In the last few decades, a growing number of European cities have led the world in changing the direction of parking policy, with a number of attractive results including revitalized town centers; large reductions in car use; and decreasing air pollution and rising quality of urban life, according to a new report published by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
The report, Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation, examines European parking over the last half century, through the prism of ten European cities: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Strasbourg and Zurich. The report found:
Parking is increasingly linked to public transport. Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Strasbourg limit how much parking is allowed in new developments based on how far it is to walk to a bus, tram or metro stop. Zurich has made significant investments in new tram and bus lines while making parking more expensive and less convenient. As a result, between 2000 and 2005, the share of public transit use went up by 7%, while the share of cars in traffic declined by 6%.
European cities are ahead of the rest of the world in charging rational prices for on-street parking. In Paris, the on-street parking supply has been reduced by more than 9% since 2003, and of the remaining stock, 95% is paid parking. The result, along with other transport infrastructure improvements, has been a 13% decrease in driving.
Parking reforms are becoming more popular than congestion charging. While London, Stockholm, and a few other European cities have managed to implement congestion charging, more are turning to parking. Parking caps have been set in Zurich and Hamburg’s business districts to freeze the existing supply, where access to public transport is easiest.
Revenue gathered from parking tariffs is being invested to support other mobility needs. In Barcelona, 100% of revenue goes to operate Bicing—the city’s public bike system. Several boroughs in London use parking revenue to subsidize transit passes for seniors and the disabled, who ride public transit for free.
Each parking space consumes from 15 m2 to 30 m2, and the average motorist uses two to five different parking spaces every day. In dense European cities, a growing number of citizens began to question whether dedicating scarce public space to car parking was wise social policy, and whether encouraging new buildings to build parking spaces was a good idea. No matter how many new parking garages and motorways they built, the traffic congestion only grew worse, and as much as 50% of traffic congestion was caused by drivers cruising around in search of a cheaper parking space.
In the cities reviewed here, parking policy has been reoriented around alternative social goals...Every car trip begins and ends in a parking space, so parking regulation is one of the best ways to regulate car use. Vehicles cruising for parking often make up a significant share of total traffic. Other reasons for changing parking policies were driven by the desire to revitalize city centers and repurpose scarce road space for bike lanes or bike parking.
The amount of parking available in a city is heavily influenced by public policy. On-street parking is governed by municipal or district policy, and off-street parking is generally controlled through zoning and building regulations. These are ultimately political questions: how much parking is built in new buildings, and how much public space should be dedicated to motor vehicle parking as opposed to other uses.—Europe’s Parking U-Turn
The authors of the report caution that progress in Europe on parking reform should not be overstated. The report selects the most innovative European parking practices and discusses them as actionable measures that can be applied by any city government depending on their short- and long-term goals. Such actions include:
Economic mechanisms, including pricing; emissions-based parking charges; workplace levies; and earmarking/ring fencing—i.e., specifically applying parking fees to transit.
Regulatory mechanisms, including parking supply caps; parking maximums; and regulating the location of parking.
Physical design, including bollards; striped lines; repurposing public places; and street geometry.
Quality of service contracting and technologies, including electronic parking guidance systems; pay-by-phone; smart meters; and scan cars—i.e., digitizing license plate regulations and using a scan car to monitor parking compliance.
Tightening the valve on driving through parking reform means embracing innovations such as pay-by- phone services, revenue earmarking, and engaging in public-private partnerships. Favoring alternatives to car travel means developing a restrictive parking policy that uses financial, legal, physical, and technological measures. The net result is a more balanced transportation network with less emphasis on driving.—Europe’s Parking U-Turn
Michael Kodransky and Gabrielle Hermann (2011) Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation.