Market-based car parking policy is increasingly recognised as one of key fulcrums of transformational change towards sustainable and ethical urban futures. The physical, regulatory and cultural manifestations of parking policy are now deeply embedded in the make-up of most Western cities after the auto-centric design and planning of the 20th century. Following changes in US cities, parking policy discourse within Australia is now looking to the promise of market-based parking approaches, emerging in both formal and informal spheres.
The complex political challenges this presents for overcoming car dominance within an urgent ecological timeframe are exacerbated by widespread public misunderstandings of parking, but also limited academic and practice-based imaginations of available approaches. Furthermore, academic literature on parking policy rarely engages explicitly with critical urban and radical socialist theorisations on power, commoning, public ownership and capital relations while promoting market-based policy approaches as best practice.
At this critical juncture, there is a need to broaden the Australian discourse on alternative market approaches, and their implications for just futures. This paper discusses how a critical examination of the system of parking policy approaches in Japanese cities can broaden imaginations of the possibilities of parking approaches and the urban relations they (re)produce. This historical case study of Tokyo draws together a range of empirical methods to build a narrative of the development of a unique Japanese market-based approach to parking from the 1950s. A critical interpretation of these approaches examines the socio-political and governance implications for post-capital 21st century futures, and considers the potential for re-shaping the politics of parking in Australian cities, contrasting Japan's model with Australian status quo, and existing market-based models. This involves reflection upon some of the complex tensions between material redistribution, symbolic collectivism, and socialised urban spaces.