Caught (up) in traffic

Home » 2010 » April » 30

Daily Archives: April 30, 2010

Parking as an election issue – Part 2

Parking or the lack of it for many establishments is partly due to the obsolete minimum parking provisions stipulated in the National Building Code. A review of this guide reveals extensive shortcomings that will always result in inadequate parking spaces when followed to the letter. In a recent project I was involved in, for example, following the NBC would have led to the conclusion (and God-forbid the recommendation) that 20 to 21 parking slots would be sufficient for a 245-bed hospital! Meanwhile, parking generation rates from abroad (Note: We don’t have local rates.) suggest a more realistic 431 slots.

Architects, engineers and developers are quick to interpret minimum parking space requirements as equivalent to the required number of slots. However, it is obvious that NBC minimum parking provisions will never be a sufficient basis for estimating the number of parking spaces to include in designs. Trip and parking generation rates have been developed in other countries and have been the basis for determining a suitable and reasonable number of parking spaces. These rates are based on trip or travel behavior and factors in typical dwell (parking) times for various types of land use. Thus, there are different parking generation rates for fast food joints when compared with fine dining restaurants. There are also different parking rates between condominiums and subdivisions, and the same applies to different types of offices.

The major shopping malls have become more aware of this and have provided more than enough parking spaces for car-using customers. In many cases, there is only the perception of parking being inadequate because drivers will also have preferences on parking space location within a lot or building. One shopping mall manager mentions that even during the Christmas holidays when mall trip generation typically peaks, their parking building’s top floors are not filled up and motorists would rather wait for slots on levels closer to the bridges to the mall.

One issue that is almost always raised by establishments regardless of type or size is the cost of providing parking spaces. Indeed, it is cheaper to mark spaces along the roadside or arrange for the use of vacant lots for the one’s purposes. But what happens when the same open lots are developed to make way for other buildings and road space is required to address traffic congestion? In the case of high rise condominiums, the cost of a parking slot is not included when one purchases a unit. The price of a slot can even be as much as a studio unit. Thus, residents would often resort to parking along streets or renting for overnight parking in nearby lots or buildings.

The experience in Makati has shown that parking can indeed become a serious problem. Makati streets were used as parking lots and office buildings could not accommodate the increasing number of vehicles owned by employees who were becoming more and more capable of buying cars. The latter is a natural phenomenon due to continuing economic development and the resulting increase in incomes. Those who can afford new cars would probably purchase one (or more) while those with less budget will acquire used vehicles. It took some time before Makati was able to build parking buildings and enforce strict roadside parking policies including pay parking managed by the city’s parking unit.

Schools are major traffic generators attracting many car users. Some campuses are fortunate that they have vacant lots or seldom used roads at their disposal. However, as one can see through fences, committing vacant lots to parking is not at all the wisest usage for such space. And as one song goes, should we “pave paradise to put up a parking lot?” On the other extreme, and there are many such cases, schools do not have the space for parking. One such school along Ortigas Avenue imposes its parking problems on the general public when cars and school service vehicles take up lanes along the major arterial as well as occupy sidewalks while waiting for their passengers.

For public places like churches, parks, markets and the like, accessibility to public transportation is often used as an excuse for not planning and providing for parking spaces. The argument is that since these are public spaces, they attract mostly commuters. What is not stated is the reality that these same public spaces also attract car and motorcycle users that when proportioned with commuters would require a significant number of parking spaces. This is very much the observation near places of worship, public markets and parks where traffic congestion is likely caused by vehicles parked along streets and even on sidewalks. [In many cases, there aren’t even sidewalks so people use the streets anyway.]

[Next: The case of Quezon City, and Conclusion]