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More on park-and-ride in dense parts of Asian cities

[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?  
Try Reinventing Parking.]

I asked the sustran-discuss list for responses to my post on park-and-ride being a bad idea. In response to the discussion so far, I tried to clarify some of my points. Here is an edited version.

1. My objection to park-and-ride is strongest when such facilities are within the dense urban fabric (such as 'inner city' areas).

It is in these dense areas that the opportunity cost of space is highest. Most of the other uses of station-vicinity space will do much more to build public transport ridership than P&R.

Many mass transit systems in developing Asia are, for now, limited to these dense/mixed-use areas. In most cases, they don't yet extend out into the newest 'suburban areas'. P&R seems least defensible in these high-density locations with high property prices. Yet it is still being implemented in various dense urban localities in Asia.

The photos of Bangkok in the previous post are examples. These are in locations that are now considered to be inner-urban. They are not in a low-density suburban context.

2. My objection to park-and-ride is strongest when it involves a large subsidy from government or from the public transport company's budget.

P&R in dense areas with high property prices involves a very large subsidy (even if it is not obvious as in cases where government already owns the land).

[BTW, This objection actually applies to almost all of the parking (not just P&R parking) that local governments are trying to provide in Asian cities. That's another issue!]

These are extremely regressive subsidies in cities with low car ownership rates. For example, why should general taxpayers and the majority of passengers cross-subsidise the parking of the wealthy minority who drive to the stations of the Delhi Metro?

3. Park-and-ride is aimed at objectives which could be achieved more effectively by other means.

This is about making the best use of the TDM budget or the public transport budget (which need to be used wisely). It is certainly good to reduce Central Business District traffic and to get middle-class motorists into public transport. But it seems obvious that we could get more traffic reduction per dollar spent with various other initiatives than with P&R subsidies. [Has anyone seen serious analysis of this?]

Remember, I am still talking about dense areas for now. In such areas we can expect any (well-governed) city to be able to foster good bus-based transport to complement mass transit, to have plentiful taxi service (2-wheel, 3-wheel, or 4-wheel), and to have high-quality pedestrian environments. [Safe bicycle space seems harder but most of us do expect that too.]

Of course Mumbai came up in the sustran-discuss debate as a case where these conditions do not yet exist. But they should be the priorities. They help everyone. The P&R strategy accepts defeat on these and undermines ever achieving them. For example, in Mumbai is it really so hard to imagine small premium buses (with premium fares comparable to autorickshaw prices perhaps) bringing middle-class people to stations of the Metro when it opens?

4. Objecting to subsidised park-and-ride is not the same as saying there will not be any parking near mass transit stations.

But it does mean there would be no government-subsidized parking near the station.

A final thought:

If we stop subsidising parking at stations would drivers really just drive to their city centre jobs? I guess some would. But city centre parking is (or should be) very expensive [again that is another story!]. And mass transit is usually faster for commutes to CBD jobs in large congested cities. Mass transit stations are still pretty attractive even without P&R.

I suspect that Asian entrepreneurship can handle this challenge (if regulations allow). Taxis, auto-rickshaws and pedicabs already serve rail stations of course (even if imperfectly). In some cities, minibus businesses serve stations well. I wonder if valet-parking businesses might even arise just as they do in busy restaurant districts. They might store the vehicles at lower-cost parking opportunities nearby (but beyond the expensive station-vicinity itself).


  1. Personally, I object to money being taken out of a transit budget to pay for parking because a subsidy for parking is a subsidy for cars.


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