Parking and Costco

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Parking and Costco

I have just read a super summary of why parking requirements set by government is destroying the urban landscape. Check it out here. It’s basically Shoup 101 as seen through the eyes of a consulting firm with the author living in New Zealand. Here’s the synopsis from the Toronto Sun:

Cities forcing developers to provide parking seems innocuous. It’s not. The rules stimulate urban sprawl, encourage excessive use of cars, create inequitable social outcomes, reduce housing affordability, and suppress economic development.

Wiping parking regulations from municipal planning codes across Canada is arguably the most urgent policy reform municipalities can make.

In the middle of the last century, transport engineers thought providing parking would ensure drivers looking for spaces did not create undue congestion and delay other road users.

Parking regulations are politically palatable because they improve driver convenience by including the cost of parking in the overall cost of development.

But parking is not free; the cost is merely hidden.

Today, 90% of private vehicle trips in North America end in a “free” parking space. But that valuable urban land the space uses isn’t free.

Developers who build banquet halls in Richmond, B.C., for example, are required to provide up to four square metres of parking for every metre of rentable banquet space. So everyone pays more for banquet space. The cost of parking can be substantial. The Toronto Parking Authority estimated the cost of providing a single parking space could be up to $40,000. U.S. researchers estimated parking subsidies are several times the price of gas used by cars.

The most insidious characteristic is the way the rules mold the urban landscape into a gigantic parking lot. By taking up land, parking spots reduce density and make car travel more appealing, which leads to — surprise, surprise — greater demand for parking. Parking rules actually add to congestion.

The effect of minimum-parking regulations varies depending upon income. A low-income earner is likely to spend a larger portion of their money on basic goods and services that build in the cost of parking. Supermarkets, for example, recoup the cost of parking in their grocery prices. Low-income earners are more likely to carpool, use public transit, walk or cycle, so they are less likely to benefit from the parking they are forced to subsidize. The cost of higher density housing is inflated by parking regulations, too.

Because the cost of parking is built in to the cost of other goods, people are less likely to make use of alternatives to the drive-and-park lifestyle. Car pooling, public transit, telecommuting, car sharing and online shopping reduce the demand for parking, but consumers have no incentive to choose these options because the cost of parking is built in. One scholar called minimum-parking regulations a “disastrous substitute for millions of individual decisions … about how much a parking space is worth.”

The removal of minimum-parking regulations does not need to be sudden or disruptive. If parking rules changed today, Canada’s urban areas would adapt slowly over years with new developments having only small impacts on the overall demand for parking. Cities would have to manage demand through the use of time-limits and ultimately prices.

If Canada’s planners are committed to economic growth, sustainability and livable communities, they should first focus on making sure existing regulations do not surreptitiously undermine these urban objectives. It is time we realized parking is not free and instead implemented simple regulatory reforms that allow developers, businesses and consumers to manage their demand for parking in a more effective manner.

As I read through the original report one comment stood out. It mentioned that by having fewer parking spaces, even in smaller cities and towns, people would begin to change their habits and, for instance, make fewer trips to the store and stock up when they did go. This is sort of like leaving a pile of stuff at the bottom of the stairs and then carrying it up when you got a complete load rather than making numerous hikes up and down.

It occurred to me that Costco is a perfect laboratory to test this hypothesis. Out local Costco, in an area of Culver City near Venice and Marina Del Rey, is among the top ten grossing stores in the chain. It’s always busy and if you don’t get there when the store opens, its parking lot is always full. Although I find going to Costco is fun, just to look at all the “stuff” and revel at the quality of the meat and variety of wine, there is no way in hell I’m going to fight that parking lot simply to wander as I would at the mall.

Hence, R and I have a list and when we discover items we need that would be a good “Costco” buy rather than buying it at the “store” (toilet paper and vitamins for instance), we put them on the list. When the list is of a certain length. We get up early on Saturday, drive to the store, stake out a parking spot and get in line with the 300 or so others that are jockeying shopping carts waiting for the big red doors to roll up.

Our behavior has been altered by the lack of parking. Costco’s sales aren’t. This is a rocking store, among the top in the chain. They have limited parking, but it doesn’t seem to hurt business. And we smart shoppers still buy the same amount we always would. However , dare we say it, the parking, or lack of it, has caused us to think more clearly about how we go about shopping.

Is this a horrific problem for our industry? Less parking means less need for parking services, right? I think not. Actually the need is in reverse. Costco doesn’t have any controlled parking. It’s chaos. They need a manager for parking. It would be great if there was a sign telling you how many spaces were available (technology). Some Costcos (in Mexico, for instance) charge for parking for non customers to prevent poaching. I have no clue how many spaces are poached but I bet its more than a few. How about parking reservations for peak times? I also know that at least 100 of those spaces are taken by employees, by design. Well, if they wanted they could find parking for their employees nearby and bus them in. All of these activities take management, technology – you know parking planning and services.

Fewer parking spaces means more work for the parking industry.

JVH

 

 

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

8 Responses

  1. Costco in downtown Vancouver has pay parking! It is across form two stadiums, and offers event parking as well.

  2. i like this part of the blog:”It occurred to me that Costco is a perfect laboratory to test this hypothesis. Out local Costco, in an area of Culver City near Venice and Marina Del Rey, is among the top ten grossing stores in the chain. It’s always busy and if you don’t get there when the store opens, its parking lot is always full. Although I find going to Costco is fun, just to look at all the “stuff” and revel at the quality of the meat and variety of wine, there is no way in hell I’m going to fight that parking lot simply to wander as I would at the mall. ” is very good

  3. It’s absolutely Perfect!I love the way on how you decorate those frames on the wall, and it goes with the floor too.Cool!
    I would try that in our house.

  4. Parking spaces are very very expensive!!! Imagine the cost of providing a single parking space, it could be up to $40,000. U.S!!
    and then, there are problems to get land to grow food, developing home programs….

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