Demand Responsive Parking Charging Works – the ‘Shoupistas’ were right

One for Eric Pickles – Free Parking is a very bad idea at times and day and locations when it is in high demand.  Donald Shoups books are a must read.


SAN FRANCISCO — The maddening quest for street parking is not just a tribulation for drivers, but a trial for cities. As much as a third of the traffic in some areas has been attributed to drivers circling as they hunt for spaces. The wearying tradition takes a toll in lost time, polluted air and, when drivers despair, double-parked cars that clog traffic even more.

But San Francisco is trying to shorten the hunt with an ambitious experiment that aims to make sure that there is always at least one empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The program, which uses new technology and the law of supply and demand, raises the price of parking on the city’s most crowded blocks and lowers it on its emptiest blocks. While the new prices are still being phased in — the most expensive spots have risen to $4.50 an hour, but could reach $6 — preliminary data suggests that the change may be having a positive effect in some areas.

Change can already be seen on a stretch of Drumm Street downtown near the Embarcadero and the popular restaurants at the Ferry Building. Last summer it was nearly impossible to find spots there. But after the city gradually raised the price of parking to $4.50 an hour from $3.50, high-tech sensors embedded in the street showed that spots were available a little more often — leaving a welcome space the other day for the silver Toyota Corolla driven by Victor Chew, a salesman for a commercial dishwasher company who frequently parks in the area.

“There are more spots available now,” said Mr. Chew, 48. “Now I don’t have to walk half a mile.”

San Francisco’s parking experiment is the latest major attempt to improve the uneasy relationship between cities and the internal combustion engine — a century-long saga that has seen cities build highways and tear them down, widen streets and narrow them, and make more parking available at some times and discourage it at others, all to try to make their downtowns accessible but not too congested.

The program here is being closely watched by cities around the country. With the help of a federal grant, San Francisco installed parking sensors and new meters at roughly a quarter of its 26,800 metered spots to track when and where cars are parked. And beginning last summer, the city began tweaking its prices every two months — giving it the option of raising them 25 cents an hour, or lowering them by as much as 50 cents — in the hope of leaving each block with at least one available spot. The city also has cut prices at many of the garages and parking lots it manages, to lure cars off the street.

It is too early to tell whether the program is working over all, but an analysis of city parking data by The New York Times found signs that the new rates are having the desired effect in some areas. While only a third of the blocks in the program have hit their targeted occupancy rates in any given month since the program began, the analysis found, three-quarters of the blocks either hit their targets or moved closer to the goal. The program has been a bit more successful on weekdays.

Of course, price is only one factor that influences behavior. About a fifth of the time prices rose but more spaces filled up, or prices fell but fewer people parked. And the full effects of the phased-in price changes have yet to be felt, because the most expensive spots cannot hit the $6-an-hour maximum until next year at the earliest.

Jay Primus, who manages the program for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said city was trying to reduce traffic and pollution and make parking easier — and not just to raise revenues. “We only need a few people to see there is a price difference and choose to park in a different location to open up just a few spaces here and there,” he said.

Meters here can now charge different prices at different times of the day, and the city has lengthened or eliminated time limits. Since the city made it easier to pay for parking with credit cards, and began a program that allows people to find spots and pay for them on their mobile phones — so they no longer have to run out of meals to feed the meters — fewer parking tickets have been issued.

The program is the biggest test yet of the theories of Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles. His 2005 book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” made him something of a cult figure to city planners — a Facebook group,The Shoupistas, has more than a thousand members. “I think the basic idea is that we will see a lot of benefits if we get the price of curbside parking right, which is the lowest price a city can charge and still have one or two vacant spaces available on every block,” he said.

But raising prices is rarely popular. A chapter in Mr. Shoup’s book opens with a quote from George Costanza, the “Seinfeld” character: “My father didn’t pay for parking, my mother, my brother, nobody. It’s like going to a prostitute. Why should I pay when, if I apply myself, maybe I can get it for free?” Some San Francisco neighborhoods recently objected to a proposal to install meters on streets where parking is now free. And raising prices in the most desirable areas raises concerns that it will make them less accessible to the poor.

That was on the minds of some parkers on Drumm Street, where the midday occupancy rate on one block fell to 86 percent from 98 percent after prices rose. Edward Saldate, 55, a hairstylist who paid nearly $17 for close to four hours of parking there, called it “a big rip-off.”

Tom Randlett, 69, an accountant, said that he was pleased to be able to find a spot there for the first time, but acknowledged that the program was “complicated on the social equity level.”

Officials note that parking rates are cut as often as they are raised. And Professor Shoup said that the program would benefit many poor people, including the many San Franciscans who do not have cars, because all parking revenues are used for mass transit and any reduction in traffic will speed the buses many people here rely on. And he imagined a day when drivers will no longer attribute good parking spots to luck or karma.

“It will be taken for granted,” he said, “the way you take it for granted that when you go to a store you can get fresh bananas or apples.”

Grant Shapps – if public spending in housebuilding raises GDP why are you cutting it? #NPPF

Grant Shapps in a quite marvellously unintellectually coherent article at Conhome

Housebuilding is also a major contributor to growth; £1 spent in construction generates £2.83 in the wider economy.  So our Affordable Homes programme – now due to deliver 170,000 affordable homes, rather than the original 150,000 originally estimated – could add approximately significantly to GDP (sic). As well as seeing 50,000 jobs created and safe-guarded on sites all around England, with even more established in the supply chain.

So Grant Shapps is arguing that housebuilding has a multiplier of greater than 1 – so the increase in GDP from public spending on housebuilding would raise GDP more than the cost of taxes to pay for it.  Indeed it is so high that it is one of the sectors where the additional taxes raised and reduced unemployed payments paid out would make it revenue positive in deficit terms.  If this is so then why are you cutting public spending on housebuilding?  You are making an entirely Keynesian argument and very sensible too- and carrying out the opposite deflationary macroeconomic policy which is destroying growth.  Indeed the wets were proven right by history as contrary to monetarist mythology government debt as a % of GDP actually rose from 1980 to 1987, though in through the very inefficient channel of paying for mass unemployment rather than investment.  If Grant Shapp’s economics had been followed in 1980 the recession would have been much less deep.

With the release of the Thatcher papers this weekend we can see that Chris Patten and Stephen Dorrell were considered dangerous ‘wets’ and ‘not one of us’ for believing in such policies rather than the Austrian nonsense that all public spending drives out private spending.  Perhaps Osbourne should conduct a purge of dangerous wets like him otherwise the shaky foundations of his deflationary death spiral will be believed.

Grant Shapps’s Right to Buy Con – Will a Pennny of Receipts be used to Build Replacement Council Housing?

Every single statement of the housing minister needs to be taken with a huge grain of slat.  He often claims for example that housebuilding is increasing when it is falling, of he doesnt have the latest figures on housebuilding to hand, when his department has just published them or he and DCLG SPADs have taken a week to spin around the bad news.

Possibly the worst offence though is over the expansion of the right to buy programme – to a £75,000 discount. Where the government claims a policy of ‘one for one replacement’ .

Local authorities will be able to retain the receipts for replacement housing – provided they can sign up to an agreement with Government that they will limit the use of the net Right to Buy receipts to 30% of the cost of the replacement homes….The council must also pay the Government an amount which reflects the income which the Treasury expected from Right to Buy sales prior to the new scheme,  Once these costs are deducted, the remaining receipts (the ‘net receipts’) are available to fund (and must be applied to) replacement affordable rented homes.

Proposals issued by the Labour government in March 2010 said councils would keep all right to buy receipts, as well as rental income & it was on this basis that negotiations for local councils to take on the housing debt were commenced.

In other words you take up to £75k off the valuation and then the Treasury keeps 70% of the receipts and from that small sum you have to build an ‘affordable home’ which the government has now defined as including housing at only 20% discount of market values, as opposed to the 70% discount typical with Council Housing.  So the replacement housing must be built with 30% of the receipts, for three times the rent and certainly not to ‘Parker Morris/SDS standards.  They will Hobbit Homes, or Shapps Slums as I am sure they will be christened.   There is no way any local authority can build one for one replacement council housing with this kind of deal.

A spokesperson for the DCLG has acknowledged that receipts would not be enough to deliver replacement homes in some areas but said that the one-for-one target was a national one.  Freedom of Information requests need to be submitted to find out the DCLGs region by region and authority by authority calculations of replacement rates and the debt dynamics of Housing Revenue Accounts.

But it gets much worse, as a deal with housing authorities saw them agree to take on £21.5 billion of housing debt, but in return the Treasury would not take a share of housing revenue accounts.  This deal however will breakdown if any of its variables are changed, and the assumption was that local authority receipts from right to but would be used to improve the existing stock and subsidies on right to buy would be at their previous levels.  These issues have caused squeels of protest from bodies such as the Institute of Housing and The Association of Retained Council Housing.

“Stock retaining authorities agreed to take on billions of pounds of debt collectively in exchange for local control of local resources. We have spent months consulting our communities, putting business plans in place and balancing the books based on debt and RTB levels. With just five months to go, that is now thrown up in the air.”

John Bibby, director of housing and community services at Lincoln City Council.

After allowing for current discounts and pooling of capital receipts the City Council received only £16,800 from the recent sale of a three bedroomed council house. “I would question how my council could build a new three bedroom house for £16,800 to replace the one sold under the RTB.

What is worse is that houses demolished before 2017 wont be included in the debt settlement.  This has prompted Nottingham and Birmingham councils to plan to demolish 2,100 council homes between them . ‘we propose to build less homes than we demolish‘ says Nick Murphy, chief executive of Nottingham City Homes.

Letter from TCPA, Shelter etc. on #NPPF -We need more houses, but not at the expense of the environment

Telegraph – a spot on letter

SIR – With the announcement of a new planning framework expected alongside the Budget next week, ministers only have a few days to ensure that the controversial planning reforms deliver a strong and fair economy without undermining the quality of life of local people, or the environment.

We do not believe it is helpful or necessary to pitch the environment and the economy against each other. A clean, green future and a strong and fair economy are two sides of the same coin.

Planning must first be about people and protecting the environment for future generations. People need and deserve affordable homes in clean places with thriving local economies.

To meet the needs of a growing and ageing population, we have to reverse the shortage of affordable homes. We will need to develop green sites, but it needs to be the right development in the right place. We also need new energy-efficient homes to tackle climate change and cut fuel bills.

Most importantly, the new framework must include a clear definition of “sustainable development”, in line with the current UK Sustainable Development Strategy, which recognises the environmental challenges we face, and which benefits society by preventing speculative developers from overriding local plans and the views of local residents.

Sir Barney White-Spunner
Executive Chairman, Countryside Alliance
Campbell Robb
Chief Executive, Shelter
Andy Atkins
Director of Policy, Friends of the Earth
Kate Henderson
Chief Executive, Town and Country Planning Association

1/3rd of Nature Improvement Areas Unprotected by #NPPF CPRE warn


Environment secretary Caroline Spelman unveiled …plans to designate industrial wasteland, derelict factories and ordinary streets as nature reserves last month.

In all, 12 new Nature Improvement Areas will be established across England from the beginning of next month, from the Thames marshes to gravel pits in the South Downs.

However, campaigners are warning that four of the reserves are at risk of development under the Government’s controversial National Planning Policy Framework.

This is because the four are set in “undesignated” countryside which is not protected under the NPPF.

The remaining eight are in either the green belt, an area of outstanding natural beauty or in National Parks, all of which have extra protections from development.

The four areas at risk are the nature reserves: Humberhead Levels, Meres and Mosses of the Marches, Nene Valley and Northern Devon.

The Government wants to replace over 1,200 pages of planning guidance with a new 52 page document called the National Planning Policy Framework, to clear away red tape and to stimulate development and economic growth.

However, campaigners are worried that the draft NPPF, which includes a new definition of the “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, puts communities at risk of large scale development and parts of rural England.

The revised NPPF is likely to be published next week. Changes should include a commitment to build on developed land before greenfield sites and a more balanced definition of sustainable development, to take into accuont the value of the countryside.

Paul Miner, senior planning officer for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, warned that the creation of the new reserves could be a “hollow victory”.

He said: “Many parts of the areas announced, fall not in protected areas like National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but in the ordinary countryside that makes up the majority of England’s rural Landscape.

“Failing to protect this ‘ordinary’ countryside will make the recovery of wildlife and the natural environment harder, not easier.

“The Government now has a final chance to support its own vision for the nature areas by ensuring protection for the undesignated countryside and clearly supporting them in the final National Planning Policy Framework.”

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “It is not the Government’s intention for NIAs to stifle sustainable development within an area.

“Government recognition of an NIA does not confer any status on an area in planning terms, it is up to local authorities to decide how to recognise an NIA in their local plans.

“Some of the areas designated as NIAs are already subject to development pressure but there is a track record of managing these impacts”