Thursday, October 30, 2014

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

We need clearer thinking on key parking policy alternatives. Here is help.

Parking policy can be confusing.

North American parking experts Todd Litman and Donald Shoup both urge a shift away from the standard practice of relying on minimum parking requirements set at cautiously high levels. Therefore, many folks assume that their respective 'new paradigms’ are similar. In reality, most of their central suggestions and their key assumptions are strikingly different! (as explained below)

There are many similar cases of confusion over parking policy options around the world. Parking policy debate is too often muddled!

We need a clearer picture of the key municipal parking policy alternatives and of the different reform agendas

To begin, consider the diagram below and focus first on the two questions in red at the top and on the right.

These define three paradigms (three of the four boxes at the 'back' of the diagram): Conventional Site-Focused; Area Management; and Responsive.

Then a third question, along the top-left diagonal, defines further sub-categories along a third dimension: attitudes to parking supply.

This might seem puzzling at first but I argue that this scheme captures most parking policy diversity. Even more importantly, it also captures the thinking behind such diversity.

Some examples:

Parking policy in classic auto-oriented suburbia (with conventional site-focused and seeking to ensure plentiful supply)
contrasts with that of Downtown Santa Monica near LA (with area management and roughly matching supply to demand)
City of London skyline
and contrasts even more with policy in central London (area management with supply deliberately limited)
Seattle - Chinatown gate 11
or Seattle's Chinatown (similar to Santa Monica except with more effort to foster responsiveness in prices, demand and supply)
or Japan's cities (on paper, seemingly site-focused, but in actual practice amazingly responsive, with much parking on a commercial basis with market prices and supply responding to demand via price signals).

Regular readers might remember my earlier efforts to explain these issues.

I claimed that conventional suburban parking policy has several rivals, not just one.

I highlighted the contrasting assumptions of these different approaches, which 'frame' parking itself in different ways. I searched for useful analogies to get this message across.

I talked about three flavours of parking policy. And I claimed that we can get three main paradigms of parking policy from two key questions.

I have now developed these ideas much further in a new paper:

“A Parking Policy Typology for Clearer Thinking on Parking Reform” in the International Journal of Urban Studies, 2014.   
here is the journal's page for the properly formatted and copy-edited final version of the paper (paywalled sorry):  

Here is a more detailed version of the graphic above

It sums up the new way to categorize parking policy approaches that I propose in the paper. This version also portrays three parking reform agendas and provides more detail on the policies associated with specific positions in the scheme.

As mentioned above, the three key questions are in red. The two questions at top and right define three main paradigms (shown in red-brown all-caps). They are: the conventional site focused, area management and responsive approaches.  And each main paradigm has different varieties depending on the attitude to parking supply (which is the third dimension in the typology).

Reform thrusts

The scheme suggests three key thrusts of parking reform (blue arrows) along each dimension (and usually in the direction indicated for those of us who are seeking to ease the grip of car dependence and car dependent assumptions in planning).

This brings us back to the contrast between Litman and Shoup.

Most of Todd Litman's parking policy suggestions involve two of these thrusts:
  1. reforms to shift backwards along the supply-attitudes dimension by reducing oversupply (or to even limit supply) while improving management so modest supply causes few problems;
  2. reforms to shift leftwards from the site-focused approaches towards an emphasis on shared and public parking, which requires better on-street management but also opens up many more parking management policy opportunities. 
Donald Shoup and the Shoupistas focus especially on:
  • fostering market responsiveness (upwards on the diagram), by abolishing parking requirements (deregulating supply) and by having demand-responsive pricing, while also improving management and sweetening the deal for relevant stakeholders to make this politically feasible. 

Specific positions on the diagram explained in more detail

The small black writing in the detailed diagram provides brief explanations of the parking policies that correspond to each position in the scheme.  You will probably need to click the image and enlarge to read them.

  • Parking policies in the suburbs of most automobile dependent metro areas, with their reliance on excessive parking minimums, are at the extreme front and lower right on the diagram.
  • Places taking steps to slightly moderate the level of their parking minimums (right-sizing the requirements) are a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension but still in the conventional site-focused lower-right section.
  • A district that allows fees-in-lieu of required parking (pdf) but which still aims to ensure plentiful public parking that is free-of-charge is still at the extreme front of the supply-attitudes dimension but this time at the lower left position. Despite plentiful free parking supply, this is a case of area management, with an emphasis on public and shared parking.
  • Many town centres adopt the approach above, focusing more on public rather than private on-site parking, but with a little less emphasis on plentiful supply. This often spurs them to start pricing and managing their parking more aggressively. Downtown Santa Monica is an example. On the diagram, it sits a little further back along the supply-attitudes dimension and still within the lower-left area management section.
  • Busy districts that actively restrict parking supply, such as central London, central Seoul, central San Francisco or central Sydney, are at the back and left on the diagram. As shown, such places vary in the extent to which they enable market responsiveness.
  • The Shoupista approach emphasises market responsiveness and is in the upper left section, as is my Adaptive Parking agenda and the interesting case of Japanese cities. Seattle's Chinatown is an example of a place that has been trying parts of the Shoupista agenda.

If any of this intrigues or puzzles you, then please click through to the paper for details.

Please share if it seems useful! 

And feel free to ask questions or give your views on this in the comments.


Monday, October 27, 2014

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums

São Paulo's parking "maximums" ain't maximums
In "São Paulo's parking U-turn" I reported that:
Within special transit corridor zones, São Paulo is replacing the old parking minimums with maximums.
The maximums have an interesting feature: they are flexible!
A developer CAN choose to provide more parking than the maximum. But doing so will require payment of a fee.
However, Rafael Lemieszek from São Paulo commented on the post with a helpful clarification. Thanks! (and apologies that I didn't notice the comment at first)

He points out that "maximums" is not quite the right word. However, with no concise alternative, I can see why reports on the issue decided to use it.

The description above is OK for a rough idea but parking policy wonks may want a deeper understanding. 

"Greater São Paulo at night" by NASA/Paolo Nespoli - Flickr.Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Here are Rafael's key points:
Up until recently, parking space didn't add to the net area used to calculate FAR. [...]
But what the article calls the "maximum" number [of] parking spaces is actually the amount of spots that are exempt of the paid FAR. [...] Whatever exceeds that "maximum" is counted as built area as much as anything else. 
Rafael also gives some important context on how FAR is now being used in São Paulo zoning:
Recently we've been implementing what we're calling [...] "paid allowance for building rights" - so the basic FAR has been set to 1 in most of the city and you can reach up to a maximum FAR in certain areas (up to 4 around transit corridors in SP).

Confused? Let me recap: 

  1. Previously, even if developers built more parking than the parking minimums required, none of that parking counted towards the floor area total used in calculating the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) (called FSI in some places). 
  2. Now, for the first time, there is a limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area. 
  3. Developers can still build parking beyond this limit, but it will count as floor area. 
  4. This extra parking attracts a fee ("paid allowance for building rights"), just like any kind of built area in excess of the basic FAR for the relevant area. 

This is actually similar to the rule in Singapore. 

However, in Singapore it is simply the minimum requirement that defines the limit on how much parking is exempt from counting as floor area.

As I explained in a previous post "Deliberate parking crunch in Singapore's city centre?", Singapore real-estate 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.
By contrast, from Rafael's explanation, in São Paulo the amount of parking that is exempt from counting as floor area might be different from the minimum requirement. Presumably the exempt-parking limit is higher than the minimum parking requirement.

How important is exempting parking from floor area calculations?

I have often wondered about this.

How common is limiting the parking that is exempt from counting as floor area (like in São Paulo and Singapore)?

I suspect that this seemingly esoteric choice may be quite powerful. I think it may deserve greater attention. And it needs a name, to give us a concise way of talking about it. "Parking floor-area exemptions"? Hmm.

If you have read this whole post, you are probably quite a parking policy wonk! So, what do you think?

So thanks again, Rafael, for the detailed clarification.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut

Mexico City’s Required Parking Glut
Recently, ITDP Mexico conducted an extensive analysis of parking management in Mexico City. I coordinated this work. The report is only in Spanish for now.

We started with a journey through all the legal instruments that influence parking in the city. These are mainly driven by strict minimum requirements

Then we evaluated the urban, economic, mobility and social impacts of the regulations. This included analyzing parking in 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013. 

Here’s what we found

Parking policy in Mexico City has until now been based on the idea that cheap and abundant parking is the way to tackle congestion. But this only incentivizes car-use and automobile oriented development. 

The good news is that parking regulations will soon be reviewed under new federal and local development programs. A key aim of this review will be reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements. This recognizes that the current regulations are based on false premises: that parking supply should expand to meet demand and that off-street parking mitigates the impacts of real estate developments.

Any such reform will have to confront the popular view that there is not enough parking across the city. The existing approach is based on such a view.

But it is difficult to imagine how the incentives for parking supply could be any stronger. 

Powerful parking supply incentives

First, publicly accessible parking is permitted in  almost any zoning and with weak quality standards. As a result, most of the public parking in Mexico City is on empty land lots. These are more a case of land speculation than a mobility solution.

Second, requiring every new development to include a minimum amount of vehicle storage has guaranteed the automatic and rapid growth of supply. 

According to analysis of the 251 real estate projects from 2009 to 2013, parking is the land use that has been growing fastest (see Figure 1). This is the obvious result when adding any other land use requires the provision of abundant parking but adding parking does not require other land uses. 

It is illegal to build housing units without parking even if there is a potential market of citizens who want to live without a car. Our regulations seem to put more importance on accommodating cars than housing citizens.

Figure 1. Floor area of various uses added each year.

Third,  most of the on-street parking spaces are given away for free and off-street parking fees are actually capped. 

So, in practice the city aims for an oversupply of parking with  low prices for users. This is obviously inconsistent with the stated official vision of a more dense, compact, lively and resilient city with less dependence on private mobility. 

We have been feeding the public perception of a parking deficit. What is lacking is an effective set of  instruments for efficient parking management.

Let’s take a closer look at the 251 projects.

In the projects analysed more than 16 million m2 of floor space was added in total. Of this, 42% was  parking, amounting to  more than 250,000 spaces. 

If Mexico City keeps on this way we will have abundant parking but much less city. 

How much parking do developers actually build?

The data show that developers are basically building the exact amount of parking that was required to them. This is a strong signal that many actually want to build less. 

Comparing the amount of parking spaces in the projects with the minimum, we see that on average they include only 10.4% more spaces than the requirement (Figure 2). In fact, parking supply in 67.7% of the developments fell between the minimum required and 10% more than that level. This is equivalent to building exactly the minimum. In practice, it is difficult to build exactly the required amount given the dimensions of each project.

Figure 2.  Actual parking (as a % above the minimum required) built with the 251 developments.

There is no connection between parking supply and mass transit.

There is no relation between the amount of parking above the minimums and their distance from mass transit (Figure 3). Furthermore, the parking requirements are actually uniform across the city, regardless of public transit coverage. So there must also be no correlation between parking and mass transit access. 

Figure 3.  Parking provision (as a % above the minimum) versus distance from mass transit 

We have seen that most developments provide the minimum amount of parking that is feasible. As I said above, this suggests that developers want to provide less parking than they are required to

More on that issue in a follow-up post... 

Click here to get the full report (in Spanish) as a PDF

And here is a summary in English of the launch by ITDP with some more highlight from the report.

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