The implementation of sustainable mobility concepts and transport policies are key challenges for urban areas and basis for the future development and competitiveness of regions and cities in the significantly enlarged EU. One important aspect in the area of urban traffic is “the parking problem”, with all its impacts on the quality of urban life. Parking problems can affect urban mobility, accessibility, traffic flow, safety and pollution to a great extent.
The question of how to handle the mainly car based mobility within urban agglomerations works in an area of conflict between economical, social and environmental concerns. Parking issues are a crucial part of inner city mobility and carry more and more weight for the economic and urban attractiveness of our cities. For a long time satisfying the parking demand has been the major strategy for dealing with that part of inner city mobility. Until the 1980s planning policies considered the principle of “each car user expects three parking places: at home, at the working place and on any other trip necessary” as its maxim. Parking was only a matter for the building code, meaning: providing more parking spaces.
Today politicians, planners and (most of) the general public agree that simple demand-supply strategies do not constitute a sustainable way of handling the inner city parking situation, not only from an ecological and social point of view but also from an economic one. Inner city space has become a too valuable resource to use it for parking facilities - whatever kind of.
And it is in inner city areas where the problems of parking are most obviously. Many cities developed strategies and instruments to solve parking related problems or currently work on these issues to find sensible solutions and approaches for parking problems. Parking management schemes with flexible tariff systems have been implemented and new private car parks were built, using new technologies and technical features, "park & ride" systems were expanded. However, basic problems persist, mainly due to a lack of integrated approaches.
In addition, discussions on parking are very complex and touch numerous interests. Some of the crucial stumbling blocks when talking about inner city parking are:
numerous lobbies with different interests
Politicians, residents, commuters, visitors, industry, retail as well as pedestrians, cyclist and other non-car dependent users are the groups concerned with parking management strategies and they all have their very specific demands and point of views.
high level of assumptions
Slogans like ”free ride for free citizens”, ”no parking, no business”, ”more parking spaces, less traffic” mirror strong emotions and defence reflexes whenever a restrictive regulation is discussed. Usually, the discussions are based on facts but on prejudices and false information. Many surveys show that the available amount of parking spaces in inner cities is usually more than adequate, but the subjective assumption of users differs – they usually sense a lack of parking space. Still, strong emotions make it more difficult to implement a parking space concept (especially for planners to convince lobbies, including politicians who are afraid of “unpopular” decisions), usually the result is a compromise at the lowest common denominator
low level of knowledge
A low level of knowledge applies for most of the interest groups involved. Not only non-professionals can hardly appraise the effects of a new strategy. Also for planners it is difficult to estimate/predict the effects and costs regarding middle and long-term projections, due to the lack of proper simulations for parking concepts. Usually “new” parking management strategies derive from a “trial and error”-method, experiences from other cities or new technical innovations. Additionally, the level of implementation depends, as in other sensitive planning fields, on the strength and communication skill of first planners and second politicians.
low level of research
So far there is only little work done focusing on parking itself regarding strategies. Usually mobility strategies (and therefore parking being a part of mobility) are discussed. Picking the parking topic solely and therefore changing the perspective and the focus respectively has not happened on a European level. Of course, parking can not be discussed without taking all parts of mobility into consideration, but shifting the focus is an important approach.
As already mentioned fixed standpoints and ways of behaving characterise most parking discussions. Behavioural approaches in general discussions about mobility becoming more and more important since many studies in this field show that simply implementing regulative measures do not lead to a change in behaviour per se. From past experiences it is obvious that communication strategies and education is needed to come to a “real” change of mobility attitudes. Excellent communication skills, a “long breath” and public involvement are more influential than in the past assumed.
the task and participants
In this pan-European project, experience, concepts and approaches for parking in selected capitals and major cities in the European Union are to be compiled, analysed and presented as examples.
The following EU cities and capitals participate in this project – Antwerp (Belgium), Athens (Greece), Bari and Bologna (Italy), Berlin (Germany), Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Spain) as well as Smolyan representing a city from the candidate country Bulgaria.
Furthermore, the following public and academic institutions are part of the project: Universus Csei in Bari (Italy), the University of Ghent (Belgium) and as Lead Partner the Humboldt University of Berlin.
Urbanity and mobility are inseparable in modern cities. Whilst a city cannot survive without a functional traffic network, traffic with its side effects has a significant impact on the quality of life.
The project focuses on parking, because solving the problems of parking will create a significant potential for improving the urban quality of cities and guarantee the vitality of inner cities. Considering the facts that cars in many European cities are parked for up to 23 hours a day and in some inner cities the park search traffic is up to 60% of all traffic, it is obvious why it is crucial to provide specific city-compatible solutions. In this context, different situations can be found in European cities, each with its own basic conditions and related concepts.
The main objective of the "City Parking in Europe" project is to secure a mutual transfer of know-how between the participating partner cities related to the most important problems, concepts and practical experience with parking. The knowledge gain serves as a basis for documenting and developing concepts for specific local problems.
With this project the following goals should be achieved:
- New or adapted guidelines for inner-city parking for all partner cities.
- Gaining knowledge on parking strategies, their implementation and effectiveness in participating and other regions.
- Dissemination of effective, sustainable parking policy (and integrated transport policy) and good practice between participating cities (for administrative authorities, users and citizens).
- Bringing the lessons learnt to the attention of a wider audience, including authorities at a municipal, national and European level.
We hope to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue on a European level, covering a wide variety of instrumental and planning aspects. By that we can contribute to maintain liveable and multifunctional city centres.
The project will focus on eight different topics, all relevant to parking related discussions. Each topic will be analysed and at least five good practice examples will be identified.
A coherent and transparent legislation, especially concerning parking regulations, often is missing, which also makes difficult the communication with the citizens.
A lack of integrated planning and policies, which brings all parking related fields together is obvious in many cities..
There is a high demand for financing models and schemes concerning parking related investments. The desolate budget situation of many municipalities makes necessary new forms of financial cooperation.
A crucial problem connecting all partner cities is the question how to provoke the mental change, which is needed to realise sustainable transport and parking strategies. Residents, visitors and commuters have to change their mobility attitudes. Traffic problems are often accepted as concomitant phenomenons of urban life, but urban density does not naturally mean traffic congestion.
An intelligent communication/PR-strategy is essential for the success and implementation of any new parking policy. Restrictions, parking fees and other instruments are often have not communicated properly, leading to a malacceptance by the public.
An innovative approach for a better management of parking can be seen in new technologies, which will facilitate procedures and decrease traffic volume.
Parking Management Systems/Strategies
There are deficiencies of city wide concepts and management. The different parking related measures are often not part of one overall parking concept.
A field of enormous impact is innovative architecture. How to integrate multifunctional parking solutions in inner city areas with limited space capacity? Parking management should not interfere with the given urban structure. Instead it should improve the quality and attractiveness of the inner city area as place of purchasing, working and living.