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European cities influence travel behavior through parking reforms

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February 8, 2011

A report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has shown that innovat...

A report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy has shown that innovative parking reforms have been successful in coaxing car drivers into using public transport systems

A report into inner city parking reforms has found that European cities are leading the way in the battle to coax people into using public transport instead of clogging up city streets with cars. The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) has revealed that cities which have implemented a host of innovative parking policies in recent years are now benefiting from improved air quality and better standards of urban life, all thanks to significant reductions in car use.

The new report is the second in a series of policy papers from ITDP on the subject of parking. While the first looked at successful parking practices in U.S. cities, the latest paper has turned the spotlight on Europe. It examines recent revisions in parking policies in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, Strasbourg and Zurich and has found that attempts to rid inner city public spaces and footpaths of vehicles have led to noticeable benefits for citizens.

The report states that: "the impacts of these new parking policies have been impressive: revitalized and thriving town centers; significant reductions in private car trips; reductions in air pollution; and generally improved quality of life."

Regulating car use

I remember that one of the most frequent topics discussed in an office with limited onsite parking was the lack of available spaces nearby. For many, even the thought of giving up the convenience of stepping out of the front door into a single occupancy vehicle and then being able to get out at the other end just outside of the office door left them with chills.

They would rather drive around for hours trying to find a space – and risk being late for work – than get on a bus, train or tram. In fact, the report states that such behavior is a major cause of traffic flow problems in the city.

It has been found that previous policies that offered more and more free parking for city visitors has led to the car being seen as the most convenient and affordable option available but in fact, such policies have only served to add to traffic woes. The implementation of practices like strictly limiting the number of available spaces for parking in a city or increasing the charges have been successful in driving people towards other means of getting from A to B.

Paris, for instance, has seen a 13 percent decrease in the number of people driving in the city thanks to a reduction in the number of spaces available and the imposition of rational on-street parking charging. At the same time, the city – like Amsterdam, Zurich and Strasbourg – has witnessed a significant rise in the use of public transport thanks to measures like setting limits on how much parking is made available in new developments, based on the surrounding public transport availability.

Greening the city

In addition to helping to revitalize inner city environments, the parking innovations also help to fund cleaner and greener transport infrastructures. Copenhagen has spent the last few decades removing numerous parking zones to pedestrianize large parts of the city. Some municipalities have started to vary parking charges based on the CO2 emission levels at the time a vehicle is parked, with cleaner vehicles paying less. All of the money generated from parking charges in Barcelona is invested in the city's public bike system.

Improved air quality hasn't been the only benefit of such regimes. Boroughs in London use funds generated from parking charges to allow senior citizens and the disabled to use public transport free of charge.

Future initiatives currently being tested include the use of GPS technology to optimize parking systems and vary charges according to specific location, time of day, day of the week and so on.

The authors hope that the report will serve to "inspire cities in other regions to try even bolder efforts to harness parking policy – an often overlooked and undervalued municipal policy lever – to achieve broader social goals."

The full report entitled Europe's Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation can be read at the ITDP's website.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
13 Comments

These systems drive people into using public transport because they just can't afford using their car. I'm not really a fan of public transport because I prefer the privacy of my iown car over sitting next to some stranger. especially when driving alone public transport is often the cheapest but neither in England nor in Germany you heve the chance to have a seat to yourself on longer journeys if you don't wanna pay first class. normally you have a pair of seats or even group seats which is fine if your going as a couple or a group, but not if your going as a single person and have spome work to do.

Also by using my own car, I decide when I go. apart from some major routes with very short times in between trains and bussses you can only every 15, 20 or even 30 minutes, which leads to wasted time. When using my own ccar I can often get leave one place at exactly the right time to get to the next place.

Facebook User
8th February, 2011 @ 06:34 am PST

This is all well and good if your not from the area and don't need to drive in and out on a daily bases, but I remember when I lived in Portland Oregon that I would do ANYTHING to not have to go to the down town Portland area including turning down any job inside the city as it's traffic was so bad and parking was non nonexistent, and the light rail was useless unless you lived near it and even after all that it was still faster to drive in and out of that city then it was to take a commuter train into it! The problem is not that there are to many cars but that city's are not designed to let traffic flow efficiently in and out. Think of all the lost revenue because people like me will not go into a city because of the difficulty of getting in and out? I've been to Paris and London and while YES there traffic is bad they have a system of letting people get in and out much more thoughtfully laid out for letting people travel about including getting into the city's that I think no American city will ever be able to duplicate owing to the cost and lack of return for instituting any kind of commuter system? I believe the best approach would be to just design an efficient traffic flow with quick access to parking and a light rail systems. Trying to make it hard to park or get in and out will only keep people away and have a counter productive effect on what they want to do.

mrhuckfin
8th February, 2011 @ 06:56 am PST

This is why Hippie Social Engineering (HSE) thrives as headline material and always fails so miserably in action. So let me say to HSE's:

1. Just because you can't afford a car, don't punish us all by depriving us of the use of ours. Clean autos are not included in this particular master HSE plan. So even an electric car is not PC, apparently.

2. Offer a more attractive alternative to cars and the market will embrace it.

3. If you can't solve problem #2, why are you in charge of how we use ours?

4. We are forced to ride your filthy busses and wait half an hour next to a drunk getting rained on while waiting for the next one to come. Around your schedule, not ours. By what logic did you come to decide that this is better for us?

5. Removing parking spaces from downtown areas indeed reduces cars. Because people prefer to go elsewhere where they have personal freedom.

Todd Dunning
8th February, 2011 @ 12:01 pm PST

I just do not understand why companies stay in cities. They are a disaster.

It cost more to live there, or you have to commute. So the cost of employees is more.

Commuting is standard since most employees do not want to send their kids to failing school systems.

Commuting is a vast waste of time. The average commuting time for US cities has doubled in the last ten years.......

If cities were truly concerned about reducing traffic, they would have large parking lot on the edge of the cities and then have an efficient bus system to bring people in and get them to their destination. (Think amusement park)

But they do not...... The public bus system is an unfocused disaster

PrometheusGoneWild.com
8th February, 2011 @ 06:24 pm PST

This if of course ALSO a question about "European" vs. "American" lifestyles or supposed high values of individualism and "car freedom". I have just lived through a weekend here in America with my car broken and I would not have believed how much my choices became restricted because of this contingency. I do not want to repeat the experience. But it is not that car "give you freedom". Exactly the opposite: it takes away the freedom for you do move around ON YOU OWN. You simply CANNOT walk around a town in America. It is dangerous. Traffics runs into you. You walk through dangerous areas. You cannot cover simple errand distances walking. The places are build around cars and pedestrians/cyclist are just suffered as "road kill". As for the supposedly clean cars, I know of a lady who was particularly nasty in driving her Toyota Prius noiselessly in the electric mode sneaking right behind a cyclist and than, from immediate distance, scarring them off the road or possibly driving them over, honking and pushing them out, enjoying herself. I would love if that particular lady LOST her parking privileges EVEN for her clean car and HAD to step in the other shoes. She would have become much more considerate (as citizens in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, who do their errands on bikes, are)

It is SIGNIFICANTLY healthier if you MOVE around and not SIT on your bum and stress out behind your wheel in high traffic. Siting on your behind cuts your life expectancy; moving around extends it. The sad fact though is that in America you will die twenty times more often in an accident as a cyclist because a car driver will kill you. It is only healthy to have cars removed from the cities for general public benefit. Notwithstanding foul-mouthing of "hippies social engineering". Cars are huge source of waste and degradation of quality of life and of limiting life choices for everybody, starting with fouling air and producing the bulk of CO2, noise pollution, crowding of public spaces, immediate physical danger to anybody, in particular to vulnerable groups like children, disabled and seniors, ...and just simply by urban sprawl and eating away from public greens and private gardens for another asphalt development area/huge parking lots. Public transportation does not work in America outside limited high density metropolitan areas to a considerable extend because of vested interests of the car industry. Keeping the individual transportation going is incredibly wasteful on resources and drains your personal income significantly while lowering your general quality of life by car dependency. There is no alternative. It was simply impossible to use public transportation from one small town south of Boston to another small town there down the same highway unless driving on commuter rail to Boston and taking Peter Pan long distance bus back. Having to travel three times the distance. The public transportation in America is broken and just plain bad because of consistently bad choices taken by politicians/fat car driving hamburger munching drive-through public (I cannot help this jab.) (the rail will not come back because of "private property rights" defended fiercely in courts and incited by car lobby; the same lobby in the past DESTROYED light rail option in every American city in systematic takeover by buying it out from the municipal government and then scrapping it - "trashing" competition. There goes your "freedom of motion". You have no other choice but run a car or become a part of a depraved system-exploited minority of car deniers.

As for the alternatives...well there exist bold proposals. Copy into google the following search term: TRANS transportation mb-soft and tell me what you think about that system. (If it is real as far as the underlying engineering....It is NOT real EXACTLY because of the "social engineering" problems associated with it you are complaining about that would need to be solved first. Imagine a high speed highly efficient transportation system ALL over the country, on demand and on your schedule, everywhere, for a fraction of current public transportation costs (let alone your car budget). This simply cannot happen. There are powerful interests to block it and smother it right at the start. Not lastly you would fight the same powerful lobby mentioned above. Or property owners whose real estates would decline in value due to universal cheap accessibility of alternative spaces. You would RADICALLY intrude/change the lifestyles of everybody in America. America with TRANS is a radically different America. Much more efficient, less vasteful and with MORE choices. Something like google in Egypt....but it is not going to happen. I wonder how technically well grounded the TRANS alternative is and invite knowledgeable people to fill me in on their opinions.

nehopsa
8th February, 2011 @ 07:41 pm PST

I'm guessing the above three posters are all from the US. I don't think the US has reached the correct point in its social and cultural development to properly embrace public transport, nor is it ready to understand the idea that through manipulation of public spaces it it possible to alter and engineer cultural change. The very thought of government intervention in anything sends shivers down the collective spines of Americans, and that's just the way it is.

But, for any who wish to contemplate an alternate thought process:

1. reduce car parks, increase parking costs.

2. use that money and saved space to improve pedestrian and cycle access.

3. as more people use public transport, use that increase in revenue to update and improve public transport.

4. as a result the city culture changes to one that accepts public transport and one that views cars and travel differently.

In Perth, Australia, the public transport is quite good. There are major train lines in and out in all directions. The trains are no greater than 20 mintues apart during the day and run 24 hours, going to hourly after 9pm. Guards travel on the trains after 7pm and they are not just ineffectual train staff in uniform, they have powers of arrest and assaulting a guard comes with prison time. There are three bus loops in the city that are free and the buses travel 5 minutes apart, all other buses within the "free travel zone" which covers the entire CBD, are free. To access all public transport you use a smart card that you can auto fill from your credit card and it automatically calculates the cheapest fare to pay. It is really good. By public transport it takes me 1hour 10 minutes to get to work from 80km (50miles) away and $12 return. By car it takes 1hour 30 minutes and costs $10 fuel at least $10 parking wear and tear on my vehicle. The trains and buses are clean and I feel perfectly secure. It does help that in Australia we don't go about the place stabbing and shooting each other for fun, we don't teach our kids to hate everyone who isn't identical to ourselves and we don't believe that sharing a vehicle is somehow an attack on our personal freedoms (after all, we can just pay more money and have a worse commute if we want).

Many European cities are the same. And this Hippie Social Engineering works. That's what this article is about.

Scion
8th February, 2011 @ 08:17 pm PST

Guys, wake up please...This article informs that actual facts show these regulations do give effects opposite of your purely opinion based predictions. I see no claims in the article that parking regulations are the only remedy one should use. Also there is no reason to think that this remedy will govern all future scenarios. Fact 1: Most cities have more car traffic than they can handle.Fact 2: This makes those cities unpleasant and inefficient.Fact 3: Parking restrictions etc will inevitably reduce this problem.Fact 4: No city can ever compete with a mall on availability by car.Fact 5: No mall can ever compete with a proper city on being a city.So, if you NEED your car to protect you, live with the reality that others don't want you to do it on top of them. Go to malls and such. The city can live without you. People are different. That's OK.

Stein
8th February, 2011 @ 09:25 pm PST

The traffic system in America has more to do with socioeconomic/cultural distinctions than actual good transportation policy. In addition to innate transportation uses the car in America has been and continues to be a symbol of economic achievement. Riding the bus is viewed as something that is of low economic achievement. One of the posters mentioned that companies should just bail on the cities and move out to the suburbs - why don't people move back to the cities? Because the schools are bad? Why are the schools bad? Because schools are based on property taxes and since a lot of people moved out to the suburbs the property tax base has decreased. Why did people move out to the suburbs, after all like the poster said the jobs are in the cities? It was for socioeconomic status. And the car companies/American political policy supported the move by facilitating low percent loans for cars and allowing very long term (30 year) mortgages. These policies have over time built up the transportation system that we currently have. Solutions? Not sure, but we can't ignore the reasons for current policy/problems and come up with a viable solution.

goody
9th February, 2011 @ 05:30 am PST

These things makes visiting international destinations so difficult for the vacation traveler. It's darn near impossible to figure out the rules and requirements for driving in foreign countries to the point where I just don't bother visiting them anymore..it's not worth the headache and hassle! Not to mention, the possibility of a ticket because I didn't obey some sign that I couldn't understand anyway!

Ed
9th February, 2011 @ 01:24 pm PST

Scion, since we Americans haven't reached the "correct point in...social and cultural development" to understand the genius of your public transport system, are we just too stupid?

If you're hopeful that "through manipulation of public spaces it it possible to alter and engineer cultural change", it sounds like good Aussies wait for orders from their superiors before they can make a move.

But fortunately, those views are only held by a few spoiled youth of a great country built by very different individuals who took charge of their own lives. It's easy to be sanctimonius about a public transport system paid for by others, but it's a darn sight harder to ranch with your family in the outback and build a great country with your own two hands. Where the busses weren't running, but private vehicles were.

Before you arbitrarily decide to make us "accept public transport and ... view cars and travel differently" you might tell your subjects:

1. How you plan to get them to their homes or businesses

2. How much pedaling to get to Ayer's Rock

3. How much their travel times will increase and their productivity slow

4. Why cars and travel can't continue to improve as they have for a century

5. How much extra tax money your plan will cost them

6. Why you can't put a stop in front of their house, or the market

Todd Dunning
9th February, 2011 @ 01:37 pm PST

If you want people to volunteer to park away and transit in then you have to make it attractive to them. There are many expenses inherently associated with owning/operating a personal car, so it can seem as an affront to expect me to have already spends thousands a year for my car, then tell me I have to pay to park miles from my destination and then pay even more to ride in someone else's vehicle while adhering to transit schedules that are generally inconvenient. If you want people to embrace park and ride strategies, which are a good concept, then you need to coddle us into submission;

1 - All park and ride parking should be free of charge and secure. Nobody likes to pay to leave their car somewhere that either it will be stolen/vandalized while they are gone, or assaulted on the walk to/from their car.

2 - All park and ride transit should be free of charge, highly maintained, and conveniently scheduled. Nobody wants to leave their comfortable and private car behind only to wait and wait and wait for the privilege of paying to ride in a sticky floored bus full of strangers.

Facebook User
9th February, 2011 @ 02:20 pm PST

Todd, Americans are not stupid, that is quite obvious. In general, the US, as demonstrated by your, and others, views, is not ready to accept public transport. Both your posts point this out. I'm trying to say this article is about systems that are in place now and do work. My post further demonstrated that it isn't isolated to just European cities.

But I'll answer you:

1. People get to their homes and businesses via whatever means works best. Personally, I ride a motorbike to the train station, take a train in to the city then take a bus to my business. Other people do similar and yet others do something else like walk, or drive.

2. Almost no one works at Uluru and those that do, drive. Uluru is not in a city and this article and my examples are about public transport in cities.

3. My travel time would increase by at least 20 minutes each direction if I didn't use public transport. While on the train I use my laptop to write novels (no I'm not a published author, but the point is, I am 2 hours more productive each day because I'm not driving a car)

4. Cars will improve. They will use less fuel and be safer. Neither this article nor my post discusses the relative technology or innovation in car development.

5. Last time I checked, I have to pay to catch my train in the morning. The 20,000 other commuters who use that same train line each morning and each evening also pay to use it. Those same people are not only paying to use the train but not imposing a cost on the government budget for extra road wear and tear. By reducing smog and pollution in the city environment, health costs are also lower. This comment in fact is particularly demonstrative of the reason the US is not up for public transport. Each individual is too concerned about beating everyone else that they lose the perspective that teamwork can lead to greater economic gain (note: economic gain, not communist or "hippie" ideals).

6. There is a bus stop out the front of my house. But I understand your point. The article and my post however talked about commuting into and out of the city. In particular for work. I have a car and on the weekend I use it to drive to the local supermarket to do my shopping. I also ride a motorbike to the train station to catch the train.

The park and ride facilities around Perth provide a lot of free parking. There is also paid parking which costs $2 / day. That fee goes to security guards and maintenance crews that keep the car parks in excellent condition and keep them secure. In fact there have been a couple of days where I accidentally left my keys in my motorbike while I went off to work. My bike and keys were still there when I got back at 7pm in the evening. Public transport does work, it works in many cities and it works now. Any argument against it working is silly, because it does work. I'm not making this stuff up. I'm not inventing some new form of government or suggesting some kind of oppression. Genuine, capitalistic, democratic, free nations are implementing public transport in ways that works.

Scion
9th February, 2011 @ 06:28 pm PST

For all American patriots: I have just come across an ad in the last issue of Time Magazine: on average, people spend over 8 grands on their cars A YEAR. (the exact figure is locatable in the referred source). Out of those $8000 only a fraction (one seventh) goes to local economy. In other words, if you want to SUPPORT this country/your local community, you do NOT drive those expensive cars. This is above and over all other not so salubrious effects cars have discussed above.

Imagine what else could be done with $8000 a year. This is apart from the obvious injustice or at least some moral concerns if you have people in other parts of the globe struggling on $1 a day ($365 a year) for their whole livelihood.

nehopsa
10th February, 2011 @ 10:13 am PST
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