For the past six years on September 16th advocates, planners, bureaucrats and artists have joined forces to create mini pop-up parks in curbside spaces, generally reserved for cars. All this is part of a global movement called “Park(ing) Day” which uses these fun new public spaces to call attention to what is ordinarily a touchy subject for cities. Parking, how much to have and what to charge for it is right up there as a third rail issue for city and transportation officials.
Park(ing) Day showcases the myriad of alternate uses for curbside spaces and open lots, and creates a public dialogue about how we use this space, and what we should fairly charge for it.
It is clear that parking policy, if it exists at all, is currently an afterthought rather than central to a long-term congestion mitigation and air quality. This makes parking unreliable for motorists and inefficient for cities. Motorists circle endlessly to find an available spot at the curb. Retail employees park in front of their stores for the entire day, taking choice parking locations away from potential customers. Developers are compelled to provide more parking than the market requires, which hurts their bottom line. And traffic managers encounter difficulty handling traffic generated by new parking as there is often no link between parking price, supply and the amount of available road space.
In cities in the developing world the issues are complicated further by governments’ failure to crack down on bad parking behaviors including illegal parking, especially on sidewalks, or illegal valet operations.
At the end of the day, we all pay, as hidden subsidies on parking encourage over reliance on private car use—a major, growing contributor to global warming and air pollution.
Many cities try to build their way out of the problem, thinking the solution is just a few more spaces away. But the issue is not lack of supply; it’s lack of appropriate management and enforcement. For example:
In India, the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) states that cities should charge on-street parking rates equivalent to the real estate values of surrounding properties. If that was true of CG Road, the premier shopping street of Ahmedabad, India, drivers would pay over Rs. 8000 per hour ($168 USD), instead they pay just 5 ($0.10 USD).
In Rio de Janerio, Brazil: The new “Centro Metropolitano da Barra” mixed use development is forecasted to generate 80,000 car trips daily. But developers are required to build 108,912 new parking spaces. That’s equivalent to 1.3 parking spaces for each trip. If these spaces were laid out flat, they would take up a land area equivalent to nearly 70% of the entire footprint of the new development, or 2.2 times the size of the Jardim Botanico, the renowned botanical garden in Rio.
In Jakarta, Indonesia city officials attempted to revitalize the corridor along Jalan Sabang. In 2009 they removed street food vendors from the sidewalk to give pedestrians more space to walk. But instead the sidewalk became overrun with illegal parking where informal “valets” charge a fee, and the street is more congested than ever.
But cities that employ better parking management techniques are reaping economic, environmental and political rewards.
Through research and reports including “U.S. Parking Policies: An Overview of Management Strategies” and “Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation” ITDP has observed the following bright spots, which provide examples of better parking management that can inspire cities around the globe:
* In Barcelona, net revenue generated from parking fees supports Bicing, the bike share program.
* Amsterdam reduced traffic in their city center by 20% by implementing paid parking
* Munich phased in a more robust parking management program between 2001-2008, car use has decreased by 14% in the city during that time and cycling and walking has increased.
* In San Francisco drivers get to enjoy a whole movie or a leisurely dinner without running out to feed the meter, thanks to the new SFPark program, which is also reducing cruising for curbside parking by optimizing curbside parking rates so that at least one space on a block is free at any time.
This year all of ITDP’s field offices will participate in Park(ing) Day, or support a local non-governmental organization that is organizing an event.
The issues observed in our fields offices vary from dealing with illegal “valet” parking (aka tipping the guy on the street to ensure your car will still be there when you return) to underpriced curbside spaces to zoning regulations which require developers to create an oversupply of parking spaces; thereby locking in patterns of car-dependency. But the policy solutions and practices already exist to manage many of these issues and cities seem hungry to find them. In the past year we’ve observed that:
In San Luis Potosi, the informal “valets” now have the option to register and receive official permission and uniforms to wash cars. They make the same money as before much quicker and now go home early.
In Pune, India the traffic police have put together a map of the parking management policy that illustrates the rules on different streets. This is a first for India and is modeled on the UK Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) system.
In Guangzhou, China nearly all the on-street parking in the historic city center is paid parking and strictly regulated.
And hopefully with events like Park(ing) Day, combined with smart policy and advocacy work more cities will be on the path to managing their parking as the valuable urban resource it is.