Parking success without parking excess
By Paul Barter
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.
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About the author
Paul Barter is an Australian transport policy researcher, adviser, writer and trainer who has lived in Asia for more than 20 years. He was principal researcher and author of the Asian Development Bank’s 2011 report, ‘Parking Policy in Asian Cities’. He is also author of “On-Street Parking Management: An International Toolkit” published by the German aid agency, GIZ. Paul has provided parking policy insight and training in various Asian cities, mostly through international organizations, such as GIZ and the World Bank. He is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the LKY School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
This article for first appeared on www.reinventingparking.org