Presentation: 'Learning from Parking Policies in Asia'

A few eastern Asian cities have an unfamiliar approach to parking. They have very low minimum parking requirements but don't seem to worry about boosting parking supply.

This is part of the story I told in a talk in Argentina a few weeks ago. The slideshow is below.

I was honoured to be invited to speak on parking policies in Asia at the Conference on Sustainable Transport, Air Quality and Climate Change for Latin America and the Caribbean, which was held in Rosario, Argentina, on May 9-14, 2011. Most presentations were in Spanish, with a few in English (including mine). You can see the programme and view all of the presentations HERE.

Here is a part of the story that I tried to tell.

As I have said before, parking policy has THREE families of approaches. Each involves thinking about parking in a very different way.
  • ‘Conventional’ approaches see parking as ancillary infrastructure for each building (like its toilets)
  • ‘Parking management’ approaches see parking as infrastructure for whole neighborhoods (like streets) and hence they also see parking as a potential tool for wider policy goals
  • Market-oriented approaches to parking policy (like Donald Shoup's for example) also see parking as a service for whole neighbourhoods but also tend to see parking as real-estate (or as a real-estate based service industry, like hot food outlets).  
At the start of our Asian Cities Parking Study I expected parking management to be common in Asia. Why did I expect that? Because most Asian city areas have ideal conditions for park-once, shared parking environments (high urban densities; mixed-use urban fabric; high use of non-car modes; acute problems arising from rapid motorization) and in the West such conditions are the home territory for parking management approaches.

But to my surprise we found that all of the cities use minimum parking requirements. Does that mean the conventional approach to parking policy is common in Asia? Well it sure does dominate parts of Southeast Asia and South Asia (where many cities now have excessively high minimum parking requirements).

However, a few East Asian cities don't seem to worry much about parking supply. 

Tokyo (and Japan generally) is the main example but several other cities also show some signs of this. You could think of their model as a ‘relaxed pragmatic’ version of the conventional approach to parking policy. These cities have minimum parking requirements but their policy settings don't show much concern about parking shortages or the usual bogey, 'spillover'.

My guess is that this is because their ‘park-once neighborhoods’ adapt easily to changing parking conditions (especially when prices are left to market forces). There is also adequate control of on-street parking and Japanese cities have little on-street parking anyway. So, without great pressure to solve parking problems, these cities didn't need to update those low minimum parking requirements even though car ownership and use has increased.

This seems to me to be a strange hybrid between the conventional approach and market-oriented parking. It is a surprising mix that we don't find in the West (to my knowledge). By the way, I don't want to imply that Japan's approach was a well-thought-out strategy. More likely it was something of an accident.

[I should also mention that Tokyo's parking policy is still far from perfect! For example, it is probably much too liberal in allowing vacant lots to be used for parking.]

Anyway, I ended the talk by suggesting that these eastern Asian experiences might prompt others to consider relaxing a bit about parking supply by doing the following: 
  • Get adequate control of on-street parking
  • Foster ‘park-once neighborhoods’ with most parking open to the public, not restricted to customers or tenants only, and with market prices
  • Even if you can’t lower or abolish minimum parking requirements, at least don’t increase them!