Japan-style "proof of parking" regulations for India?

A 'proof of parking' regulation has just been enacted in the tiny state of Mizoram in India's far east.
“The government has amended the Mizoram Motor Vehicles Rules last week making it compulsory for citizens to first ensure parking space before one intends to purchase a car,” said Transport Secretary P Lalthlengliana.
With several major Indian jurisdictions debating similar rules, the Mizoram measure has triggered a hostile editorial in the Times of India and an approving opinion from Rudroneel Ghosh in the same edition.

This prompts me to explain how this works in Japan and the apparent results. I hope this may help inform the debate in India and other countries where this policy is being considered.

One result of Japan's proof-of-parking regulation has been to foster a market for off-street parking places for lease. Here is an example in an inner Tokyo neighbourhood.

Japan's version of proof-of-parking (shako shomeisho) does not require ownership of a parking space. Permission to lease the space is good enough. If you are renting in a building with no parking you are not prevented from buying a car. You would just have to find a parking space to lease nearby and prove this to the local police.

The policy was imposed in the 1950s in Japan as car-ownership first started to take off. With very narrow residential streets, there was an urgent need to prevent them becoming hopelessly clogged with parked cars. The policy generally succeeded on that goal.

However, it has had several even more important effects.

Here is how I put it in the draft report of the Asian cities parking study:
Perhaps most importantly, the policy created a demand for leased parking near homes, which the market has generally managed to meet, at a market price.

The proof-of-parking regulation eliminated the need to adopt American style parking requirements for residential buildings in which every building would be required to have parking. It made it easier to adopt a pragmatic approach, in which small buildings are exempted.

The regulation removes residential parking from streets which also removes the need to have residential parking permits.

It has also probably had the indirect effect of avoiding the pressure to increase street width standards for residential areas to accommodate parking...
It is likely that the policy slowed the growth of car ownership in Japan’s cities. This impact must obviously be greatest in places with high property prices, where leased parking prices are also high. This deters car ownership in precisely the highly accessible, densely-developed, transit-rich contexts where car ownership is least necessary. 
... proof-of-parking regulation must have helped foster low car ownership in the urban cores of Japan’s large cities, where high real estate prices translate into expensive overnight parking. For example, leased residential parking prices of more than $300 per month were seen advertised in inner-city Tokyo during late 2009 fieldwork for this study.
The policy has been widely cited but with little detail. It may have much to offer other countries. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate systematic studies of its details and of lessons learned over time, or of whether it has potential elsewhere. International parking policy discussions could benefit greatly from a stronger effort to translate Japanese knowledge on this policy and to investigate its suitability to other contexts.

Do you know of any good documentation or analysis of Japan's proof-of-parking policy and its effects? I would love to hear of any!

Note also that the proof-of-parking policy involves a remarkable shift in the locus of responsibility for off-street parking when compared with other parking policy approaches. In Japan the onus is on the vehicle owner to ensure they have off-street night-time parking NOT the government and usually not building developers or owners.

An online guide for foreigners wanting to drive in Japan explains how to get one:
How do I get proof of a parking space?
Find the person who is renting (or willing to rent) you a parking space within 2km of where you live, often the landlord, building owner, real estate agent, building management company of the building you live in, and ask for an official document showing that the space is yours. This document is a Certificate of Permission for Use of Parking (hokan basho shodaku shomei) and it must be stamped by the agent. Then go to the local police station and fill out an application form as well as an application form for a badge (hyosho) so you can certify the space. You have to draw two maps in a detailed manner: one of the area (including nearby landmarks) and one of the parking space, including the space number if there is one, the dimensions (in meters) of the spot and the width of any adjacent roads. This takes about a week to process. Note that small / light cars may not need this certificate in less urban areas.

By the way, although Seoul has considered and rejected the idea, Korea's Cheju Island is actually conducting a trial of this policy. (Sorry can't find a link to the trial. Can anyone help find one?)

Hat tip: Faizan Jawed via the sustran-discuss listserv on urban transport policy in developing countries.


  1. Update: The Indian state of Sikkim also adopted a proof-of-parking policy recently (in July 2010). A news report is at http://telegraphindia.com/1100729/jsp/frontpage/story_12744346.jsp

  2. Paul, thank you for your excellent blog, and specially for this post. I had heard about proof-of-parking used in Japan, but had never knew with such details. It is very useful for me, as I work at the Traffic Department in Rio and I'm trying to persuade my coleagues about the big mistake caused by minimum parking requirements (of course, I'm reading with great interest D.Shoup's book).


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