Argument over parking space“Drivers in New Delhi, Bangalore, Nairobi and Milan argue most over parking spaces [and] more than half of the drivers get frustrated and end up giving up on looking for parking space,” according to IBMs global survey on parking space in major cities. Many have stated that Nairobi, in particular the Central Business District, does not have enough parking to meet the demand. Nairobi was ranked the 8th most difficult city to find parking in the IBM survey.

The parking debate, however, has taken different angles, with the county government increasing on-street parking fees in order to reduce demand. This resulted to an uproar by stakeholders leading to the courts putting a restraint on the increase in charges. The increase in fees also affected public transporters and a strike by the transportation industry, including matatu and taxi drivers, forced commuters to make their own way into the city. Others, however, argued that the fees should be increased even further. More vehicle use caused by a rising population and increased urban sprawl has caused this increased demand for parking spaces.

Many urban spaces are being converted into car parks, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

Urban planners tend to suggest two ways of solving the parking problem in cities. One is to increase the supply, by providing more parking slots. However, as a city develops with more high-rise buildings, skyscrapers and people, this becomes more unsustainable. Like road construction, it is very difficult for supply to keep up with the demand. The other option is parking management, which involves assessing urban land use, optimally utilizing available space and providing non-motorized and rapid transit alternatives so that parking demand is reduced. This holistic approach has been ignored in most African cities.

The city of Nairobi needs to look at the latter. Though the CBD already has several privately run surface level parking spaces, better parking management is required. Provision of non-motorable means of mobility and an improved rapid public transport system would reduce the demand for parking. With this, it would be possible for parking fees to be increased even to an hourly rate and get optimum returns from use of the space. More automated systems of collecting parking fees are also needed. Parking consumes land and if less parking is required, more land is available for alternative uses like wider pedestrian walkways, spaces for hawkers, loading and drop-off zones, etc. This attempt at shifting transportation behaviour will be key towards reducing the demand for parking, utilizing spaces well and creating a comfortable urban framework for citizens.

Some Parking Spaces in the Central Business District are Reserved, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

The city of Calgary, in Canada, has managed to reduce parking demand by ensuring that all buildings are built next to each other on the street-front while leaving space for parking at the back. This allows people to move from one building to another with no need for on street parking. They also have different parking zones and permit systems to take care of the different stakeholders. These include residential parking zones, parking meters and peak hour restrictions. They help in enabling easy access for people using public transportation and create a more walkable urban environment. 

Many people believe that roadside parking is a basic right. In Bogotá, Colombia, former Mayor Enrique Peñalosa stated that “I was almost impeached for getting cars off sidewalks which car owning upper classes had illegally appropriated for parking.” He was able to turn around Bogotá from a car centred City to a people centered city reducing parking spaces, providing alternative mobility means like bicycle lanes, sidewalks and the famous Trans-Milenio Bus Rapid Transit system.

Are there other ways African cities can handle the increased vehicular use and demand for parking? What impact does increased investment in parking have on the cost of development?

Credit: Images by Constant Cap. Data linked to sources.