Parking revolution in car-dependent North America (a chat with Patrick Siegman)

Patrick Siegman has long been one of my inspirations as a parking policy changemaker. 

He is a skilled practitioner and consultant on parking (and much more) with an enormous amount of experience across North America and beyond. [Scroll to the bottom for more information about Patrick.]

But, as you will hear in this episode of Reinventing Parking, Patrick also has a great knack for communicating about parking policy reform in a compelling. entertaining and optimistic way.     

This episode focuses on the ongoing revolution in off-street parking policies, including the trend to abolish parking minimums, in the heartland of car-dependence, North America.

The next episode of Reinventing Parking episode will continue this conversation with Patrick Siegman but with a focus on on-street parking.  

Scroll down for some highlights or listen with the player below.  

Some highlights from this episode with Patrick Siegman

The highlights below are brief, so please do dive into the recorded interview with the player at the top or by subscribing and listening with your favourite podcast listening app. Here's how.

I asked Patrick to point to a city that is a model of what to do. He countered that there is no one place. Many cities have done good things. His advice: find examples that speak to your situation. 

Nevertheless, San Francisco is a good model, especially for large cities. It has carried out two out of three of Donald Shoup's key parking reform suggestions. 
  • It charges the right prices for on on-street parking, at least a lot of the time and in a lot of places. [The next Reinventing Parking episode will feature Patrick again and will focus more on the on-street parking, including San Francisco's.] 
  • SF has also now abolished all minimum parking requirements city-wide for all land uses. This was the culmination of many steps, which started in the 1980s in the downtown area where parking requirements were eliminated for non-residential uses. 
  • The one of Shoup's big three suggestions that SF has NOT done is to set up a system for returning the parking revenue back to the neighbourhoods where it comes from. Instead, parking revenue is, by law, earmarked for public transport in the city. 

Different arguments for removing parking requirements resonate in different places. 
  • The potential to boost economic development and building is a winner in depressed towns and cities. 
  • The prospect of easing traffic problems is more persuasive in places, such as the San Francisco Bay area, that have already attracted large numbers of jobs. 

Patrick sees huge potential for more action on parking reform at the State or National levels. 
  • We discussed various examples, especially in California. 
  • Patrick made a strong case that parking activism might do well to focus more energy at these levels of government. 
  • Several pieces of California legislation are making a difference, with more to come.

Ending residential parking minimums depends on successful action to manage on-street residential parking. Patrick is pragmatic about how to design residential parking permit systems. 
  • There are some basic mistakes to avoid (such as handing way more permits than there are spaces). 
  • But there are various ways to avoid provoking too much opposition from existing residents. 
  • Patrick mentioned the area near the university in Tuscon, Arizona, where the parking permits allocated to a property is restricted to the length of kerb in front of that property. 

We discussed unbundling parking costs from the costs of housing or office leases. 
  • Should unbundling be mandated?
  • Should an unbundling ordinance set a minimum price?
  • Bellevue, Washington has unbundled office parking from office leases, with a minimum price. This has made a large difference to mode shares there. 
I asked Patrick what he thinks of parking activists doing DIY parking studies or counts? 
  • He knows of many successes. 
  • Student research projects are a common generator of such studies. 
  • Time and again he does see these driving change at local level. 

But this brought us back to the need for state or national-level reform. 
  • There are so many local jurisdictions that we won't see widespread change unless change advocates focus energy at higher levels of government.  

We spoke about the Parking Reform Network and its genesis in Portland parking activism. 
  • The efforts of Tony Jordon and others has showed that even small numbers of people focused on this issue can make a big difference. 
  • PRN should help many others to feel encouraged to take action on parking. 

Patrick highlighted the important and useful book, Parking in the City, edited by Prof. Donald Shoup. [Both Patrick and I wrote chapters!] 
  • It has lots of useful examples and policy tips. 
  • Donald Shoup has in fact made his introductory chapter available as a free download. This really is a must-read for parking change-makers! It is a lively and digestible summary of his key parking reform proposals and more. 

Finally, does parking reform have momentum or is it stuck in a rut? 
  • Patrick offered several persuasive reasons why he sees gathering momentum in North America and also elsewhere. 
  • Parking minimums reform is happening in more and more cities, including recently Edmonton in Canada. 

I was happy to end on such a hopeful note. 

If you are interested in more detail, please take a listen to our conversation!

About Patrick Siegman

Patrick Siegman is a transportation planner & economist. He is founding principal of Siegman & Associates a firm devoted to sustainable transportation planning.

He was formerly Principal and Shareholder at Nelson\Nygaard.

Patrick has long track record of providing transport and parking expertise and advice in more than 70 citywide and district plans. His work has received awards from several professional bodies, such as the American Planning Association.


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