Long Beach, CA

Introduction to field track: Parking

This session was taught by Nitin Pai and examined the concept of paid parking, its impact on infrastructure, economics and politics, and how an administrator should strategise  on implementing it across the city. The class discussed the reasons why parking is conventionally considered to be free. These included the fact that citizens pay a road tax and hence assume they can gain free parking; consider parking a public good; consider free parking a right; to avoid the parking ‘mafia’; assume that parking space is historically free; assume that it increases business and economic activity among other reasons.

The main points of discussion were:

  • “Paid parking” is charging money for a space of land that is utilised by the vehicle owner. Subsidising it, or not charging for that space does not ensure benefits to the needy. The need of parking is only for people who have vehicles. Vehicle owners, do not come under the traditional needy category. Therefore, paid parking is an anti people policy because it subsidises people who do not need the free parking. “Free parking is a transfer of value from a public asset to a private individual who is not the needy.” People will want free parking, but that does not mean that they need it and it should be given free.
  • If parking is free, everyone will use it and nobody will maintain or care about the space. The tragedy of the commons will prevail.
  • There is economic value in paid parking. All cities across the world have multi-story car parks that are paid and this is considered a business. The supply of parking space can go up because you are creating an incentive for people to create parking space and charge money for it. Paid parking will ensure revenue to the government/land owner as well.
  • In some cases paid parking can ensure that parking space will increase if priced properly. This is because people will be interested in giving their land for parking purposes.
  • Two points to keep in mind with paid parking is the ‘concept’ and the ‘execution’ of paid parking. There is a need to understand what  the concept of paid parking is and then look at ways to execute it effectively.
  • Paid parking is considered to be unpopular among people. To change it, there is a need to look at different strategies. Eg. Employing consultants who make the decision, and act as the stepping-stones to implement an unpopular idea. Another way is to invest in infrastructure—pavements, roads, public transport etc. Reduce the scarcity of paid parking spots in the city.
  • Implementing paid parking will be a challenge, as citizens will oppose  it. For any administrator, it is hard decision to take away a freely provided service to the people, and initiate the a new system charging for that service. It will have political ramifications. The challenge then is, how does an administrator sell this idea to people, starting from one ward and convincing the whole of Bangalore? How do you move the people from the concept of free parking to paid parking?

For this the best method is to do a stakeholder analysis, asking the following questions: One, Who are the stakeholders? Two, What are their interests?  Three, What are their incentives? How will one change their behaviour?

There are multiple stakeholders when it comes to parking in the city. These include vehicle owners, business establishments, tourists, homeowners, land owners, pedestrians, cyclists, autos and taxis, local buses, traffic police, municipal bodies such as the BBMP, roadside vendors, parking contractors, homeless people, educational institutions, home owners among others. Some stakeholders want free parking while some do not.  As an administrator, one needs to analyse each of these stakeholders and their needs. After an assessment, one needs to discuss and contend over the pragmatic ways to implement paid parking across the city.

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