A couple of days ago I received an email from Colliers detailing the results of their Global Parking Rate Survey 2011. This year, Shanghai’s monthly parking rate (Shanghai is the only Chinese city included in the survey at present) is No. 47 globally, and unlike most other Chinese economic indicators, it stayed flat year-on-year.
The survey says it costs an average of RMB1,900 per month (US$293) to keep your car parked in Shanghai, which is fairly high in the Chinese context – equivalent to the monthly rent of a not-particularly-nice apartment inside the first ring road. But it can’t compare to Hong Kong, the fourth most expensive city to park in the world and the most expensive in Asia, which clocks in at US$4,817.30 per month. London is US$7,009.31 per month, and if you park facing the wrong way, by god, they bend you over the hood and decapitate you with a halberd.
So there’s plenty of room for growth, and I, for one, am rooting for Shanghai parking fees to grow faster. The proliferation of the passenger automobile in China has become a plague, I’m tired of seeing bicyclists run down in the streets, and I’m also worried about becoming one of said, dead bicyclists. Gasoline taxes are politically problematic, I know, and delivery trucks and logistics providers need to get around, I get it. But there’s one easy way to discourage driving for driving’s sake: Fleece them every time they try to park! New Yorkers don’t walk because they’re environmentalists, they walk because a parking space costs as much as an apartment. It’s an inescapable fact of urban development that once the sidewalks are parked up, and the lots are full, it doesn’t matter how fancy your car is or how much money you have. You have to drive back home and park in the suburbs, like a jerk.
In China, US$300 parking means that landlords are motivated to build office space, not parking space, especially in the central business districts. Assuming the economy continues to grow, and more people start driving to work, traffic will only intensify, pushing the ratio of drivers to parking spaces even more out of whack. Eventually this will cause one of two things to happen. Either people will get sick of driving around in circles for hours looking for an empty space and get on mass transit, or developers will start charging enough for parking to make it economically worthwhile to convert downtown areas to parking lots. As an American who once spent 1.5 hours each way commuting to work every day, I can’t imagine a worse fate than driving into downtown Shanghai during rush hour, but I cannot speak for the proud Chinese owner of a new car. But I will say one thing: At least Shanghai has an eminently pedestrian/bicycle-friendly layout thanks to its decision to elevate its highways and allow traffic to pass underneath. So the logistics system can adjust to allow people to leave the automobile out of their commute. Wish I could say the same for Beijing; if I had the money and the permits to hand, I’d be investing in parking lots in the capital, property bubble be damned.