Parking: its cost may have an effect on car use

Incentives and constraints or the « carrot and stick » strategy are two ways to affect the modal share of automobiles in urban settings.

You either broaden the transportation supply, or prevent drivers from using their car. One can impose an urban toll, like in London or Stockholm, or play with the parking variable. This second lever seems easier to implement, at least in term of social acceptability. Nevertheless, a drastic parking policy is only conceivable when people do have other options to move around. Recent events illustrate this point: a bill modifying the functioning of parking fees in France was voted. From now on, municipalities will be able to set the tickets’ prices, which was not the case before (all the tickets were 17€ in the country). With this new power, local governments may be able to better impact the users’ mobility behavior.

The issue of residential parking also arises. It is noteworthy that in Paris only 10% of users are in order. In Paris and other large cities that also decided 15 years ago to make residential parking almost free, the question is whether this advantage should be canceled or not in order to affect urban dwellers’ driving reflex. These municipalities wanted to get the drivers used to pay for parking and that succeeded. Somehow, nowadays some of their neighborhoods offer many other means of transportation and incentives to reduce car use should be provided. Parking policies have the merit of modifying behaviors; yet, those changes take time.

Basing the strategy on a restriction of parking to reduce car use means also offering alternatives, which should not be limited to public transit. Today, there is a whole « galaxy » of niche modes of transportation (shared bicycles, taxis, carsharing, ridesharing, etc.) that have enlarged the array of available transportation services. In this way, as the planning developers and developer contractors of a new neighborhoods have got used to working with architects, they should systematically do the same with alternative mobility operators. For instance, if a new neighborhood is built with no or fewer parking spaces, the cost differential can be compensated by a subsidy to a carsharing station, while new residents get used and the operator’s equilibrium is reached.

Photo credit: Wikicommons, 6t-bureau de recherche

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