Expert Voices: Michael Kodransky, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)

Michael Kodransky of C40 partner organization ITDP discusses the impact on parking reform of Park(ing) day, an annual event happening on September 21 where citizens in cities around the world will turn parking spots into temporary public parks.

9.19.12 Itdp Jakarta

Jakarta, Indonesia Park(ing) Day 2011.  Photo Credit: Ratna Yunita.

Park(ing) Day offers a chance for people to transform their streets. Parking reform offers cities a way to balance space for people and cars in the long-term. Since 2005, Park(ing) Day has been challenging citizens everywhere to convert curbside parking into temporary pop-up parks and more. This raises public awareness about issues ITDP has long been addressing in partnership with cities such as Buenos Aires, Chennai, Jakarta, Guangzhou and Mexico City

ITDP recommends five major parking reforms that any city can undertake today: 

  1. 1. Manage on-street parking and charge a price to ensure performance standards, including occupancy rates, are met.
  2. Reclaim street space from private vehicles for other needed public uses such as bike sharing, cycling lanes, widened sidewalks or shared spaces
  3. Eliminate minimum parking requirements and encourage developers to ‘unbundle’ parking sale or lease from building space, especially near transit.
  4. Better manage existing on- and off-street parking before building any new spaces
  5. Harmonize parking within the context of the whole transport system

Cities originally accommodated insatiable parking demand where possible before the most progressive ones shifted to performance-based regulation strategies. In the United States, for example, the chaotic mess on the public street in the 1920s led many cities to create ordinances forcing developers to include parking as accessory to land use. This approach recognized that drivers circulating in search of parking causes congestion as well as noise and air pollution -- yet it has not been a silver bullet solution to the “parking problem.” Drivers are unlikely to park in an off-street garage when there is ample free or cheap parking right on the street. Optimally priced on-street parking can influence parking demand without the need to rewrite land use ordinances. 

Cities like Paris and Zurich go even further. They demonstrate that people can get around comfortably and love their city even when on-street parking is removed and other transport options are in easy reach—such as high frequency bus service and high quality bike infrastructure. In fast-growing economies and the developing world, car ownership is on the rise, therefore demand for parking space is too. As ITDP Director Walter Hook notes, every trip begins and ends in a parking space; parking management is the ‘Achilles heel’ of motorization. In cities such as in Chennai or Guangzhou where ITDP works, the first priority is to better manage how drivers use the street through fee policies and to enforce rules protecting the pedestrian paths. Parking spaces should be well delineated from other street functions and easily identifiable. 

Cars spend 95 percent of the time parked and idle, consuming space that would potentially be put to higher valued uses such as parks, plazas, playgrounds and even affordable housing. 

Park(ing) Day allows cities to imagine what could be accomplished with parking reform, where streets are better managed. Mexico City, Paris, San Francisco and Zurich are exemplar cases in how to temper parking demand through management, pricing and zoning strategies for a better quality of life in the city. 

More people today are living in cities than in any other point in history. Park(ing) day inspires drivers, pedestrians and all city dwellers to consider what they value most in their public spaces and to create alternatives not just for one day, but for a cleaner, greener future.

Find ITDP reports on parking reform here: