problem when suburban-style parking policy is imposed on places that are even slightly more dense and urban. Ample parking requirements often keep parking prices at zero. But parking once and then walking seems the natural thing to do. The assumption that each parking lot serves its own premises clashes with the reality of walkable neighbourhoods with multiple destinations. So we see disputes like Alvin's with the hardware store owner.

The Oregonian's commuting columnist and blogger, Joseph Rose, grappled with a similar real-life example in April (although in that case, the on-street parking is priced). And here is a follow-up.

Adaptive Parking prefers public parking over private. 

In fact, this is one of the five central reform principles for Adaptive Parking, which aims to get more of the benefits of market responsiveness into our parking systems.

Why does Adaptive Parking call for more parking to be open to the public (or at least shared) and for less of it to be private? Primarily because Adaptive Parking seeks market responsiveness in parking. This requires park-once districts. And, for various reasons, park-once districts work best with most of their parking open to the public.

Here is the park-once district alternative in another Jeff Tumlin diagram. By the way, the Atlantic Cities profiled Jeff's parking work recently.

If your community decides that it likes the idea of Adaptive Parking, you will need to promote park-once districts with mostly public parking and discourage the practice of keeping parking private.

But how would that solve the conflict between Alvin and the hardware store owner? Adaptive Parking would encourage all of the businesses in the area to make their parking public and open to each other's customers and clients. If demand is high enough, it would also encourage them to price their parking using performance pricing. This would ensure parking availability in the area and allow retailers to stop worrying about free riders, like Alvin, parking in their lots.
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