European Cities Crack Down On Free Parking to Reduce Car Use, Make Room for Biking, Walking

paris cars on street parking photo

Paris is one of the European cities working to restrict parking. Photo: mikefats / Creative Commons.

What needs to be done to get more people out of their cars? Offer incentives for taking public transportation? Make driving more expensive? It's a question that's being asked in congested metropolises around the world. But many European cities have found the answer to be fairly simple: make it harder (and/or costlier) to park.According to a new study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, innovative parking policies in Europe are allowing cities to enjoy "revitalized town centers, big reductions in car use, drops in air pollution, and rising quality of urban life."

The report, "Europe's Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," details a number of key, interrelated strategies implemented in 10 European cities over the last half-century, including the following:

  • SET PARKING LIMITS: Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, and Strasbourg have all limited the amount of parking spaces allowed in new developments that are walking distance from public transportation. Zurich has also set a parking cap in its transit-accessible business district, as has Hamburg.
  • CHARGE MORE FOR PARKING: Paris has reduced its allotment of on-street parking by 9 percent; of the rest, 95 percent is paid parking. Other European cities are now favoring implementing or increasing parking fees rather than congestion charges.
  • SPREAD THE WEALTH: Fees paid for parking are being used to encourage non-car transportation. In Barcelona, 100 percent of the revenue goes to operate the Bicing public-bike system. Local governments in London use their parking fees to provide free transit passes for seniors and the disabled.
  • TAKE BACK PUBLIC SPACE: Eliminating parking spaces in Copenhagen has made room for high-quality pedestrian districts and bike paths, while street space once used by cars has likewise been repurposed in Paris for bike sharing and tramways.

Such measures are having an impact. Zurich has seen car use drop by 6 percent and transit use go up by 7 percent, while Paris has achieved a 13 percent decrease in driving.

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