Zoning Practice — July 2009

Ask the Author

Here are reader questions answered by Todd Litman, author of the June 2009 Zoning Practice article "Parking Management Best Practices: Making Efficient Use of Parking Resources."

Question from Jacqui Lofaro, Southampton, N.Y.:

I am on the planning board in Southampton, New York. All parking is free. There is a huge parking problem, especially during the summer tourist season. How do you get the community and town board members to support charging? Thanks, and I look forward to your new book.

Answer from author Todd Litman:

Thanks for the question.

It is relatively easy to identify suitable parking management strategies (sharing, improved regulations, efficient pricing, commute trip reduction programs, reduced and more accurate parking requirements, etc.). The larger challenge is to convince decision makers and the general public to accept these changes; for example, that they must pay for parking that was previously free, that they will need to walk a few blocks between their parking space and destinations during peak periods, or that they will be encouraged to use alternative modes when possible.

The bad news is that current, inefficient parking management practices are well entrenched: Most motorists assume that parking should be abundant and free, and current zoning codes, development policies and municipal parking policies reflect these assumptions. Change can be difficult.

However, there is also good news. There are many reasons to change current policies and implement more efficient parking management. Current policies are wasteful and contradict most other planning objectives. They assume that land is cheap, that everybody drives everywhere, and that automobile dependency and sprawl are acceptable. As soon as we question any of those assumptions, for example, if land is costly and we want to deliver affordable housing, or a city is becoming more multimodal with a growing portion of trips by walking, cycling, and public transportation, then parking policy and planning reforms become justified. Every so often you will probably encounter an opportunity to introduce political change.

For example, your community may want to encourage more affordable housing and infill development, and you can point out that parking policy changes are needed to help achieve those objectives. Similarly, your community might consider traffic and parking congestion major problems, which also justify parking policy reforms and development of a parking management plan, or even better, a transportation management plan that includes parking management. Parking management and commute trip reduction can also be part of your community's plans to reduce climate change emissions and sprawl. In other words, parking management is an effective solution to many different problems (or, described differently, it helps achieve many different planning objectives).

Your challenge is to present these reforms in a positive way. Focus on the benefits and emphasize the need for comprehensive policies and programs to insure that these strategies can be implemented with minimal problems. For example, if you propose reduced parking requirements for new development, you should recognize that this could result in spillover parking problems, so your community should also implement suitable regulations, user information, and enforcement practices.

There are many reasons for communities to charge increasingly for parking, to manage parking demand, encourage use of alternative modes, and generate revenue. Many communities have successfully introduced pricing of previously free parking, including Aspen, Colorado, and Pasadena, California. It turns out that motorists are quite willing to pay for parking provided that they receive something in return: more convenience finding a space, a better local environment (for example, if revenues are used to finance streetscape improvements), or reductions in other fees and taxes. See Douglas Kolozsvari and Donald Shoup's article, "Turning Small Change Into Big Changes,"www.sppsr.ucla.edu/up/webfiles/SmallChange.pdf.

Build partnerships. Developers, downtown associations, environmentalists, housing affordabilty advocates, and municipal engineers (who want to reduce stormwater management costs) all have good reasons to support more efficient parking management.

Learn more about parking management, and find good examples and case studies that demonstrate the success of parking management in comparable communities. Lots of good resources are now available:

CNT (2006), Paved Over: Surface Parking Lots or Opportunities for Tax-Generating, Sustainable Development?, Center for Neighborhood Technology; www.drcog.org/documents/PavedOver-Final.pdf.

CNU (2008), Parking Requirements and Affordable Housing, Congress for the New Urbanism, at www.cnu.org/node/2241.

Matthew R. Cuddy (2007), A Practical Method for Developing Context-Sensitive Residential Parking Standards, Dissertation, Rutgers University, http://transportation.northwestern.edu/news/2007/Cuddy_dissertation_final_cv.pdf.

FHWA (2007), Advanced Parking Management Systems: A Cross-Cutting Study, Report FHWA-JPO-07-011, Intelligent Transportation Systems, FHWA, USDOT, at www.its.dot.gov/jpodocs/repts_te/14318.htm.

HUD (2008), "Parking Regulations and Housing Affordability," Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse, Volume 7, Issue 2, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at www.huduser.org/rbc/newsletter/vol7iss2more.html.

Litman, Todd (2004), Parking Requirement Impacts on Housing Affordability, VTPI, at www.vtpi.org/park-hou.pdf.

Litman, Todd (2006), Parking Management Best Practices, Planners Press, www.planning.org/apastore/Search/Default.aspx?p=3502.

Litman, Todd (2006), Parking Management: Innovative Solutions to Vehicle Parking Problems, Planetizen, www.planetizen.com/node/19149.

Todd Litman (2008), Recommendations for Improving LEED Transportation and Parking Credits, Victoria Transport Policy Institutem www.vtpi.org/leed_rec.pdf.

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

Marshall, Wesley E., and Norman W. Garrick (2006), Parking at Mixed-Use Centers in Small Cities, Transportation Research Record 1977, Transportation Research Board, www.darien.org/communitymatters/blog/archives/ParkingstudyfromUCONN.doc; also see, 'Place First' Parking Plans, www.planetizen.com/node/34152.

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

Mukhija, Vinit, and Donald Shoup (2006), "Quantity Versus Quality in Off-Street Parking Requirements," Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 296-308, http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/QuantityVersusQualityInOff-StreetParkingRequirements.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.

Russo, Ryan (2001), Planning for Residential Parking: A Guide For Housing Developers and Planners, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, www.nonprofithousing.org, and the Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, www.nonprofithousing.org/actioncenter/toolbox/parking.

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

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

Shoup, Donald (2005), The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press, www.planning.org/apastore/Search/Default.aspx?p=1814. This is a comprehensive and entertaining book of the causes, costs, and problems created by free parking, and how to correct these distortions.

Shoup, Donald (2005), Parking Cash Out, Report 532, Planning Advisory Service, American Planning Association, www.planning.org/apastore/Search/Default.aspx?p=2439.

Shoup, Donald (2006), The Price of Parking On Great Streets, Planetizen, www.planetizen.com/node/19150.

Shoup, Donald (2008), The Politics and Economics of Parking On Campus, University of California Los Angeles, http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/PoliticsAndEconomicsOfCampusParking.pdf.

Simon Fraser University (2005), Super Sustainable BC Market Mechanisms Briefing Paper: Transportation, Simon Fraser University, www.sfu.ca/~ssbc/Resources.htm.

Topp, Christopher A. (2009), Arapahoe County Parking Utilization Study Concerning Residential Transit Oriented Development, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver, www.vtpi.org/topp_parking.pdf.

USEPA (2006), Parking Spaces / Community Places: Finding the Balance Through Smart Growth Solutions, Development, Community, and Environment Division (DCED); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/parking.htm.

Weinberger, Rachel , 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.

Supplemental answer from Todd Litman:

Moments after I sent my previous message I learned about the following document which was just released: San Francisco On-Street Parking Management and Pricing Study.

Question from Dan Fleishman, Director of Planning and Development, Stayton, Ore.:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the June Zoning Practice. In every city or town I have worked with, parking supply and demand in the downtown area has been an issue. I left northern New England and moved to Oregon three years ago. At 7,800 people, I am now working for the largest city that I have ever worked with or for in my 30-year career. Is there any research that indicates that the theories regarding parking management in large cities is applicable to smaller cities — those of 50,000, or 10,000 or less? Or do big-city folks not even consider us to be cities — just small towns?)

Answer from author Todd Litman:

Yes, parking can be managed more efficiently in small towns and suburban areas. Many studies suggest that current zoning codes are excessive in small towns and strategies such as sharing and commute trip reduction programs can be effective. See:

Marshall, Wesley E., and Norman W. Garrick (2006), Parking at Mixed-Use Centers in Small Cities, Transportation Research Record 1977, Transportation Research Board; www.darien.org/communitymatters/blog/archives/ParkingstudyfromUCONN.doc; also see, 'Place First' Parking Plans, www.planetizen.com/node/34152.