Friday, August 21, 2009

Downtown? Don't even think of parking here!

Policy overview of "Strategies for discouraging surface parking lots downtown" by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, noting that some cities implement parking maximums (also called "lids") which limit the total number of parking spaces in an area, or place a limit on temporary commercial parking lots.

Strategies for discouraging surface parking lots downtown

Parking Maximums - http://www.vtpi.org/park_man_comp.pdf - refers to a situation in which an upper limit is placed on parking supply, either at individual sites or in an area. Area-wide limits are called Parking Caps. These can be in addition to or instead of minimum parking requirements (Manville and Shoup, 2005).

Excessive parking supply can also be discouraged by reducing public parking supplies, imposing a special parking tax, and by enforcing regulations that limit temporary parking facilities.

Maximums often apply only to certain types of parking, such as long-term, single-use, free, or surface parking, depending on planning objectives. These strategies are usually implemented in large commercial centers as part of integrated programs to reduce excessive parking supply, encourage use of alternative modes, create more compact development patterns, create more attractive streetscapes, and preserve historic buildings.

It could be argued that maximums are as unnecessary as minimum parking requirements. Parking regulations could simply be eliminated, allowing property owners to determine how much parking to supply at their sites. However, parking minimums have been applied for decades, resulting in well-established transport and land use market distortions. As a result, left to itself the market may be slow to reach an optimal level, so parking maximums may be necessary to achieve quicker benefits.

Since businesses may consider abundant, free, on-site parking to convey a competitive advantage, individual firms often find it difficult to reduce supply. Parking maximums that apply equally to all businesses may be an acceptable and effective way to reduce supply in an area. A study comparing various cities found that (Martens, 2006):
• Many European cities restrict commercial building parking supply, ranging from 270 to 500 square meters of office floor area per parking space (approximately 0.2 to 0.37 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet).

• Management of on-street and off-street public parking spaces is a natural complement of restrictive norms with regard to private parking places.

• Restrictive parking policies and public transport improvements support each other, but major transit service improvements need not precede adoption of parking restrictions.

• Restrictive city center parking policies have been introduced without strict regulations preventing unwanted suburbanization of economic activities.

• Case studies suggest that parking restrictions will not have negative economic impacts if implemented in cities with a strong and vibrant economic structure.


The City of Seattle requires that major institutions which propose to provide more than 135% of minimum required parking supply develop a transportation management plan to help reduce trip generation and parking demand (SMC 23.54.016). San Francisco places a two year limit on the use of vacant downtown parcels for parking lots, to encourage redevelopment (Manville and Shoup, 2005).

For more information on various parking management strategies see:

* Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management Best Practices, Planners Press (www.planning.org); www.vtpi.org/PMBP_Flyer.pdf.

* Todd Litman (2006), Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning, Victoria Transport Policy Institute (www.vtpi.org); at www.vtpi.org/park_man.pdf.

* Michael Manville and Donald Shoup (2005), “People, Parking, and Cities,” Journal of Urban Planning and Development, December, 2005, pp. 233-245; at http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/People,Parking,CitiesJUPD.pdf; summarized in Access 25, (www.uctc.net), Fall 2004, pp. 2-8.

* MTC (2007), Developing Parking Policies to Support Smart Growth in Local Jurisdictions: Best Practices, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (www.mtc.ca.gov); at www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/smart_growth/parking_seminar/BestPractices.pdf .

* Redwood City (2007), Downtown Parking, Redwood City ( www.ci.redwood-city.ca.us/cds/redevelopment/downtown/parking.html). The City’s Parking Management Plan is at www.ci.redwood-city.ca.us/cds/redevelopment/downtown/Parking/Downtown%20Redwood%20City%20Parking%20Plan.pdf .

* San Francisco (2009), On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Study, San Francisco County Transportation Authority (www.sfcta.org); at www.sfcta.org/content/view/303/149.

* Schaller Consulting (2006), Curbing Cars: Shopping, Parking and Pedestrian Space in SoHo, Transportation Alternatives (www.transalt.org); at www.transalt.org/campaigns/reclaiming/soho_curbing_cars.pdf.

* Seattle (2001), Parking: Your Guide to Parking Management, City of Seattle ( www.cityofseattle.net/planning/transportation/pdf/Parkingguide.pdf).

* Donald Shoup (1999), “The Trouble With Minimum Parking Requirements,” Transportation Research A, Vol. 33, No. 7/8, Sept./Nov., pp. 549-574; at www.vtpi.org/shoup.pdf.

* Ventura (2008), Downtown Parking Ordinance, City of Ventura (www.ci.ventura.ca.us).

* Richard Voith (1998), “The Downtown Parking Syndrome: Does Curing the Illness Kill the Patient?” Business Review, Vol. 1 ( www.phil.frb.org/files/br/brjf98dv.pdf), pp 3-14.

* Rachel Weinberger, Mark Seaman and Carolyn Johnson (2008), Suburbanizing the City: How New York City Parking Requirements Lead to More Driving, University of Pennsylvania for Transportation Alternatives ( www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/reports/suburbanizing_the_city.pdf).

# # #

Todd Litman is founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization dedicated to developing innovative solutions to transport problems. His work helps to expand the range of impacts and options considered in transportation decision-making, improve evaluation techniques, and make specialized technical concepts accessible to a larger audience. He can be reached at: 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada. Email: litman@vtpi.org. Phone & Fax: +1 250-360-1560

Print this article