Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to collect on-street parking fees (and why it matters)

How to collect on-street parking fees (and why it matters)
Today, a primer on mechanisms for collecting on-street parking fees.

But first, why should you care?

I think of you, dear Reinventing Parking readers, as having a keen interest in making parking policy wiser. But I don't expect you to be deeply into the technical details. I don't expect parking to be your main preoccupation.

Even so, I think a primer on this technical issue might help you! Why?

Because a basic understanding of pricing mechanisms, especially recent digital ones, is important in many of the parking policy debates you might get involved in.

Busy places need effective on-street parking management. And that almost always means a smart approach to on-street parking fees. There is no escaping pricing if we want parking success without parking excess.

Unfortunately, public support for parking fees can be fragile, to say the least.

Most of the unhappiness is about charging fees at all. Some anger is about the price levels.

But irritation or anxiety about the physical act of paying can make resistance to parking fees very much worse.

News items about street parking fees invariably include complaints like these:
  • I suspect that the parking attendant cheated me
  • I didn't have enough coins
  • I paid for an hour but my appointment took two and I got a penalty notice
  • I paid for three hours but ended up only needing one
  • It was pouring with rain and I was soaked before I even got to the parking meter
  • Paying seemed so complicated
  • This payment system ignores my disability
  • I heard this fancy parking fee system cost a bomb! What a waste!
  • The meter was broken
  • It is such a hassle!
I could go on but you get the idea.

The good news is that some modern options can minimize such worries. Don't let pricing mechanism mistakes make things any worse than they need to be.

Today's article, like the earlier one, 'How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared', is based on a section in the toolkit on On-Street Parking Management that I wrote for GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP).

As always, please alert me if you find any errors! I will try to look into them and correct if necessary. This is a complicated and fast-changing arena.

Let's get started.

If you are in a hurry, scroll straight down to the most advanced digital options near the end (from option 9 onward).

An aside about payment methods

This article is mainly about Pricing Mechanisms (how parking fee payments are physically organized, such as in-street parking meters and so on).  

But we can't help dipping into the related issue of Payment Methods too, at least a little bit. 

Payment methods refers to how the money transfer for the payment is handled. Choices include cash (coins, notes or both), credit cards and debit cards, stored value cards, payment through a mobile telecoms carrier, mobile wallets or direct debits from bank accounts.  Keeping transaction costs low is an important issue in the choices here.

An aside about criteria for choosing street parking pricing mechanisms

I am almost ready to list the pricing mechanism choices. But first, what issues should a municipality consider in choosing pricing mechanisms?  
  • Overall costs (capital and operating combined). This is always important but it is make-or-break if the parking is cheap. Low costs are also important if more than one pricing mechanism will be running in parallel (for example, meters and mobile payments).
    Capital cost. Mechanisms with significant street infrastructure tend to have high capital costs.
    Operating cost. Labor costs may dominate here.
    Transaction costs. Important especially where parking is high-demand, short-duration. Be wary of significant flat fees per transaction with certain mechanisms/payment methods. 
  • Convenience for users. This includes several dimensions:
    Convenience of mode of payment Accepting only small denomination coins, for example.
    Choices of payment mode. Having more options (such as coin. note, card AND phone) is usually equated with convenience.
    Not having to predict length of stay in advance.   Ability to extend parking sessions.
    Convenience for diverse users. Especially for motorists with disabilities. 
  • Ease of price adjustments. Includes the ability to set different fees for different locations and for different times of the day and week. 
  • Ease of special offers. This includes the ability to offer discounts to special groups (such as local residents or for short vehicles)
  • Ease of enforcement/ integration with enforcement. The costs and efficiency of enforcement of the pricing system can be heavily influenced by pricing mechanism choices. 
  • Ease of data collection. Digital pricing mechanisms often enable cost-effective data collection, which is a great boost for evidence-based, outcomes-focused parking management.
  • Trustworthiness.  Resist or deter theft/leakage.   
  • Robustness/reliability Will it cope with severe weather, vandalism, power failures, computing failures, and operator or user errors? 
  • Suitability for motorcycles. In many parts of the world motorcycles are important and usually need on-street fees too.  
By the way, you will notice that I haven't linked to any vendors in this article. Looking at vendors is not the place to start if a municipality is in the market for parking fee mechanisms. Instead, think carefully first about the goals of pricing and which of the criteria above are important. Then start preparations for a tendering process. An early step is to publicize a Registration of Interest (ROI) call. Don't start by talking to any specific vendor!

Also be aware that mobile payment mechanisms mean that the days of awarding the contract to a single vendor should be over. Parking meters (if any) and several mobile payment options can operate simultaneously in the same streets. 

Pricing mechanisms: the options and their main strengths and weaknesses 

Let's take a look at the pricing mechanism options, starting with low-tech options and ending with recent digital mechanisms.

These are for casual on-street parking. I am omitting the mechanisms for handling permits or season parking tickets from today's list. This article is also not for off-street parking, which has a number of additional fee mechanisms not discussed here.

Non-Digital Mechanisms

The low-tech options early in our list are varied but have in common the inability to easily capture a stream of digital parking usage and payment data for the parking authority or operator.

1. Attendants: cash payment and paper tickets

Attendant seeks flat or time-based fee on arrival or departure and (in theory) issues ticket on arrival.
Pros: Simple; Very low capital cost; Convenient for motorist; No need to predict duration
Cons: Very high leakage risk; Very labour intensive; Makes time-based fees difficult so this mechanism often prompts flat fees per arrival (which undermines parking management
Examples: Most cities in Indonesia; Dhaka; Parts of Beijing, other Chinese cities, some cities in India.

2. Pre-purchased coupons (tear, pierce or scratch then display)

Buy coupons from various retailers. Indicate starting time on correct value coupon and display to prove payment for a period of parking. 
Pros: Low capital cost; Low-tech (although anti-counterfeiting effort needed)
Cons: Motorist error is common; Must predict duration; No data stream; Minor cheating (indicate arrival later than actual); Enforcement cost; Counterfeiting.
Examples: Singapore, some cities in Brazil, Malaysia, Ireland.

3. Valet (usually cash)

Pay an attendant who parks the car elsewhere. Usually a private-sector initiative.
Pros:  Can be a 'safety valve' for extreme parking problems at busiest times and places. Low capital cost.
Cons: This cannot be the general approach to on-street parking payments; High operation costs.
Examples: Common in many countries, especially in restaurant or entertainment areas with localized parking problems.

4. Mechanical single-space meters

This is the classic old-fashioned coin-operated parking meter invented in the 1930s.
Pros:  Simplicity; Familiarity (in some cities)
Cons: High capital/operating cost; No data stream; Coin-only; Must predict duration; Difficult to change prices.
Examples: Still in place in some cities but rapidly disappearing.

5. Electronic meters (early generations) - usually multi-space, pay-and-display

Deployed in the 1980s and 1990s, these are electronic meters but are less sophisticated than today's ‘smart’ digital meters highlighted later. Most such meters have been pay-and-display multi-space meters. Users walk to the meter, pay for expected duration, return to vehicle and display receipt. 
Pros:  Improved reliability and price flexibility over mechanical meters; Electronic monitoring and recording of repair and collection; Moderate capital and operating costs (one meter per 6-12 spaces); 
Cons: High capital costs; High enforcement costs for pay-and-display. Must predict duration; Limited payment methods (usually coin only). Pay-and-display is poorly suited to motorcycles 
Examples:  Still common in Malaysia, Australasia, North America (although rapidly being replaced by modern meters).

Digital mechanisms (all those below)

Modern digital parking payment mechanisms have digital capture of transaction and parking data.
Many use purely digital proof-of-payment, without printing tickets. Most allow digital payment modes (credit/debit cards and mobile payments of various kinds). Some are cashless.
Common Pros:  Easy price adjustment; Rich data stream; Usually real-time, two-way data exchange with a control centre, which has many benefits. Several digital mechanisms can often coexist. User can be notified by message or app before time expires. See below.
Common Cons: Beware of payment modes with a significant fixed cost per transaction. See below for strengths and weaknesses of specific digital options and example cities

6. Attendants and digital handhelds (pay on arrival)

Pay attendant fee for expected duration and display ticket. May allow multiple payment modes.
Pros:  Motorist convenience; Lower leakage than non-digital attendant options; Easy price adjustment; Data stream
Cons: Very labour-intensive; Must predict duration
Examples: Makati in Metro Manila; Medellin, Colombia; parts of Delhi, India; Seoul;.

7. Attendants and digital handhelds (pay later)

Attendant makes regular rounds and fixes tickets to vehicles found parked. New ticket at regular intervals. Motorists pay later online or through local retailers.
Pros: Motorist convenience; No need to predict duration; Low leakage; Easy price adjustment; Data stream
Cons: Very labour intensive.
Examples: Taipei

8. Electronic single-space or two-space meters (e-card payment)

This category refers to modern but relatively simply electronic meters with payment only by contactless stored-value smart cards.  Some cities have added contactless stored-value card payment to older single-space meters (for example, Ann Arbor, USA)
Pros:  High reliability; Low leakage; Theft proof.
Cons: High capital cost; medium operating costs; Must predict duration; Limited payment methods. Limited data stream I assume.
Examples:  Hong Kong, Guangzhou

9. Smart (digital) single-space meters

Digital meters with data connection to the parking operator.
Pros:  Multiple payment options including cash. Convenient; Can integrate with other digital options to allow extend-by-phone, etc; Easy price adjustment.
Cons: High capital and operating costs;
Examples:  San Francisco (SFPark).
[Tokyo's single space meters may be a variation on this, although they have very limited payment options (usually 100 yen coin only). And I am not sure how sophisticated their data exchange capabilities are. As far as I know, there is no integration with pay-by-phone in Tokyo. However, Tokyo's single-space meters each have an in-built sensor that detects a parked vehicle. ]

10. Digital multi-space pay-and-display meters (6 – 12 spaces per meter).  

Walk to meter, pay for expected duration, return and display receipt on/in vehicle;
Pros: Often with multiple payment modes Robust; Easy price adjustment. Often integrated with top-up-and-extend via any meter or via mobile payments. 
Cons: Relatively high enforcement costs for pay-and-display. Moderate capital and operating costs (high compared with low-infrastructure options below); Poorly suited to motorcycles
Examples: Common in Europe and increasingly in North America.

11. Smart (digital) multi-space meters with Pay-by-Space

No need to return with receipt. Parking space number is entered at meter and registered as paid for relevant period.
Pros: As above. But easier/cheaper enforcement. Often allows top-up and extend via any meter or phone.
Cons: Requires spaces to be marked and numbered; Must enter space number (prone to user error)
Examples: Various OECD cities
Ann Arbor digital pay-by-space multi-space parking meter. By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

12. Smart (digital) multi-space with Pay-by-Plate (or Pay-by-License)

No need to return with receipt. Vehicle license number is entered at meter and registered as paid for relevant period.
Pros: As above; Easy LPR enforcement; Often allows top-up and extend via any meter or phone; Integrates well with discounts and permits;
Cons: Privacy concerns; Users must remember their license plate number. Relatively new.
Examples: Increasingly common in OECD; Mexico City’s ecoParq; Chennai.

Pay-by-Phone: Several variations below.

Each can register either a parking space number,  small parking zone number or the vehicle license plate number.   Often used as a complement to digital meter options above. Rapidly growing % of on-street parking payments in many cities.
Pros: Low additional capital costs; Eases enforcement, especially if licence-plates used. Easy price adjustment; Discounts and permit integration; Easy extension of time paid. Suits motorcycles.
Cons: Prior registration usually; Capital cost savings only if street infrastructure removed; May need alternatives for certain users; Extra complexity in enforcement if combined with pay-and-display.

13. Pay-by-phone call

Call automated phone line and enter details including space or zone and desired time.
Pros: As discussed above for pay-by-phone options;
Cons: Significant cost per transaction;
Examples: Shenzhen; various OECD cities.

14. Pay-by-sms

Send text with space, zone or license plate number and desired time
Pros: As for pay-by-phone options above; Convenient payment often via mobile phone bill;
Cons: Significant fixed cost per transaction
Examples: Dubai; Sharjah; and many others.

15. Pay-by-smart-phone-app

Pre-register payment account and license plate. When parking use app to register location and desired time.
Pros: As for pay-by-phone options above; In addition: Very convenient; Very low transaction costs;
Cons: May feel need to have other options for non-smart-phone users.
Examples: Shenzhen, Tel Aviv (mobile-payment-only cities) and many others (where this is in addition to other options).

16. In-vehicle meters

Device displayed in vehicle is loaded with pre-paid credits or linked with payment account. Manual activation is usual.
Pros: Low-moderate capital costs; Low operating and transaction costs; Usually easy price adjustment; Convenient. Pay exactly for time used; Near-field communication enables integration with enforcement.
Cons: Usually need to retain alternatives for non-locals and others
Examples:  various OECD cities; Tel Aviv.

17. Global Positioning System (GPS)-based in-vehicle meters

GPS tracks device installed in vehicle, detects parking events, calculates fees for billing or deduction. May include in-vehicle display.
Pros: Very convenient for motorist; Low-medium capital costs; Low operating, transaction costs; Easy price adjustment; Pay exactly for time used; Excellent integration with enforcement, discounts and permits; Well-suited to delivery vehicles.
Cons: Possible privacy concerns (although design can protect privacy, these worries are difficult to allay); Usually need to retain alternatives for non-locals and others
Examples: Calgary.

So You Want a Recommendation?

It is best to start with clear criteria not a prejudgment about the technology or mechanism.

But having said that, here is my view (for now).

The digital pay-by-plate options seem to do best to maximize parking-management effectiveness and minimize the pain.

They score highly on most of the key criteria mentioned earlier, especially high convenience for users, easy price adjustment, data stream, low-cost integration with enforcement, low transaction costs, suitability for motorcycles, and ability to integrate with permits and special discounts.

This means that any city tackling this issue afresh today should probably focus on these options (in pay-by-plate mode): 
12: Smart (digital) multi-space meters with Pay-by-License-Plate
15: Pay-by-smart-phone-app
16: In-vehicle meters, or
17: Global Positioning System (GPS)-based in-vehicle meters
or some combination of 2 or more of these (including all of them together).

In addition, if your city does not already have parking meters, then seriously consider skipping in-street meters completely and just use the mobile options (15, 16 and/or 17)!. These mobile phone and in-vehicle meter options have very low capital costs. But be careful to keep transaction costs down (via mobile wallets for example). For example, in Tel Aviv the only options to pay for on-street parking are pay-by-phone (two companies) and in-vehicle meter (one company).

What do you think about on-street parking payment mechanisms? And could more places skip the parking meter altogether and just use mobile payment options?

This post appeared first on Reinventing Parking.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Walkable Parking: Why Most Parking Should Be Public

Walkable Parking: Why Most Parking Should Be Public
If  you want parking success without excess, you probably know something about Donald Shoup’s book, The High Cost of Free Parking, and its three main parking policy proposals:
  1. Eliminate minimum parking requirements
  2. Price on-street parking with fees set just high enough to keep about 1 in 8 spaces open
  3. Spend at least part of any parking fee surplus on locally popular things. 
These proposals point to a vision for local parking in which:
  • parking revenue improves neighborhoods;
  • there is no free-riding on on-street parking (since if it is often full it will be priced);
  • developers decide how much parking to provide (and usually provide less than now);
  • the cost of development is reduced and space is freed for other uses;
  • the cost of parking slowly gets unbundled (so most parking is priced); 
  • market prices for parking improve our transportation choices. 
I like these proposals and this vision. They are a key inspiration for Adaptive Parking which includes versions of each of Shoup’s three proposals.

But an extra parking reform would bring about Shoup's vision faster and in more places.

Encourage most parking to be open to the public 

I will make the case for this policy thrust below. But first, what does it mean?

It means cities encouraging more of the existing parking, including on-site parking, to be open to the public. It usually doesn’t mean creating more stand-alone public parking.

It means pushing for many more places to become park-once-and-walk districts. You could call this a “Walkable Parking” policy. It both needs and feeds walkability.

It means that local governments should stop trying to force plentiful parking into every development site. Instead, foster “pools” of parking for each neighborhood.

It is the S (for 'share') in the Adaptive Parking memory aid, RESPOnD.

And it is the most important difference between Shoup’s agenda and the Adaptive Parking agenda.

In this park-once area in central Buenos Aires, most buildings lack on-site parking. 
There is a pool of public parking in the streets and in off-street parking facilities.

To be fair, park-once-and-walk districts are often a part of parking plans by Shoup-influenced consultants, especially Nelson/Nygaard, and these have been part of my inspiration. ITDP also has a nice little policy brief on ‘Shared Parking’.

But Adaptive Parking calls for more ambitious public parking efforts. Park-once districts should be standard practice almost everywhere, not just in dense urban neighborhoods.

Why push for public parking not private?

Here are some of the main reasons for Shoupistas and other supporters of parking success without parking excess to push for public parking and park-once planning.

It promotes, and is promoted by, walkability

The name “park-once-and-walk districts” says it.

Motorists need to be able to walk comfortably to and from the park-once public parking options in such areas. Such areas also have much more walking, which promotes local street-oriented businesses. So park-once planning puts pressure on the local government to improve walking conditions.

We will see below that park-once areas also work best with mixed land use, which is also crucial for walkability.

Reduced traffic 

Reduced traffic is a key benefit of park-once-and-walk planning and a public-parking-not-private policy.

Park-once areas generate many fewer short driving trips within the vicinity. Someone arriving in such an area by car can park once in public parking then walk to a series of destinations and errands.

By contrast, if private parking dominates an area, each new destination and errand involves another short car trip and parking event in another customer-only, employee-only or clients-only parking lot.

Conventional suburban development versus a mixed-use, park-once district, as illustrated by Patrick Siegman of Nelson/Nygaard at the Kinder Institute speaker's series on Thursday, February 19, 2015 (pdf here).

Less parking is needed

In mixed-use areas, if parking is mostly public rather than on-site private parking. the times of peak parking demand for the various activities are complementary to some extent. It is like the shared tables in food courts which are more efficient than dedicated tables for each outlet. This is also a reason to support planning reforms to allow mixed use.

Public parking spaces can serve several land uses across the day and week. Source: ITDP, Shared Parking, 2015.  

Politically easier to lower or eliminate parking minimums 

Park-once planning with a pool of public parking eases opposition to this reform as it becomes apparent that less parking is needed and for several other reasons discussed in the paragraphs below.

Being a park-once-and-walk area is arguably more important for enabling abolition of parking minimums than having good public transport service.

Spillover parking becomes less scary 

Having parking spill beyond any particular site is not a problem in an area with a public pool of parking. Such park-once-and-walk areas have various alternative public parking options nearby over and above any on-street parking (which is also public of course).

In fact, the whole notion of spillover becomes meaningless in park-once-and-walk districts! We simply no longer expect parking to be contained on site. By defusing fear of spillover, public parking and a park-once mindset make the whole Shoupista vision much less scary.

Park-once planning changes mindsets about on-site parking

Faith in parking minimums is not just backed by a fear of parking shortage and a desire to keep parking plentiful.

Something more powerful is at work: a moral assertion that each site should provide its own on-site parking. People feel that it is irresponsible or even crazy to do otherwise.

But park-once planning offers an alternative mindset in which it is perfectly normal and completely ethical for some sites to have little or no parking, so long as the neighbourhood ‘pool of parking’ is working well.

With small and medium-sized buildings exempted from parking minimums in Japan, many buildings have zero on-site parking. Yet, spillover parking is not a problem in park-once-and-walk districts like this one in Tokyo.

Public parking speeds the transition to efficient supply

Car-dependent areas often have enormously excessive parking supply. In Shoup’s vision, his three policies are enough to reduce this problem.

But it seems likely that if most off-street parking in an area is private then oversupply will ease only very slowly, even without parking minimums. Any parking lot owner proposing to close an under-used parking lot will still provoke objections from tenants who see few alternatives to on-site parking.

Such objections will be eased if a decent proportion of parking in such an area can be converted to public parking. So park-once areas with public parking open up new opportunities to convert low-return parking to other uses.

This is one reason why park-once-districts without minimum parking requirements are much more welcoming of infill developments and of adaptive reuse of existing buildings than areas with mostly private parking.

Might park-once planning reduce the need for so many parking spaces here in Noarlunga Centre, South Australia?

Public parking is more likely to be managed and priced than private parking

Owners of public parking still need to ration access. Many may want to give priority to customers and serve employees. Being public, they don’t simply exclude outsiders, but they don’t want free riding from those outsiders either. Various management and pricing strategies enable parking to be open for casual public parking but still serve other priorities.

Why is this good? Management and/or pricing further ease the fear of spillover. And, of course, pricing can reduce parking demand, especially for employee parking, further reducing the supply needed and reducing traffic in the region.

This mixed-use retail/residential development in the walkable retail area of Maroubra in Sydney offers 2 hours free parking then an escalating fee structure, starting at $5 per hour. 

Public parking is more responsive to local market signals

Private parking resists being affected by changes to surrounding parking conditions. But park-once planning copes with changes in demand or supply through resilience instead.

As mentioned just now, responses from parking suppliers and managers tend to focus on management and pricing, not exclusion. These responses help reduce, cushion and disperse the impacts of changes, including feared changes such as a sudden drop in supply or increase in demand.

Public parking reaps more value from less parking space

With less oversupply, public parking in park-once-districts tends to be well-used, with shorter periods of very low occupancy, and is more likely to be priced.

All of this means that each parking space in such an area provides more value for owners and for local communities than the under-used and under-priced parking in areas with mostly private parking.

Can you think of more reasons to like park-once planning and a preference for public parking over private?

Or maybe you dislike this approach?

Please share your reactions in the comments.

This post has focused on the why question, with little mention of how municipalities can promote park-once-and-walk districts. Stay tuned for more on how to promote public parking and park-once-and-walk districts.

Was this post helpful for your efforts to get parking success without parking excess? If so, please share it.

[UPDATE January 2017: I have created a Local Parking Assessment kit that focuses on the Walkable Parking thinking in this post. 

The kit allows you to assess any small study area and its potential for embracing the Walkable Parking mindset. If you are keen on parking success without parking excess, then I think you will find it useful and thought-provoking.

The kit is a gift for new subscribers to Reinventing Parking. So to get access simply enter your email address in the box at the top of this page and click "subscribe".]


Monday, July 11, 2016

Six signposts to a parking revolution

Six signposts to a parking revolution
It is sad to see so many cities trying so hard to boost parking supply with policies like excessive parking minimums. Promoting plentiful parking fuels traffic growth and car-dependence and is a horribly wasteful way to tackle parking problems.

Fortunately, a growing number of municipalities, citizens and urban professionals want alternatives. They (we!) want paths towards urban success without parking excess. But they need paths that are both practical and politically feasible.

Enter "Adaptive Parking", a new approach to municipal parking policy, which aims to:
  • Defuse parking problems (such as spillover and parking conflict)
  • Make parking supply, prices and demand more responsive to each other, to change and to each local context
  • Unleash more value for parking owners, communities and society
  • Avoid promoting traffic growth and car dependence and make possible more livable cities and diverse mobility options.
Adaptive Parking builds on Donald Shoup's efforts. His proposals aim to wean USA municipalities from their addiction to parking excess. Adaptive Parking does the same for a wider set of contexts, including internationally.

I have distilled the key thrusts of Adaptive Parking from many inspirations, including especially Donald Shoup and other Shoupistas, Todd Litman, ITDP, people at Nelson/Nygaard especially Jeffrey Tumlin, parking ideas via GIZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project, and the parking policies of Japanese cities.  

Here below are the key policy thrusts of Adaptive Parking. This a new and improved version. As always, feedback is welcome!

Six Signposts to point you towards Adaptive Parking

As a memory aid, think "RESPOnD":
  1. Relax about parking supply and stop boosting it.
  2. Engage with key stakeholders to ease their fears and offer value.
  3. Share parking more, in fact aim to make most of it open to the public.
  4. Price parking with rates just high enough, but no higher, for each place and time.
  5. On-street and public-realm parking needs strong design, control and enforcement.
  6. Demand management, via limiting parking, for transit-rich business districts.
Each element in RESPOnD represents a different municipal parking reform agenda but they are complementary. Each supports the others.

These policy thrusts work together

The Relax thrust confronts parking supply excesses but it is not about forcing parking shortages. It is about refraining from imposing an oversupply and thereby reaping cost and space savings and affordability and livability gains.

As you know, removing parking minimums sounds risky to many people. But relaxing about supply need not be scary if it is part of the Adaptive Parking package.

The Engage thrust focuses on addressing local concerns about parking supply, about conflicts and about parking fees. It tries to ensure the Adaptive Parking reform is a good deal for key local groups but without undermining the rest of the agenda. Unfortunately, this element of Shoup's approach has been neglected. Negotiations will lead to diverse local solutions but I think cities should be audacious in their offers! Imagine if ALL on-street parking revenue surplus were returned to, or spent on, the local community and its priorities. How would you feel about such an offer for your neighborhood, especially if paired with a residents' permit system for which new buildings are ineligible?

The Share thrust helps the Relax agenda by striking a blow against the belief that each building needs its own adequate on-site parking. Its focus on publicly-available parking makes sure parking options are available even if on-site parking is not. The Share thrust promotes walkable park-once-and-walk districts. It should help 'suburban retrofit' or 'sprawl repair' projects in car-oriented areas where most parking is currently private (for example, customers-only parking).

The Price agenda defuses parking problems. Efficient prices ration parking, prevent cruising for parking (search traffic), spread out parking demand in space and time, and send appropriate signals to suppliers. But pricing is almost always a source of fears and resentment too. These can be eased with the help of the Engage thrust. The Share agenda also eases price-related fears by increasing the range of independent public parking options within walking distance of each destination.

The On-street design, control and enforcement thrust says that you need the basics of on-street parking management, not just the pricing part. This thrust enables the Relax thrust and complements the Price and Share thrusts to prevent free-riding and chaos in the streets. Engage is important here too, as communities debate parking locations, removals, regulations and enforcement.

Together these first five Adaptive Parking thrusts can defuse spillover and parking conflicts while avoiding excessive parking supply.

Finally, the Demand-management thrust applies only to dense transit-rich business districts that are already desperate to reduce traffic. Restricting the parking supply is an effective way to do so. But, even in a transit-rich place, limiting parking supply can be scary if you are used to parking policies that obsess over shortage and spillover. Fortunately, the first five Adaptive Parking thrusts can help. By enabling parking success without the need for parking supply excess, they can make limits to parking supply an attractive option for downtowns.

Has Adaptive Parking and its RESPOnD policy thrusts got you thinking?

I hope I have set you thinking.

Maybe it seems like I didn't give enough detail on each Adaptive Parking thrust? Don't worry. I will do that in future posts.

I want your feedback! Could this set of reforms help your area achieve success without parking excess?

Please do:
  1. Share your ideas in the comments
  2. Follow @ReinventParking on twitter
  3. Join the Parking Reform International group on Facebook
  4. Sign up for Reinventing Parking email alerts so you won't miss our future posts. 

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared

How to set on-street parking fees: eleven ways compared
Many cities poison the politics of parking fees by lacking a clearly-stated basis for rate decisions or by using a wrong-headed approach.

I see this daily in news about parking price reviews from all over the world. Examples from the last few days include Washington DC, Delhi, Singapore, and Richmond VA.

But how SHOULD cities set their street parking prices? By what criteria? And which approaches best serve parking success without parking excess?

This post takes a look at eleven different ways to set on-street parking rates.

The best approaches make improved parking-management outcomes their primary goal. Losing sight of this goal in fee adjustments is a big mistake. If the public can't see any visible benefit from parking fees they will naturally be suspicious of any increase.

Singapore is finding this out at the moment. Cost recovery was the main justification given for the just-released price increases in government-owned parking (HDB and URA parking, which includes paid on-street parking). There was almost no mention of the parking management role of parking fees. Outrage on social media has been the unsurprising response.

Eleven approaches to setting on-street parking prices 

The information below is based on Table 13 in Section 5.5 of my "On-Street Parking Management: An International Toolkit" published by GIZ-SUTP.  If you see errors or omissions, please leave a comment.

The most promising options are near the end, so scroll down to Option 11 if you want to go straight to my recommendation!

By the way, although this post is about on-street parking, many of the comments below apply to price-setting for government-owned off-street parking too.

1. Political judgement  (with focus on revenue in price debates)

If prices are not adjusted regularly, then their parking management benefits erode gradually. After some time, the management goal of setting fees gets forgotten. Parking fees come to be seen as a ‘tax’ with revenue as their sole purpose. By that stage, even modest rises become wildly unpopular and can have a high political cost.

Examples: Very many cities worldwide, sadly, including Indonesian cities and most USA cities. In 2011 Boston, USA, raised the on-street parking price for the first time in 25 years, from $1/hour to 1.25, justifying it purely in terms of revenue.

Strengths: none

Weaknesses: Ad hoc. Hampers efforts to gain support for pricing as a parking management tool. Talking about revenue goals is futile because revenue as a key objective guarantees public hostility to price rises. Efforts to avoid political backlash by keeping prices stagnant usually fail anyway, since parking management comes to be seen as a failure and as merely a tax, so pricing becomes ever more unpopular. Singapore's current parking fee controversy comes to mind here.

In Singapore payment for street parking is via coupons like this.

2. Fuel price benchmark

Involves linking parking fees to fuel prices.  This seems to be an ill-conceived populist policy aimed at restraining local governments from raising prices ‘too much’.

Examples:  European national rules sometimes link parking fees to fuel prices (for a maximum price). Hungary is an example.

Strengths:  None that I can think of.

Weaknesses: Arbitrary. Not linked with management objectives. Encourages belief that parking must not be too expensive. Provides no guidance for where/when to price and at what levels.

3. Traffic speeds/ congestion (to serve traffic reduction goals)

Implies setting on-street parking prices higher in areas that are the key destinations of congested traffic flows. Also implies setting peak-time parking prices to match traffic peak times.

Examples:   Delhi briefly proposed higher parking fees during traffic peak-hours.  A Bangalore proposal suggested zones based on traffic conditions.

Strengths:   May help complement other demand-management policies to limit traffic congestion.

Weaknesses:  Untested. Ignores parking saturation issues. Difficult to implement as a clear criterion (rather than a goal). On-street parking and its prices are NOT closely linked with metropolitan traffic flows. If on-street prices rise automatically if traffic speed targets are not met, they might keep rising without notable impact on regional traffic speeds.

4. Turnover (short durations)

Aims to ensure that convenient on-street parking spaces ‘turn over’ frequently (usually so that they will be used by shoppers and not for all-day parking). In other words, the aim is short parking durations. This approach often goes together with parking time limits.

Examples: Many cities.

Strengths: Keeping on-street durations short is especially relevant for retail areas, serving the interests of retailers.

Weaknesses: Not clear what level of turnover to target. Even if a turnover criterion is met, saturated parking can still cause problems. Turnover data can be misleading in some circumstances. Turnover is not easily/cheaply measured without digital pricing mechanisms.

5. Public transport fares as benchmark

Involves linking parking fees to the price of a primary alternative to driving, public transport. If public transport fares rise, so do downtown parking fees, avoiding an increase in the attractiveness of driving to the city centre.

Examples:  European local governments often link city-centre parking fees to the cost of a transit ticket (usually to set a minimum price). Budapest is an example.

Strengths: May slightly deter future populist attempts to lower city-centre parking prices. Prevents public transport fare increases from encouraging car use for travel to downtown.

Weaknesses:  Arbitrary – not obvious how parking prices should compare with public transport. May not prevent saturation. Suitable primarily for city centre parking. Defines only a minimum price. No guidance for where to price or on pricing hours.

6. Intensity of development

Parking price zones (usually concentric) typically match boundaries in the intensity or type of urban development. These boundaries often also reflect past step-by-step extensions of parking management.

Examples:  Seoul and various cities in Europe and China.

Strengths:  Serves traffic mitigation goals and the need to ration on-street parking more intensively in the busiest areas. Tends to match local expectations of where different policies should apply.

Weaknesses: Decisions on zone boundaries and on prices are rather arbitrary. No guidance for pricing hours.

7. Land values

Base parking prices on some percentage of nearby average land values. Based on the idea that parking pressure is highest in areas of highest land values/rents. Also alludes to the idea that parking should pay its share of land rent.

Examples: Proposed in India's national urban transport strategy. Proposed for Ahmedabad.

Strengths: Simple. Sends a helpful message about the value of parking. Parking pressure may correlate roughly with land values.

Weaknesses:  Untested. Proposals so far make parking an arbitrary (and low) proportion of estimated land prices. Insufficient evidence that on-street parking pressure correlates closely with land rents. Some low-land-price areas may have saturated on-street parking. No guidance for pricing hours.

8. On-street prices higher than off-street

Takes nearby off-street parking prices (or an average of such prices) as a minimum benchmark and sets on-street prices a certain amount or percentage higher. Aims to discourage cruising for on-street parking and encourage use of off-street parking, which otherwise is often under-used.

Examples:  Medellin; Beijing; Frankfurt-am-Main

Strengths:  Probably simple to implement. Widely advocated. Provides market-responsiveness if off-street parking has market-influenced prices. Should encourage off-street parking use and discourage cruising for on-street parking. Is in line with the fact that motorists often value well-located and well-managed on-street parking more than less-convenient off-street options, at least for short-term parking.

Weaknesses:  Limited evidence. Danger it may prompt calls to control off-street prices. Off-street parking is often under-priced due to other policies. Problems if off-street prices are not responsive enough. Does short-term on-street need to be pricier than short-term off-street, or is it adequate if on-street price for 6 hours or more is higher than the daily off-street price aimed at employees?

9. Precise occupancy targeting with tiny zones

Price setting based on a relatively narrow target range for the average on-street parking occupancy (such as 70 to 90%). Frequent price adjustments (monthly for example). Prices can change for any street section and any part of the day in which average occupancy over the previous survey period falls outside the target range.

Examples:  Los Angeles (in Express Park trial areas); San Francisco (in SFPark trial areas).

Strengths:  Highly targeted at a widely supported and important on-street parking management objective (preventing saturation). Tiny zones enable price-sensitive motorists to use their parking location choice to avoid high parking fees. Effective at reducing parking saturation and its ill effects. Makes on-street parking prices very responsive to changing conditions.

Weaknesses: High precision in space and such frequent price adjustments may not be necessary to achieve most goals. Has been tried so far only in high-income cities. Problems conveying detailed price information to motorists. Requires high capacities in data-collection, management analysis and price adjustment.

10. Non-systematic occupancy targeting

An approximation of occupancy targeting emerges if:

  1. avoiding saturation is an important consideration in price setting (with or without an explicit occupancy target range); and 
  2. there is a willingness to have different prices for specific locations or streets with high parking pressure.
Examples: Vancouver, several Boroughs in London, many places in Australia, various cities in Hungary, Taipei (almost systematic actually). Many cities that seem to use another criterion in this table may, in practice, use occupancy in this way behind the scenes.

Strengths: Widespread. Reaps some benefits of occupancy targeting (to the extent that occupancy does influence prices). May provide first steps towards systematic occupancy targeting.

Weaknesses:  Not sufficiently objective or transparent if price setting is a judgement by officials (potentially influenced by other issues besides avoiding saturation). This makes it difficult to defend price changes. So there is a risk of sliding back towards the ‘political judgement’ approach.

11. Occupancy targeting with simple zones

Price setting is based on a target range for the average on-street parking occupancy (or vacancy) rate. Price zones are not tiny (covering several streets or blocks but usually not more than about 1 km across). Price adjustments regular but usually much less often than monthly. Certain examples have some time-of-day pricing but most have a single price for all priced hours.

Examples:  central Auckland; central Calgary; Rotterdam; Seattle; possibly Budapest.

Strengths:  Well targeted at a widely supported and important on-street parking management objective (preventing saturation). Reduces the incidence of on-street parking saturation (and its ill effects such as illegal parking, double parking, and cruising for parking). Makes on-street parking prices responsive to changing local conditions. Simpler price information to motorists than the tiny-zone option above. Does not stretch data management and implementation capacity. Suited to incremental introduction and improvement.

Weaknesses:  Small areas and short periods of severe parking saturation can emerge if parking demand is not uniform within each zone and across the day. [However, this can be addressed by incremental improvements, such as splitting zones or adding time-of-day pricing as needed, as was done in Seattle’s Chinatown.] Zones that are too big often fail to give motorists the option of avoiding high prices by parking a little further then walking.


My current view is that the best choice is occupancy targeting, especially the final option, ‘occupancy targeting with simple zones’.

Most of the other approaches will typically fail to tame on-street parking saturation and its negative side-effects. This risks having pricing being seen as a failure. It also fuels the (often false) perception of parking shortage and prompts various wasteful parking efforts and investments and many misguided parking policy efforts, including excessive minimum parking requirements .

Occupancy that is neither ‘too full’ nor ‘too empty’ is a simple and intuitive criterion that is easily explained to the public.

If you want parking success without parking excess, then urge your city to consider ‘occupancy targeting with simple zones’ for on-street parking price setting.

Do you agree?


Monday, June 20, 2016

Free parking: major problem or no big deal?

Free parking: major problem or no big deal?
Do you want your city or town to shift away from promoting plentiful parking? Do you agree with Prof. Donald Shoup that inducing excessive free parking is a costly mistake?

If so, you have probably heard someone trivialize the issue. Maybe they told you that free parking is no big deal. Maybe they said it is no worse than all the other cross subsidies in society, or that it is just one more thing some of us pay for but don't use.

A wonkblog post on parking and its many angry comments

I was reminded of those claims by a post last week by Emily Bagder on WaPo's Wonkblog that provoked many comments along those lines.

Badger's post highlighted Donald Shoup's latest parking article "Cutting the Cost of Parking Requirements".

A lot of angry comments focused on the social justice angle, reacting especially to the title "Poor people pay for parking even when they can’t afford a car" and to this quote early in her post:
"People who are too poor to own a car," Shoup writes in the University of California's ACCESS Magazine, "pay more for their groceries to ensure that richer people can park free when they drive to the store."
The post also highlighted Shoup's striking new parking cost estimates:
The cost of constructing above-ground parking in a major American city runs about $24,000 per space, in Shoup's research (this doesn't include the cost of buying the land underneath). An underground spot costs $34,000. 
Let's emphasize again that these costs EXCLUDE LAND COSTS. Wow!

Badger then continues to emphasize the social justice aspects in Shoup's article. For example:
Regulations that require developers to bake those costs into shopping centers, offices or apartment buildings — whether people intend to drive there or not — are a matter of inequality, Shoup argues. They force people who don't drive to subsidize those who do. They assume everyone does drive when many people can't. And they make it more expensive to build affordable housing, which means we get less of it. 
Median parking requirements for office space in a set of US cities. 
This is part of a larger infographic by Seth Goodman published on the Graphing Parking site

Why parking-minimum-induced excessive free parking IS a big deal

I don't recommend delving deeply into those comments, which include many knee-jerk assumptions about Badger's and/or Shoup's supposed anti-car and/or left-wing intentions and/or stupidity.

But I do want to address this one comment, which is among those with the most "likes", and which is one of many that makes a similar point:
"Foolish article. I pay school taxes despite the fact that I never had children in the local schools. Everyone in a large and complex society pays taxes for some things they do not use, want, or need. That's just how it goes."
So what is wrong with this comment?

First, the mention of taxes is misleading. Free off-street parking is mostly about "bundling" not about tax money. In areas with plentiful parking, private owners of parking cover its costs from the rest of their enterprise (housing revenue, retail revenue, office space revenue, or whatever).

Second, the free parking a result of local government REGULATIONS! Plentiful free-of-charge off-street parking is usually NOT a natural outcome of the free market at work. Rather, it is minimum parking requirements that promote so much parking supply, especially in the USA, that the price is driven to zero.

Third, the comment seems to suggest that nothing much can be done. Not true. Prof Shoup's suggested policy reforms are a good place to start. Reinventing Parking also has various suggestions. Feel free to explore.

Fourth, shifting parking costs from direct users to everyone is not trivial. That was Shoup's key point in highlighting the enormous cost of providing each parking space in a city. Each parking space costs more than most of the cars that will ever park on it. And he didn't even consider land costs. And our own Seth Goodman estimated that, in USA cities, one parking space adds about $225 to monthly apartment rent.

Finally, just because the costs of many goods and services are not covered by user fees does NOT mean that is a good way to organize parking. User fees, especially market-responsive fees (a.k.a. market prices), send important signals to the actors in the system. In a market economy, unless there are good reasons to do otherwise we generally prefer things to be funded via prices rather than the other options, such as non-responsive fees, taxes, advertising, and imposts on specific groups of non-user beneficiaries (via targeted levies).

Yes, there are many things that are not funded by user fees/prices. For good reasons. But most of them are not relevant to parking.

For the really keen readers among you, here is more detail on those good reasons not to rely on pricing and why they generally DO NOT apply to parking.
  • Sometimes the transaction costs of imposing user fees are too high. In the past, this was often relevant for parking, but modern parking pricing technology makes parking fees easy. 
  • Sometimes bundling a cost with other goods is a business decision (fries and a drink come at a discount with a burger). This is relevant to parking. Retailers often offer free parking, even if their parking is tight, via parking validation (free parking for motorists who spend enough). But for other kinds of building, bundling of parking costs is only common when parking is plentiful, not when it is scarce. Most bundling is because of parking minimums.  
  • Sometimes a direct user fee is just not feasible (think free-to-air broadcasts or fire fighting). But, as I said, it IS easy to charge for parking. So parking is NOT a non-excludable public good. 
  • In some cases, society benefits if people get a good even if they would not or could not pay ("merit goods" or goods with positive externalities; think basic education). This argument is used for parking but is based on the huge mistake of thinking that plentiful parking is the best way to prevent on-street parking chaos. In fact, on-street parking management is the best way to deal with on-street parking problems, regardless of off-street parking supply. 
  • Sometimes, as for mass transit, the economically efficient user fee (the 'marginal cost price') is inherently lower than the cost recovery fee. There may actually be an element of this in parking, but not enough to justify excessive parking minimums or free parking.
  • Sometimes (often?), government-funded freebies are aimed at helping businesses. Unfortunately, this is indeed common in parking, with many downtowns providing free or cheap parking at taxpayer expense to help downtown businesses. If such help is needed, I wish they would find transport-mode neutral ways to do it that don't also subsidize car dependence. 
  • And, finally, yes sometimes we deviate from user pays for social justice reasons. It is a good thing that most countries enable even the poorest people to get basic health care, education, and other basics. But parking is hardly a basic need! Shifting parking costs away from its users is a horribly poorly targeted way to help low-income people.  

The bottom line

Shifting parking costs onto everyone need not be "just how it goes". In the case of parking, it is better to charge the actual users.

Some of the reasons for this can be seen as left wing. Some are usually seen as right-wing. Many are based on centrist public-policy wonkishness. It doesn't matter. I don't see this as a left-right thing. Do you?

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Parking success without parking excess

Parking success without parking excess
What is parking success?

A recent trip to China reminded me of this question, which is important for cities everywhere.


Shortage problem or management problem?

China's cities have serious parking problems and most of them blame shortage.

Rapid increases in urban car ownership since the year 2000 has left many streets and residential areas with parking chaos, especially in older parts of town. Convenient parking is very often more than 100% full, causing search traffic and illegal parking on streets, on sidewalks and on public spaces. These in turn cause congestion, danger, and interpersonal conflict.

Many Chinese cities have concluded they have a huge gap between parking supply and parking needs. Simply counting their legal parking spaces and comparing this city-wide number with the registered vehicles reveals the gap.

Naturally, such gaps are blamed for parking problems.

This is despite the fact that more detailed local studies often find that off-street (especially underground) parking is under-used and that commercial areas with parking problems typically have no such parking supply-demand gap.

Weak management of on-street parking, sidewalk parking and parking in building frontages means that motorists have little incentive to seek out the less convenient underground option, which often also costs them more.

China's cities push for more parking

If shortage is the diagnosis, then supply seems the obvious medicine.

So around China, various city governments are planning boosts to parking supply, especially by:
  • Revising their parking minimums upwards (from their currently relatively low levels), and
  • Investing directly in city-built parking, despite the daunting costs. 

But many cities in China are also pushing to be 'transit metropolises'

Urban transport policy priorities in China are seeing significant changes.

For example, China's largest cities are now limiting the growth of car ownership, and the national Ministry of Transport has launched its 'Transit Metropolis' policy, in which more than 50 cities will see accelerated mass transit development.

Seeing plentiful parking as the definition of parking success is therefore a problem. This parking goal is in direct conflict with China's new urban transport policy priorities.

Urgent need for parking policies that succeed without promoting car dependence

Chinese cities do need to ease their very real parking problems which are making so many places unpleasant and unsafe.

But the solutions must not fuel car dependence. China needs parking success without parking excess.

And there are some signs of change. Shenzhen has introduced on-street parking fees after a hiatus. Rather steep fees in fact. Shenzhen has also lowered its parking minimums for buildings near mass transit. China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has also been liberalizing parking prices (many of which used to be controlled by local governments).

Do you too want parking success without excess? Then Reinventing Parking is for you.

Isn't success without excess what you want too? If you are a regular reader here, you know that this site is not offering plentiful parking as the solution.

On Reinventing Parking we seek parking success without parking excess. If you want that too, then explore the site, come back from time to time, or sign up for email alerts to new posts.

Adaptive Parking is a path towards parking success without parking excess. 

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

New "how to" toolkit about on-street parking basics

New "how to" toolkit about on-street parking basics
[UPDATE: The toolkit highlighted below is now also available in Spanish (pdf) and in Chinese (pdf).]

In my parking work across Asia, I repeatedly hear the same questions about on-street parking management.

Questions like:

  • How can we improve parking enforcement when the situation seems hopeless?
  • Should we ban on-street parking altogether?
  • How can we improve our parking fees system?
  • Why is there still on-street parking chaos, despite our efforts to improve?
  • How do we set the right prices for on-street parking? 

This thirst for information suggested a need. People working on parking in low-income and middle-income countries needed an accessible 'how to' reference on the basics of on-street parking management.

I didn't need to hustle the idea. Folks at the GIZ* Sustainable Urban Transport Project (SUTP) had reached the same conclusion! During a parking training in Delhi, they asked me to draft such a guide.

It was a long process (I would hate to tell you how long) but the toolkit was published two weeks ago.

Please take a look!  

Please also help get the Toolkit into the hands of anyone who needs it!

Here is SUTP's announcement of the Toolkit.

Here is a link to directly download the PDF

The full title is: On-Street Parking Management: An International Toolkit.  It is Sustainable Urban Transport Technical Document #14, published by GIZ-SUTP.

Many many thanks are due to all of the people who helped. You know who you are. Also see the acknowledgements page!

Feedback is welcome. It would he helpful to find any remaining errors and there is room for disagreement on certain issues, of course. 

* GIZ is Germany's international technical assistance agency. I have assisted GIZ with urban parking advisory and training work in China, India, Indonesia and Nepal. 
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