Park It!

The lack of parking spaces being built in new downtown condos is becoming an issue for many buyers, as developers are only offering spaces to buyers who meet a certain price threshold.

It’s worse in China.  Oh, it’s way worse…

From “The Economist”….

A dearth of parking spaces riles the middle class
March 24th, 2012

AS PROTEST movements go, the recent gathering of rabble-rousers in an underground Beijing car park was hardly momentous. But on a cold, damp night the distress was palpable, and the calls for action heartfelt. The red banner they unfurled said it all: “My car has no home to return to!”

The 30-odd protesters were all residents of the Yinfeng Garden apartments, an upper-middle-class housing development in north-east Beijing. Some have lived there since buying flats ten years ago, at which time they say they were promised the right to rent parking spaces for 300-800 yuan ($50-130) a month for as long as they lived there.

But last year the management suddenly announced that residents would have to buy the spaces, for around 165,000 yuan ($26,000). That’s more than some owners paid for their cars, and many refused to fork out. Spaces were sold to newcomers, and ugly retaliation ensued. Cars were scratched, wing mirrors smashed and tyres slashed. Hot-heads called for yet more direct action, proposing a mass protest in which residents would use cars to blockade the complex. Police were called several times, but did little more than urge people to resolve the disputes themselves.

Parking traumas are not confined to residential areas. Downtown, too, the desperate scramble for parking spots has been added to the problems of chronic congestion, rising petrol prices and choking pollution.

As in other large Chinese cities, one cause is scarcity. The number of cars in Beijing has more than doubled within the past decade to 5m, with only an estimated 740,000 spaces in which to park them. A year ago the city took an obvious step, mandating an overnight fourfold increase in parking fees. Roadside parking attendants endured abuse and attacks. Gonglian Shunda Parking Management, one of the few companies authorised to collect fees for roadside parking, reported 30 violent attacks on attendants in Beijing in the first two weeks after the fee rise, surpassing the total for the previous year.

But scarcity is not the only factor. China’s wobbly legal system is also to blame. Since many housing contracts predate the car boom, the details of access to parking spots fall into a legal grey area, making it difficult for urban residents to resolve their complaints.

Chinese law is developing fast in commerce – and property-related areas, but not fast enough for some, so protests about parking spaces and housing will continue. It may not be a revolution, but protecting the new-found property of an aggravated middle class is one more item on the long list of problems that the Communist Party needs to solve.

Soooo…….we’re not the only city in the world that has a shortage of parking spaces?

It seems like just yesterday that Toronto was nothing but a series of parking lots.

Urban Toronto has done a few posts on this subject and provided us with dozens of photos like the one seen here:

Once upon a time, it seems, there were more spaces than actual cars!  Almost every one of the parking lots shown in the above photo is now a condominium.

According to The Economist, things are a lot worse in China where law can, apparently, be considered an entrepreneurial venture.  Of course, any sentence that ends with “…the long list of problems that the Communist Party needs to solve” is troublesome to begin with.

But this article brought something to my attention that I never realized, even though it’s always been right there in front of me: parking spaces cost more than cars.  The article explains that a parking space in China is $26,000, and it’s my understanding that China is home to many compact cars that likely don’t cost more than $26,000.  I’m sure the average price of a car in Toronto is in excess of $30,000; maybe even $35,000, but the average parking space in a downtown Toronto condo is likely in that neighbourhood as well.  New developments are charging $40,000 for spaces!

Am I the only person that finds this tragically ironic?  A parking space can cost more than the car itself!

And when you consider that many buyers of new pre-construction condominiums in Toronto aren’t even afforded the opportunity to purchase a parking space unless they buy a 2-bedroom unit and/or meet a price threshold, then parking spaces become even more valuable, as they are even more scarce.

At a time when our Toronto City Council is mired in endless debate over public transit, it seems that the cost of owning and maintaining a car in this city is skyrocketing.

Personally, I don’t think that above-ground LRT’s are going to help the city’s congestion problems, but many of those on the LRT side of the argument don’t believe in cars as a method of mass transit, and I think some of these people are so far to the left (and perhaps green too), that they don’t care how difficult and expensive owning a car might become.

I think the subway versus LRT conundrum essentially boils down to the age-old “quality versus quantity” equation.  I think we get once chance to do this right, and personally, I’m in no rush to see a decision made at City Council.  If it takes another year to figure this thing out, then so be it.

No matter what the outcome, fewer people will be driving cars in the near future.  The carless-movement is already underway in downtown Toronto as more and more of my first-time-buyers are seeing the value in a $300,000 condo as opposed to the same unit for $330,000 with parking, and the convenience of Zip Cars and the like are making the decision easier for those car owners who only drive a few times a month and whose cars sit in their underground parking spaces; that is, if they’re allowed to own that space in the first place…

Although, I suppose things could be worse.  5,000,000 cars in Beijing with only 740,000 parking spaces?

Hmm.  I wonder what their public transportation system is like.  They have LRT’s, don’t they?


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  1. IanC says:


    I live in a condo, and the only way I justify the maintenance fees and taxes – which are more than half what it would cost to live in a super luxury apartment…

    Is that I don’t need to own a car. Zip Car… Autoshare… and BIXI… along with my own bike – suit me fine.

    As soon as you add a car into the equation… and the threat of maintenence fees going higher (it’s a fact that they rise more than inflation)…

    And it just makes sense – cars and condos don’t go together….
    For me – anyways….


  2. Kyle says:

    Toronto is still relatively immature for a large global city. And it shows in terms of Public Transit infrastructure and in attitudes towards Transit. When you look at other major capitals, Transit is the default or standard mode of transportation. No one thinks twice about hopping on a subway in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc. In Toronto many still harbour these ideas that Transit is “ghetto”, and that you only take it if you can’t afford to drive. As the city continues to grow in density, the price of owning a car and the associated costs are going to increase and sooner or later those economics are going to start shifting people out of their cars.

    The idea of a parking spot in the middle of downtown Toronto costing $40K-$60K, actually seems like a bargain to me. Look at houses with and without parking in prime neighbourhoods, and you’ll see that parking is more like $100-125K. Especially in neighbourhoods in North Toronto, where many people have skinny mutual driveways (that can’t actually fit a car). This means that there isn’t really any off-street parking, and there is a lot less street parking because you can’t block these skinny driveways. This is made worse by the fact that many homes in those neighbourhoods own 2 cars.

    1. Joe Q. says:

      This is a good point — you see this attitude toward public transit everywhere, from people on the street all the way up to the Mayor’s Office.

      What sets the cities Kyle mentioned apart from Toronto is density — they are so dense downtown that in many cases car ownership is impractical. Toronto is not there yet, but is getting there in some areas. Consider the 1980s-era downtown aerial photo that David included in his post: as David points out, most of the parking lots in that image are now condos, yet no new roads have been built in the area. At some point the issue ceases to be about “traffic congestion” and more about simply getting people from Point A to Point B.

  3. Mike says:

    @puckguy, please tell me where in downtown you can rent a parking space for 90$????(that’s underground) In my current building now, 170$ minimum. I haven’t seen anything lower than 130$ just sayin. As for the subway talk, if you check out the actual transit plans, the lrt will only be in Scarborough, and on finch I believe

    1. JC says:

      I don’t know where you are, but I’m in the Jarvis and Wellesley area and pay $100/mo.
      Someone tried asking for $165/mo and they were laughed at. Their space is still empty.
      I know of another condo building down the street where rental parking is $80/mo.
      All underground.

    2. Joe Q. says:

      Current plans, as I understand them, are for LRT above-ground on Sheppard from Don Mills east to the STC, and LRT on Eglinton (underground from Black Creek to Laird and above-ground from Laird to Kennedy Station). Surface LRT on Finch West some time in the future.

    3. Krupo says:

      What you’re not realizing is that there are condos where only residents are allowed to rent spaces – ostensibly for security reasons. Of course that depresses prices as the potential market of buyers for your space is depressed.

      I’ve seen buildings in the core, especially close to university campuses, where almost half the spaces are empty since most students – as well as many other young people – clearly don’t need cars in the city!

  4. PuckGuy says:

    I live in a downtown condo a block from a subway station and parking spaces are a hindrance here. At any given time there are five spaces for rent and they sit there unwanted. Rent prices held steady at $100 a month for years and now they’re at $90 a month with one asking $85.

  5. Jeff says:

    The problem I saw with Ford and many of his subway supporters was that their attitude is “we want subways or nothing.”

    To me that doesn’t sound like these people care about public transit. If you truly cared, you would be happy you’re getting something instead of nothing. The pro-subway movement is coming from people who “don’t want these damn streetcars blocking up our city.” Ford’s words, not mine.

    There’s a lot of rabble rousing going on as well with downtown vs. suburbs that isn’t helping anything either. An LRT in some parts of the city is simply a better, quicker, cheaper and more reasonable solution. We can still build subways in Toronto where they make sense. Nobody is saying we don’t want subways built anymore.

    The best solution right now would be build the Downtown Relief Line. A larger U-shaped line that outlines the Y-U-S line would be ideal for getting people downtown efficiently. Once an Eglinton crosstown line is completed and the Spadina line is extended north, the Y-U-S lines will become even more crowded.

    Look at New York City… All of their lines run through Manhattan at some point with the exception of the G line and that line has had ridership issues for various reasons throughout its existence. The same thing could be said for London, Berlin or Paris.

    Paris is actually a great example – their subway lines run in and out of the core of the city… the LRT runs crosstown lines in the suburbs.

    Buenos Aires subway now:
    Future Buenos Aires subway:

    The I line, running crosstown outside of the core is the last line planned in the expansion of their Subte. Again, build lines moving into the core, then develop the outer perimeter.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I’d love more subways. I also support higher taxes to pay for it. Do you? BillyO has already made some fine points so I won’t belabor the LRT vs subway debate, but it boils down to “Sure, I’d like to drive a mini-bus made by Ferrari to work, but I don’t need that much capacity, and I can only afford a Ford.”

    To the point of owning a car in the city, the whole point of living in the city for many people is the ability to not need a car. Spending $60k on a parking space, that in reality costs a LOT more than that with mortgage interest is a LOT of money.

  7. David Poon says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that people outside the downtown core should just get a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system? Screw the whole LRT and subway thing. They don’t have the capacity for a subway, and they don’t want lanes taken away for LRT. Not to mention that the majority of people up there have cars anyway. Buses cost less than LRT, even if you implement the cool time announcing boards and electronic gizmos for a modern BRT. Maybe have some rush hour bus lanes for the critical sections…

    Save all the LRT money for a Queen Street subway!

  8. Darren says:

    I was in Beijing last summer. They have an awesome subway. It’s quite vast and most of it was built recently (and more is coming). They are not so stupid to build LRT systems on already congested roads. Only a moron would do that.

    1. @ Darren

      EXACTLY the point I was looking for! “They are not so stupid to build LRT systems on already congested roads. Only a moron would do that.”


      1. Mad Max says:

        The point is that above ground transit is not addressing the long term trend of increasing density, and that land ends being tied up with rail and associated infrastructure.

        Secondly, why are we talking about Sheppard? Lets talk about the core, the heart of the problem and gridlock. And subways. We need them. Yes they cost a lot. There are solutions to get this done. A 407 style solution?

  9. Joe Q. says:

    “many of those on the LRT side of the argument don’t believe in cars as a method of mass transit, and I think some of these people are so far to the left (and perhaps green too), that they don’t care how difficult and expensive owning a car might become”

    With all due respect, David, I think you’ve set up a straw-man argument here. The number of people who “don’t believe in cars as a method of transit” is vanishingly small. Most people are just looking for a practical solution that gets people moving.

    As for LRT vs. subways — it may look like a “quantity vs. quality” debate on the surface, but considering that the subway option had low ridership projections, no credible funding plan, and only a vague promise to get to the STC by 2040, it’s more like LRT vs. status quo.

    1. Joe Q. says:

      Oops! Forgot to close the italic tag!

    2. jeff316 says:

      “As for LRT vs. subways — it may look like a “quantity vs. quality” debate on the surface, but considering that the subway option had low ridership projections, no credible funding plan, and only a vague promise to get to the STC by 2040, it’s more like LRT vs. status quo.”

      Exactly. LRT vs subway is framed to be misleading. A much more accurate and honest public debate wouldn’t be LRT vs nothing.

      1. jeff316 says:

        …honest public debate **would be LRT vs nothing.


  10. Phil says:

    To answer your last question, Beijing has a very extensive subway system with a total track length 370 kilometers (Toronto has 68km). However, Beijing’s gridlock is more screwed up than Toronto, mostly due to the ingenious 5-ring system urban planning. The problem with Beijing is that new cars are hitting the streets so fast on a daily basis and there is no way infrastructure can catch up with that. It got so bad that the government had to impose a cap on new car registration in 2011 which is 30% of 2010’s actual number.

    About 750,000 new cars appeared on Beijing’s streets in 2010, 2000 cars PER DAY, raising the total of registered vehicles for the city to 5 million, that’s four times the number of registered cars in Toronto. Toronto’s gridlock all of a sudden doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, does it.

  11. BillyO says:

    The parking situation in TO is paradoxical. As you state, in most resale buildings, parking is $30-$40K, yet most of the newest pre con is $60K a spot! what is interesting is all of these projects are right in the core of the city often located between multiple TTC stations. Unless a car is absolutely critical for commuting, I don’t see why young folks who work/play in the city need a car/parking spot, especially at prices north of $60K.

    Regarding LRT, it comes down to density and future ridership. The city of Missisauga is putting a LRT down Hurontario in the next 2-3 years. They project to serve more people than Sheppard will in 30 years. Both streets are comparable in number of lanes for traffic. Putting a subway in an area is a waste of resources (the line costs us the taxpayers $10 mil a year due to being an underperforming route).

    Of course, Fordist’s will say ‘but if you build it they will come!’ the answer is no. The city is not zoning 100 storey towers along Sheppard, selling air rights, land to developers, taxes, tolls, parking levies, all of it won’t make it work. Hell, there wasn’t enough money to pay the man (Gordon Chong) to commission the report! (he’s owed about $50K for his consulting services).

    Now, on the subject of where subways should actually be put in TO, the Queen streetcar carries more people a day than Sheppard ever will (regardless if it’s a LRT or subway). given all the development in the core as well as along King and Queen W, not to mention the Pan Am Games sites and further development potiential from Yonge to Parliment, Adelaide to Carlton, the time is now for the downtown relief line (DRL). Such a project is finally starting to gain awareness with the general public and now the right people (Metrolinx, the new head of the TTC, some city councilors) are starting to get on board. Whether such a line is routed along King or Queen, it is sorely need for the future of our great city. For thos unfamiliar with the project, check this out:

    Such a line would also veer north which would take some pressure off the YUS line which is at capacity. The National Post did an excellent feature on this issue this past weekend (very informative video clip too):

    Also, all day GO service would do wonders for the traffic situation in TO, but that is another issue altogether.

    1. Joe Q. says:

      A DRL would be great, and is sorely needed, but the cost would be astronomical (I’d estimate $50 to $100 billion).

    2. johnny chase says:


      I’d rather drive than take a street car/lrt – and so would most people who can afford to… that’s why they charge $60K per space and sell out.

      It’s also why LRT will fail on Sheppard. Most would rather, and will continue to drive.

      1. Joe Q. says:

        Is that also why the subway on Sheppard has failed?