Thursday, April 15, 2010

Parking reform in Beijing

Local officials in Beijing recently raised parking rates in order to reduce traffic congestion. The city doubled curb rates in order to get drivers to park off street. Since cruising for parking is a substantial component of congestion--some neighborhoods have as much as 45 percent of traffic simply driving around looking for a place to park--pricing the curb to discourage long searches is important for reducing energy consumption and pollution. The Beijing experience seems to be about as large scale of parking reform as exists, and early evidence suggests that carpooling and transit use have increased due to the higher parking costs. It also seems that people are parking just outside of the metered areas in order to avoid the fees.

One of the research problems with the Beijing policy is that it does not present a natural experiment as the city is simultaneously implementing and extending many other programs including "no car day," where the drivers are not allowed to drive their cars one day per week based on the last digit of their license plate, new rail and bus transit, new work schedules for government employees and other efforts. It is hard, if not impossible, to disentangle the effects of each policy and what the complementary effects are.

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