Ice Cream isnt free so why should Parking be?

Jeffrey Tumlin of Nelson/Nygaard at Atlantic Cities 

Tumlin starts with another great metaphor: What would happen if we gave all children free ice cream? They would, undoubtedly, be thrilled. But in the process we’d also be creating obesity, driving up the price of milk, and probably causing a cheese shortage. “And just as it would be very bad economic and social policy to provide free ice cream for all children,” Tumlin says, “it is also bad to provide free parking for all motorists.”

In his search for parking policy that truly reflects the market demand and value of a 9-by-20-foot strip of asphalt, Tumlin sounds a lot like an economist. In fact, he thinks we’d be better off thinking of transportation as a branch of economics rather than engineering. For years, cities have told people that they have to pay for parking meters to create more money for general funds, as if those quarters were a kind of tax. That logic obscures the fact that people should pay for parking because parking in and of itself has a cost – and because by charging for parking, cities create parking availability, which is the real commodity.

“What customers want is not a certain number of parking spaces, but really just one empty parking spot where they want to go,” Tumlin says. “That’s all they need.”

The advent of pay-by-credit card technology allows cities to raise the price of parking to where enough people are turned away onto alternate forms of transportation, without upsetting the people who are now paying more. That’s the trick of credit cards (and a lesson plenty of other businesses have long understood): People don’t mind paying more for something when they don’t actually have to hand over that difference in cash (or coins).

“What had been a horrible city council hearing that would go on until 3 a.m. about raising the price of city parking $1.25 to $1.50 an hour, no one notices any more,” Tumlin says, “because it’s doesn’t make a difference.”

And because people tend to highly value their time, they’re generally happier to pay more for a parking spot right in front of a store than to pay less for a spot that requires 10 minutes of circling. This makes customers happier, and it also facilitates a larger number of people – some of whom now come on bike or transit – getting in and out of a popular shopping district.

When cities raise parking prices in partnership with local businesses, they can explain that such policies exist to create more successful commercial districts. And the city as a whole, Tumlin says, is going to make a lot more money off having successful commercial districts than it ever will off of its parking meters.

Technology, meanwhile, can take advantage of changes in supply and demand by the hour, or the season, or even according to swells in the national economy, adjusting parking rates according to real-time availability. San Francisco is rolling out such a strategy this month.

All of this technology is making it easier to address parking pricing. But the technology has also been around for a few years, even as old assumptions about parking have continued to persist. “Technology,” Tumlin says, “has made it even more embarrassing for the cities that are badly managing their parking.”

As these systems move parking toward a more market-responsive approach, Tumlin also has his eye on distortions such as the free parking given at disabled spaces. “Disabled people,” he says, “don’t need to have their parking subsidized unless they are low-income and disabled.” It makes no sense, he adds, to give free parking to a disabled doctor or lawyer. But we’re not very good, Tumlin says, at having grown-up conversations about how to accommodate people with disabilities. Washington, D.C., will test this idea later this year with an everyone-pays policy (which will require, among other things, some newly designed parking meters).

Tumlin commonly hears one other objection to his ideas: Where will the poor people park? The poorest people, he’s found, aren’t looking for parking because they don’t own cars. But among the rest of this demographic, he says surveys show that poor people also place an extremely high value on their time. They too often say they’re willing to pay a little more for parking if it means they don’t have to waste time looking for it.

“It’s very interesting to do the detailed demographic surveys and ask people what they want,” he says. “And what we find again and again is that the people who are complaining about ‘oh my goodness, where will the poor people park?’ are not the poor people.”

But cities have to be careful, he adds, that as they raise parking prices – and some residents will inevitably be harmed by this – they’re conscious of investing the revenue in ways that will help mitigate that harm, in, for instance, better bike, transit or walking infrastructure.

“You can create an enormous net public equity benefit by charging for parking,” he says. “The real argument is that there is nothing more inequitable than our current policies of providing gross subsidies to the wealthiest and most privileged members of society, who are the people who own the most cars.”

Dealing with Transport Groups #NPPF Concerns – New Version of Alternative Draft

We have continued to keep our proposed alternative draft version of the NPPF draft dealing with concerns raised by many bodies concerning heritage,  biodiversity and transport  issues.

In this latest version we have looked at issues raised by transport groups groups, including the Campaign for Better Transport and and an alliance of transport groups including Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation.  These groups have been fairly scathing about the NPPF saying the transport section needs a complete rewrite. Of course in our alternative draft we had already done this but none the less a lot of important points have been made.

The aim has not been a lowest common denominator approach or worse a big tent approach accepting every change.  Rather it has been looking for common ground and accepting reasonable amendments that clarify issues and neither add unacceptably to length or divert the thrust of a more proactive document.

The alternative draft can be found here

A log of the changes here, including of those suggested which we think should not be made.

Next we will tackle the issues raised by the Green Link coalition and the  CIWEM,  and then the planning groups, POS, TCPA and RTPI. .

We are making good progress within a couple of weeks we think we will have got through all of the major groups comments.  What we hope this means is that it should be possible to ‘fix’ the key issues by broad consensus, leaving only the most difficult issues, concerning the ‘presumption’ and the duty to cooperate.

Stephen Joesph at the DCLG #NPPF Select, will ‘choke’ economic growth

Planning Resource

The draft National Planning Policy Framework will ‘choke’ economic growth by creating more car-based development that will lead to increased traffic congestion, transport charity the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has warned a committee of MPs.

Speaking at a House of Commons communities and local government select committee hearing, CBT chief executive Stephen Joseph said the removal of office and commercial development from the “town centre-first” policy posed a threat to economic growth.

“They are large traffic-generating developments that will lead to a large number of single-occupancy car users,” he said.

Joseph added that there needed to be more provision in the NPPF for promoting development that reduced the need to travel.

“There needs to be more integrated transport and spatial planning that gets development focussed around transport to make it easier for people to live in places without cars,” he said.

Joseph argued that more key facilities needed to be in walking distance from where people live.

“We can have that type of development, the problem is we never ask people to do that type of development”, he said.

Football Association head of corporate affairs Robert Sullivan told the same hearing that it was important that Sport England had a role as a “statutory consultee” on the NPPF, otherwise hundreds of playing fields could be lost as a result of the new framework.

“It has to be clear in the NPPF that Sport England has a role [as a consultee] or it could result in 100 to 200 playing fields per year being lost”, he said.

Sullivan added that it was important that the NPPF made provision for “like for like replacement” of playing fields used for development.

The Third DCLG #NPPF Select Committee

Some quick impressions of last nights sessions, no transcripts as yet.

The first session was dominated by Tony Burton of Civic Voice who the committee focussed on for questions.

He said that the NPPF did not do justice to 20 years of international discussion about sustainable development, and the way the presumption was couched would produce wrongheaded development and appeals.

He gave the example we also keep using of trees as an example of the sort of every day issue where the evidential burden has shifted and local communities would find hard to counter.  He said that issues such as trees and amenity needed safety net’ in the NPPF if the government carries on with its current approach.  On the economic issue he stressed the ‘huge economic deadweight of sprawl’ that weakening of policy could create.

In the next session Sean Spears, the CPRE luckily getting second bite of the cherry, was sounding the voice of calm and reason and announced the publication, jointly funded with others, of research on the economics of planning in a month or so.  He called for a second round of consultation given the likley scale of changes needed.

Dr Stephen Joesph of the Campaign for Better Transport was very robust and called the NPPF an ‘appalling document’.  He said the key principles of sustainable development and transport should be right up front in the document.  On parking standards he feared a repeat of the position in the noughties where local authorities were played off against each other.  He said other countries economic success based on integrating economic growth, planning and sustainable transport.  He called for the colocation of facilities – do in David Milklibands terms facilities were within ‘pram pushing distance’ of each other.  Finally – and the line of the day – he said there should be a presumption in favor of smart growth not dumb growth.

The WWF said it should be a very different document focussed around the principle of sustainable development.

Shelter said that they had just published research showing that 80% of LPA would welcome better guidance of estimating housing need in the new system.