Parking is a critical issue in the redevelopment and renewal of established centres and urban areas. Retailers
and businesses depend on the availability of parking so customers can come and go conveniently, and most
residents depend on cars for at least some of their travel needs.
The conventional approach to car parking provision applies minimum car parking rates to different uses and
requires this to be provided on-site - for residential uses, typically producing basement parking. However,
this approach unnecessarily locks in costs and vehicle dependency. It is particularly problematic in areas
where development feasibility is sensitive to costs and where public transport availability offers opportunities
for different lifestyle choices hat do not involve car ownership or use. A more flexible approach is required.
Problems with the conventional approach to parking
Creating excess parking.
Minimum parking requirements are usually set by planners from standardised transportation planning manuals,
derived from measuring parking and trip generation rates in suburban areas at peak periods with ample free
parking and no public transport. These parking standards can cause an oversupply of parking - taking up valuable
land and lowering the price of parking below cost. They do not take into account other objectives such as
affordability, reduced car usage and quality design outcomes; nor the locally specific trip rates attaching to
Increasing the cost of development.
Requiring developers to provide large amounts of off-street parking significantly adds to the cost of new
development - costs typically passed to consumers through higher housing prices and rents. Underground
parking adds further to costs.
The inclusion of car parking spaces on the title for residential units increases the cost of housing overall,
and while this might be recoverable and profitable it puts the housing out of reach of almost all people on
moderate incomes who may wish to live in centres, and therefore is contrary to objectives for a wider range
of housing and improved affordability.
Restricting development in some locations.
Requiring provision of spaces on site - and to a minimum rate - makes it very difficult or impossible for many
sites, particularly sites with small frontages, to physically accommodate the required parking, circulation
and access. Design outcomes can be poor, with frontages dominated by the entrance to the garage and
crossovers for egress and access.
An innovation agenda for parking
An agenda for establishing more flexible approaches to car parking provision could consider several ideas
across the dimensions of parking rates, funding and provision.
Unbundle the cost of parking in residential projects
Typically, the cost of parking is included in the dwelling price or rent. ‘Unbundling' the cost of parking from
housing costs means providing a separate, possibly off-site facility for parking. Residents if they wish can
pay for exclusive access to a car park in this separate facility, but this is a transparent transaction that
allows consumers to pay the cost of their transportation choices. It also allows off-street parking to be
priced in response to the actual demand for parking (so redundancy or over-provision is avoided). In fact,
if car owners can be encouraged to change habits by living in close proximity to good public transport,
then significant benefits accrue.
In areas with complicated ownership patterns, it may be most cost effective to anticipate the demand for
car parking and provide central parking stations at appropriate sites - ideally a maximum of 150 metres
from the dwellings they are intended to serve.
Where good public transport and sites for providing parking facilities are available there is a strong case
for providing discretion to - or requiring - developers to unbundle parking costs from developments. As a
complementary initiative Councils, or potentially a Metropolitan Development Agency could provide parking
stations (using a contributions or other funding scheme). These can be multi-deck above ground facilities,
with much reduced development costs, and they may be provided in the optimal location from an access
point of view with pricing representing a transparent demand management tool. There are various alternatives
for treating the facades of above ground parking structures (some examples are shown in Figure 2).
Provide alternatives for commercial and retail uses
Similar issues apply to car parking for commercial and retail uses. Many small shops are simply unable to
configure developments to provide the required parking, so the need for centralised parking options is even
more pressing. Councils have often purchased sites to provide off street parking opportunities in small centres.
They have typically funded these collective parking facilities through general Council revenue rather than
A better approach would be to offer retail and commercial developers discretion as to how they satisfy any
parking requirement, from the following options:
• Provide on-site the full parking requirement;
• Provide all or part of the parking off-site to the consent authority's satisfaction at the maximum parking rate;
• Pay ‘cash-in-lieu' or contributions at a rate set down in a development contributions plan for any shortfall
in car spaces.
Shared parking is an effective tool for reducing the number of parking spaces needed for a project or
neighbourhood. Shared parking strategies can be implemented within a new mixed-use development,
through simple agreements between adjacent owners or sites, or as part of a oordinated local parking plan.
In many areas it is possible for synergies to be achieved; for example daytime business visitors could use the
on street spaces that have been allocated for resident visitors. It therefore makes sense to approach car parking
on a precinct - wide basis that allows for more efficient utilisation of fewer car spaces and the different demands
over the duration of the week.
Car sharing programs allow many individuals to share access to a vehicle. Located within a housing development
or in the surrounding area, car sharing can lower the average household vehicle ownership rate, reducing the
demand for parking. In Sydney, several car sharing companies are starting to partner with housing developers
to include car sharing programs within their new developments.
In areas where car-share is viable, each car-share car is the equivalent of eight privately owned cars. The
cost savings in accommodating cars are clear: a single car-share car can reduce the construction of seven car
spaces at an average cost of approximately $30,000 as well as saving the individual household a high proportion
of the normal cost of owning and running a car.
Car-share schemes are viable in areas where a number of conditions exist: sufficient residential density,
proximity to goods and services without the need to own a car, good access via public transport to employment
and education, and a high cost of providing car parking relative to income.
Car parking restrictions and dedicated on-street car-share parking spaces could be used to assist the uptake
of carshare. Including membership of car-share scheme in the purchase price of dwellings has proven very
effective in some parts of Sydney (although beyond the scope of the statutory planning system). City of Sydney
has also required dedicated carshare spaces to be provided within developments.
This article draws on research by Rod Simpson of simpson+wilson architects and urban designers,
and SGS acknowledges his contribution.