Parking – Such a Boring Topic — NOT!


Parking – Such a Boring Topic — NOT!

Paul Barter is Keynoting at PIE — His ideas are so important he’s giving two talks. Here are his comments about his presentations:

If I had my way, on-street parking management would be boring. It would be one of those worthy but unsexy topics, like sewers, that we can take for granted so long as they are working. Boring on-street parking management means getting the job done, free of drama, devoid of conflict, quietly efficient. Give thanks if you already have boring on-street parking management!

We will also see how sadly non-boring on-street parking can be. Many cities around the world have epic on-street parking crises. In certain Indonesian cities, organized crime has fingers in the on-street parking, making parking reform an ‘interesting’ exercise. Cars parked all over the sidewalks are commonplace in urban China. Of course, even in the US, local elected officials see parking policy as a career-threatening ‘third rail’.

But, more importantly, weak parking management plays a leading role in a slow-motion but epic tragedy. For most of its eight or so decades in existence, on-street parking management has been limited, much hated by motorists, and deployed with great reluctance. To avoid the pain, most municipalities try instead to promote plentiful off-street parking, usually via on-site parking requirements with buildings.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but we now know this strategy has been causing a slow-motion tsunami of high cost, eroding tax bases, unaffordable housing, automobile dependence, and is just hugely wasteful.

But here’s the good news. Things don’t have to be like that anymore.

Today, there is no technical reason for any city not to have excellent parking management in any street that needs it. This is the fruit of hard-won experience and of the exploding technical possibilities we will take a look at, including on parking data, price setting, fee collection, enforcement and for keeping key stakeholders happy (or at least happier than they used to be).

One of these opportunities is to escape the parking excess tragedy I mentioned just now. We should take the chance for all the reasons mentioned above, not to mention because of how silly we will feel if certain scenarios for plummeting parking demand come true. And don’t forget that even today most cities are needlessly creating way more parking supply than is justified.

Do I hear you protest that there has to be more to avoiding parking excess than better on-street parking management? Yes indeed. A Mayor can’t just snap his or her fingers and make parking demand disappear.

It is easy say “let’s avoid parking excess” but how do we also get the “success” part?

I will share some answers to that question in my second session. One answer involves some parking policy mental jujitsu. Stop even trying to prevent spillover parking. Instead adopt a “Walkable Parking” mindset in which spillover is nothing to be scared of at all. In fact, it is meaningless in this mindset.

So come along to my sessions to learn how to make your on-street parking management as boring as possible. It is a key step towards a vision of wider parking success that will allow us to wean ourselves from our addiction to parking excess.


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John Van Horn

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