A detailed analysis and advice on issues affecting Parking Scarcity in Africa
Africa has undergone an unprecedented rate of motorization. It has now surpassed Asia to become the largest auto market in 2011. As a result, major cities across Africa are undergoing profound urban transformations, as elevated expressway and wide arterials are built to meet motorists’ demands. The car has ingratiated itself in African society; municipal governments are facing increased congestion that is costing them millions in lost revenue. Parking supply management, particularly pricing, could help shift auto dependence to more sustainable alternative modes and reduce congestion (Shoup 2005). This paper addresses the barriers to using parking to reduce auto use in African cities. These Parking Scarcity” as identified include: (1) lack of parking supply (2) weak regulations and intergovernmental conflicts (3) and weak enforcement. All three are interlinked and must be addressed to make full use of parking as a transportation demand management tool.
Strong parking supply management is an important element to running an efficient and sustainable transportation system. Parking cannot be used to its fullest for controlling travel behaviour without having strong enforcement and strong parking guidelines. Strong parking guidelines are worthless unless they are enforced and are in sync with what is happening on the ground. And neither works if the parking supply is insufficient to meet the basic needs of a city. Parking is critical to major African cities as a tool for more sustainable cities to reduce the number of vehicle trips as well as reducing congestion. Recent motorist travel behavioural studies in Victoria Island Lagos, Nigeria have shown that once behind the driver’s seat, it is difficult to get drivers out. In a study conducted by V-Park Management Solutions Limited in 2011, over fifty percent of drivers surveyed stated that they lived near a direct bus line to work, yet continued to drive to work. Proximity to public transit was not enough to get them out of their cars. In another study conducted in Johannesburg and Cape Town both in South Africa, driving habits of car owners demonstrated a heavy reliance on auto use (V-Park 2012). Once they bought a car it became an integral part of their daily lives.
Parking Supply Issues
A fundamental problem and the biggest barrier for Africa is a lack of public parking and this can be easily observed in major cities. This has been a key problem for many municipal governments in Africa as they undergo rapid motorization. A recent survey conducted by Step & Mint Limited based in Nigeria reported that Cairo’s public parking infrastructure could only accommodate 5.2 percent of its cars, Lagos 6.7 percent of its cars and Johannesburg had a ratio of 8 cars per public parking space. Alarmingly, major cities in Africa reportedly lacking parking spaces up to 70 percent (Step & Mint 2011). According to parking estimates done during this classified survey by Step & Mint, most cities in Africa could lack up to one million parking spots by 2020. Parking supply problems are twofold. First, there is a general lack of parking spaces throughout African cities. Despite the rapid pace of construction in South Africa, Nigeria and many more developing Africa countries, rising car consumption continuously outpaces it. The overall growth in the car population far exceeds parking infrastructure, particularly public parking. While the overall number of vehicles increased in Nigeria by 11% on average from 2001-2011 (Step & Mint 2012), private cars increased by 14% annually on average. Parking standards have not kept up with demand and are outdated.Older infrastructure lacks parking. City centres and traditional residential developments were built during the bicycle era; only a minimal amount of parking spaces are available in these areas. Taking Millennium Towers(Lagos, Nigeria) as an example, a 12-story building provincial court building along one of its main arterials only had a surface lot of roughly 40 spaces available.
Secondly, the parking spaces that are supplied in most African cities are not necessarily used as efficiently as they could be. For example, public parking spaces that are available often do not have time limits. Thus, a space in a high demand area may be taken for most of the day. This is also tied to enforcement and fee collection issues, which are discussed in more detail in the section following.
Weak Regulations &Intergovernmental Conflicts
Issues surrounding pricing and general parking policies are divided amongst several municipal agencies. For example, if time limits were implemented, enforcement is required. This falls under the Public Security Bureau’s traffic police. The pricing is handled by another department; yet the agencies themselves may not be sure who has final authority. These types of issues arise whether this is public parking or private parking. In conversations with planners, in one city, a private agency oversaw a segment of on-street parking. Conflicts arose between different agencies as to who was responsible for enforcing the parking fees (the private company or the traffic police) and who was responsible for maintaining the on-street spaces (the public works department or the private company). For example, in Abuja, Nigeria when the two local parking companies proceeded to do on-street metered parking, various bureaus like VIO, FRSC, including the FCT Administration, told the public that each of these two local companies will manages different sections on-street parking in the city. In the end, the general public had no idea which bureau or company was responsible for what (V-Park 2012).
Planned but not built
Other reasons for under supply in most African cities include changes to master plans. Even if master plans include parking, it is not a guaranteed that the parking will be built. The city may use those parcels for other types of land development (V-Park 2012). The payoff for parking is difficult to see as quickly as a land development deal where the profits are almost immediate. Real estate development has been a driving force of urbanization; transportation infrastructure is not perceived as profitable, despite its adding value.
Financing and Public Parking
Public parking faces several hurdles to get built. Financing is difficult to secure as the return on investment will take several years (V-Park 2012). This is connected to current pricing, which does not reflect supply and demand. According to Oyefundun (2011), despite efforts by the FCT Abuja municipal government to encourage the parking market, knowledge and the level of marketization of parking remains low. Intergovernmental conflicts as described above make it a risky investment for investors as it is unclear what government bureau will take charge of the project or has the necessary authority to allow them to provide parking. If the bureaus are at odds, this sends a signal to investors that they may lose out on their investment if problems occur as responsibilities may be passed from one organization to the next.
The parking requirements in major African cities are quite basic Seriki (2011). They are not necessarily related to where the building is sited nor are they dynamic enough to be adjusted for growing demand. For example, in Lagos’s parking guidelines, the parking spaces for hotels are based on the rating of the hotel (e.g. one star versus three star) not if it is located in the downtown area or in the financial district area.
In FCT Abuja, Oyefundun (2012) found that parking policies could not address the issue of supply and demand because they are too simple and only consider the location of parking. They are not written to address transportation demand.
Interestingly, they recommended linking public transit to parking to offer motorists an alternative. Lagos has the largest bus corridor public transit system in Africa and has been able to improve speeds and public transit use because of this type of system. If parking is going to be restricted, there has to be a comparable alternative. In addition, because Lagos has closed corridors on some its bus routes like BRT bus lanes, buses can still move while cars are stuck in traffic, providing a compelling image for motorists to choose another mode of transportation.
Policies alone cannot solve African’s parking scarcity. These policies have to be backed by enforcement. Even if African cities were able to adequately supply parking spaces, they would still face an enforcement issue. For instance African cities like Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos to mention a few cannot provide parking at the same level as in UK and United States, nor is this desirable. With that in mind, enforcement becomes even more essential and necessary. Any parking policy hinges on its enforcement; this is a key to ensuring access to spaces and efficient use of available spaces. This is also a major point of contention in most cities in Africa is because of government conflicts over the goals of each bureau. As mentioned before, the regulation of parking in Africa is the nexus of multi-agency conflicts as it requires one agency to build it, another to set the rate, and yet another to enforce parking policy. They may not be in agreement with each other and enforcement suffers.
In addition, pricing also has to be consistent. In some cities in South Africa and Cairo, the on-street parking is cheaper than underground parking. Similar problems have happened in the US and have resulted in more traffic as drivers cruise looking for cheaper parking (Shoup 2006).
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned issues affecting parking scarcity, the following recommendations may help to address these issues. These recommendations are only a starting point and more research is needed to look at possible best practices that will work in most African cities.
1. Linking Parking and Public Transit
While many have identified (and rightly so) that parking is a major issue in most African cities because it is under supplied, this also brings an opportunity to ensure that parking is not overbuilt. Tied to parking is mass transit as they are both part of a city’s transportation system. If parking is going to be used as a lever for transportation demand management; an alternative for trips has to be high quality mass transit. This means that access to the station needs to be safe. The actual journey on the bus, subway, light rail, needs to be comfortable and safe, not overcrowded. Public transit also needs to be reliable. Real improvements in mass transit need to be implemented. In a study on parking and travel behaviour in the United States, there was a strong link between cities with good public transit systems and parking management systems. Parking was utilized to support public transit (Mildner 1996).
2. Diversify Parking Supply
The parking supply needs to be adequate and dynamic. The types of parking provided in African cities need to include both long and short term parking to get the most efficient use of land. Parking with time and price differentials prevents the abuse of these spaces and is another way of control travel behaviour. The issues attached to public parking are related to the types of parking available in cities. If higher demand areas had more limited parking spaces, then public parking facilities that offer longer term parking such as an hour or more would be filling a demand. As it stands now, most parking available in most cities in Africa does not have a time limit.
3. Financing Public Parking
National policies need to be in place to support these structures as part of the overall effort to support the automobile industry. While it is difficult to finance public parking, the city governments should continue to pursue providing public parking. Having enough spaces in the central business districts provides greater access to local businesses and helps to increase revenue. By allowing for greater FAR (floor area ratio), parking structures could be more profitable. Build-operate and transfer (BOT) models in which the government puts up money to build and then transfers management to private sector are one way to provide increased parking.
4. New Parking Framework
In the longer term, a new parking management framework is needed for understanding parking’s relationship to the city. Government agencies need to work together collectively to consider the goals of the city. With each new development or redevelopment, they need to consider who will be using the area and ways to increase public transit use in order to support more sustainable urban development.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (2006) provided guidelines and identified best practices to support better parking policies in US cities. They outlined six elements that have to be considered for better parking:
1. Development type and size
2. Development density and design
4. Availability of transportation choices
5. Surrounding land use mix
6. Off-site parking
Taking these into consideration, the municipal government agencies that oversee parking must work together to address these issues as multiple agencies are impacted by and have influence over parking. Responsible bureaus need to be working together and a clear delineation of power and responsibilities defined to ensure better coordination as well as the possibility of more investment. National parking standards should serve as guidelines; local cities should focus on creating unique parking policies that address their local needs and goals and adjust these guidelines and implement maximum parking requirements once adequate parking supply is reached to avoid the oversupply of parking.
5. Improving Standards through Studies
Parking studies need to be conducted in cities to understand current parking behaviours and issues. Each city has its own unique parking characteristics. In addition, the type of land uses and their proximity will also impact use. If cities conducted parking surveys that included sampling workers in high-density areas, this could provide insight into actual demand for parking structures in this city as well as the need to push for incentives such as transit passes/checks for employees. In satellite cities across Africa, which are being built from the ground up, minimum-parking requirements impact their urban form, which has been experienced in the US (Shoup and Manville, 2005). Thus, parking studies would be useful for monitoring use and establishing policies that would reduce car dependence.
6. Linking Parking and Employee Parking
One of the perks for employees is free parking. In cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and regions such as the Bay Area in California, businesses provide their employees with transit subsidies for taking alternative forms of transportation, such as public transit, walking, or biking. These types of incentives could be used in conjunction with other policies to reduce auto dependence and parking demand (Shoup 1995). Such is yet to be experienced in most cities in Africa.
7. Carsharing for Government Fleets
Government employees should be encouraged to use public transit or to car share. While private cars are increasing at a significant rate, the majority of cars registered in major cities are government cars. Shifting to carsharing will parking demand, reduce trips, improve congestion and reduce pollution. The City of Berkeley replaced its government car fleet with car share vehicles. They saved $250,000 in the first three years of the program (Mtc 2007). A majority of the cars in major cities are government cars. By utilizing carsharing, even for smaller units of government, would reduce demand for parking as well as traffic congestion.
In-conclusion, parking scarcity put right could offer municipal governments another tool to address congestion and put their cities on a more sustainable development path. However, as outlined above, several issues exist that thwart governments from using this powerful tool: low parking supply, weak policy, and weak enforcement. All three are linked- without an adequate supply; parking cannot be used to its fullest as a lever. Still an adequate supply does not guarantee spaces will be used efficiently and profitably unless strong enforcement and strong parking guidelines are in place. Strong parking guidelines are worthless unless they are enforced and are in sync with what is happening on the ground. At the crux of the parking issue are intergovernmental conflicts that must be addressed so that regulations, enforcement, and supply issues are ameliorated. A new policy framework that requires increased collaboration and cooperation amongst municipal planning agencies and field experts are needed in most cities in Africa. Once these issues are addressed, the issues surrounding parking scarcity can be reduced to acceptable level.
Author: Mr. W.A Seriki is the current Managing Director (V-Park Management Solution Limited) and he is the foremost Nigeria Parking Consultant trained overseas and highly recognized in the parking industry. The company V-Park provides expertise and professional services in total parking management solutions which also covers the hospitality industry. For more information please contact email@example.com or visit [Image]http://www.v-parkms.com.
NB: This publication is subject to international copyright laws and no attempt must be made to copy or duplicate its content without written request approved by the author.
NB: This publication is subject to international copyright laws and no attempt must be made to copy or duplicate its content without written request approved by the author.