Six signposts to a parking revolution

[By the way, are you a podcast listener? Reinventing Parking is now ALSO a podcast. Check it out.]

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
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