Japan’s low-harm parking minimums
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Brief summary of this reform
Japanese cities (such as Tokyo) have parking requirements (minimums) that are less harmful than in most countries. They are set at low levels even when they apply in full. Furthermore, they exempt small buildings and phase in only gradually with floor area beyond the threshold (of 1500 to 2000 square metres). This means that parking minimums are not an obstacle to the development or redevelopment of small buildings on small sites in Japan.
Why should you care?
Japanese parking minimums are less harmful than most. They are not an obstacle to infill development.
In combination with other policies, they have resulted in most neighbourhoods having much parking that is open to the public and that is provided on a commercial basis at market prices.
You may think that this 'light' approach to parking minimums is possible in Japan only because of excellent public transport and other policies that keep car ownership low. That may be so of the large cities. However, the same kind of parking requirements apply across the country, even in towns and small cities where car ownership rates are high (comparable to or higher than the rates seen across western Europe).
Tokyo Prefecture (Tokyo-to)
Key actor type
National (although this case focuses on Tokyo Prefecture)
orderly parking (usually for wider benefits too)
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism [need to check this]
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
minimums harm reduction
Towards park-once-and-walk AND away from excessive supply
Adaptive Parking thrust
R: Relax about parking supply and stop boosting it
Goals of the reform
The goals of parking minimums in Japan are conventional (similar to those in other countries). However, their levels have not been increased for many decades. The on-site parking with buildings is apparently not expected to meet the full demand for parking but merely to contribute towards the neighbourhood parking demand. This is unusual and may be the result of other parking policies which have prevented perceived parking shortages from emerging. Most prominent among these policies are a ban on most on-street parking (and a total ban on overnight on-street parking) and the proof-of-parking law.
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
Parking minimums emerged for familiar reasons (in the 1950s apparently). It would be great to learn why the specific characteristics of the minimums were chosen.
Detailed description of the reform
Japanese cities (such as Tokyo) have parking requirements (minimums) that are less harmful than in most countries and this has been the case since the 1950s.
They are set at low levels even when they apply in full. The highest requirements are 1 space per 200 sq.m for department stores (and similar) in 'Car park improvement districts'. This is very low compared with many other countries.
Furthermore, they exempt small buildings and phase in only gradually with floor area beyond the threshold (of 1500 to 2000 square metres).
The list of land-uses for the purpose of parking minimums is extremely simple, with only two categories: (i) specific uses (theater, cinema, music hall, viewing field, broadcast studio hall, assembly hall, exhibition, wedding hall, funeral hall, inn, hotel, restaurant, restaurants, cabarets, cafes, nightclubs, bars, dance hall, playground, bowling alley, gymnasium, other department stores, offices, hospitals, wholesale markets, warehouses or factories, or places with two or more of the above functions); and (ii) non-specific uses (others).
Results or impacts
These characteristics mean that parking minimums are not an obstacle to the development or redevelopment of small buildings on small sites in Japan.
They have been compatible with the emergence of commercial priced parking (for visitor parking, employee parking and residential parking) in most neighbourhoods of most cities. This is also the result of the absence of on-street parking, and the proof-of-parking rule.
A large proportion of parking is open to the public (even if privately owned and operated).
Japanese cities seem to have surprisingly market-responsive parking. Parking prices vary in rough proportion to real-estate values.
Sources and acknowledgements
"Learn from Japan!" episode of Reinventing Parking https://www.reinventingparking.org/2019/12/learn-from-japan.html
Barter, P.A. (2011) Parking Policy in Asian Cities. Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila. Available in hard copy or on-line via https://www.adb.org/publications/parking-policy-asian-cities. 98 pages. ISBN: 978-92-9092-241-4 (print), 978-92-9092-352-7 (web).
The following documents in Japanese were consulted in 2009 to understand Tokyo parking regulations for the study above (Barter, 2011):
Regulations for parking to accompany large-scale buildings, Bureau of Urban Development, Tokyo Metropolitan Government. www.toshiseibi.metro.tokyo.jp/kenchiku/parking/kn_k12.htm
Description of Tokyo’s parking ordinance, with worked examples. www.archi-navi.com/archinavitool/a-kikaku-v1/setumei/tokyo-park.pdf
Case studies of rules under the ordinance in Tokyo Parking. www.shibuya-kyogikai.jp/pdf/5th/2.pdf
Yokohama parking requirement details. www.city.yokohama.jp/me/toshi/toshiko/pressrelease/h19/07041700/pdf/osirase.pdf
Regulations regarding parking facilities in buildings (Kagoshima). www.city.kagoshima.lg.jp/_1010/shimin/1kurashi/1-9tyusyajo/0000534.html
Regulations regarding parking facilities in buildings (Okayama). www.city.okayama.jp/toshi/tosai/tyuusyahuchi_gaiyou.htm
19 Mar 2021