Parking Controls

This measure was fully updated by INSTITUTE FOR TRANSPORT STUDIES (ITS) in 2014 under the CH4LLENGE project, financed by the European Commission.


Parking controls are applied to on and off street parking (multistorey, ground level and underground), although the style of control will vary with the type of parking space. The ability to apply controls will also depend on local legislation. Controls can be applied to bicycle and motorcycle parking, coach parking and lorry parking as well as car parking.

Parking controls are introduced to reduce the negative impacts of excess demand for parking, of the problems for pedestrians caused by drivers parking on pavements, and to allocate scarce space according to priority needs. As such parking controls may contribute to reducing congestion, noise and pollution and severance caused by traffic searching for parking places. Further to this, they can also contribute to demand management, although this can be difficult where there are large volumes of through traffic. It may be necessary to control parking on footways which can obstruct and place pedestrians in danger by forcing them onto carriageways. 

Parking controls can take a number of forms, including control by duration, cost, time of day, supply, permitted users (e.g. residents), location of spaces, permits and parking bans. Parking charges are considered separately from the other controls considered here. The application of controls to existing private spaces can be very difficult for local authorities, as they generally do not have any jurisdiction over parking that is not for public use. Private non-residential parking is most easily controlled through the planning process and is considered in more detail under Parking Standards for New Developments.

Demand responses to parking controls are incremental over time, with a mixture of positive and negative contributions to achieving key policy objectives. There are supply impacts in terms of volume and location of parking spaces, as well as types of spaces.

Terminology

Someone paying at pay and display meter

Parking controls are applied to on and off street parking (multistorey, ground level and underground), although the style of control will vary with the type of parking space. The ability to apply controls will also depend on local legislation. Types of parking space fall into the following categories:

  • Public spaces
    • On-street
    • Off-street, operated by local authorities or private companies
  • Private spaces (off street)
    • Residential
    • Non-residential

Parking controls can take a number of forms, including duration, cost, time of day, supply, permitted users (e.g. residents), location of spaces, permits and parking bans. Parking charges are considered separately from the other controls considered here. The application of controls to existing private spaces can be very difficult for local authorities, as they may have little jurisdiction. Private non residential parking is most easily controlled through the planning process and is considered in more detail under Parking Standards for New Developments.

Duration Controls

Duration controls relate to the length of time a vehicle can be parked in a public space. The most basic categorisation is long or short stay parking. Short stay spaces (usually less than half a day) are generally nearest to town and city centres and on-street or relatively small ground level car parks. Where demand significantly outstrips supply, parking may be limited to two hours (or as little as 20 minutes), with return prohibited with a specified period (often two hours) and high charges applied. Short stay spaces are most often local authority owned and controlled. Long stay spaces (generally half a day or more) are often on the outskirts of the city centre, off-street and larger (either multistorey or underground) in comparison to short-stay car parks. Duration is controlled through manual enforcement (fines) by the local police, traffic wardens or private companies employed by the local authority. Whether spaces are free or charged, duration controls will only work where drivers perceive the risk of being fined to be high and the fine to be high enough to deter them from ignoring duration restrictions.

Time of Day Controls

Time of day controls are used to dictate when parking is permitted and when other it is controlled or not permitted. In areas with high traffic flows during the day, on street parking may only be permitted off-peak. It is common for duration controls and charges to be more restrictive during peak hours, and possibly not apply at all during some off-peak hours. Duration controls and charges may apply between 08:00 and 18:00, but not over night for example. Time of day controls are also used to regulate when permits are required. For example, in an inner city residential area, duration and charge controls may apply during the day, but parking is restricted to residents with permits only between 18:00 and 08:00.

Supply and location

Supply of parking influences the volume of traffic attracted to an area. If drivers cannot be sure of a parking space, they may use a different mode or change destinations. However, limiting supply in popular destination areas may simply increase the amount of traffic searching for parking in that area if parking is not provided elsewhere or alternative modes are not made available. For example, planners may want to keep cars out of city centres to improve the environment for pedestrians (shoppers), so spaces may be taken out of action in the centre, but more provided around the fringes. Use of park and ride may also be encouraged to keep cars out of town completely. Conversely, in areas seeking to make themselves more attractive to visitors, parking supply may be increased. The location of new parking is also important. New parking should be provided in areas where the negative impacts of increased traffic volumes will be least severe, for example near to a main road entering a city, as opposed to residential street locations.

Permits and Dedicated Spaces

Permits effectively make parking spaces dedicated to specific users for all or part of a day. They are used to regulate who can park in a space. In residential areas it is common for on-street parking to be for resident permit holders only, although it is possible for local businesses to apply for these permits in some countries. Disabled drivers also hold permits allowing them to deviate from parking controls or use dedicated spaces. Holders of such permits can often park where others are not allowed or in short stay spaces for any duration without a charge. Additionally, large car parks often have dedicated spaces near to payment machines and pedestrian entrances solely for use by disabled drivers. Others who may hold permits allowing them to deviate from parking controls include medical and social services staff who may need to park in residential areas, and trades people who may need to park in residential and commercial areas. Delivery vehicles may also hold permits allowing them to enter controlled zones, even pedestrianised areas, at particular times – often over night. Taxi ranks are also a form of dedicated space.

Parking Bans

Bans are used to prevent on street parking in areas where the road capacity is insufficient to allow parking and maintain traffic flow, or where parking can contribute to accidents. Bans can also be used to tackle parking on footways.

Streets and areas subject to parking bans are identified through street markings and traffic signs. On the busiest streets, bans may be complete – i.e. no stopping for any purpose, 24 hours per day. On other streets, bans may be partial – peak hours only for example. The type of ban can also vary; instead of complete bans, stopping to drop off/pick up passengers or goods may be allowed. Parking may also be banned on just one side of a street to provide parking and maintain traffic flow, where the road width is insufficient to allow parking on both sides and cars to pass. As with charges and duration, bans are implemented through enforcement.

The main focus here is on car parking and the traffic impacts resulting from controls on car parking. Nevertheless, parking controls also relate to coaches, lorries, motorcycles and bicycles. On street controls for coaches, lorries and motorcycles are similar to those for cars, though space requirements and the suitability of parking will differ.  Cycle parking and off-street lorry parking are covered separately.  

Long stay parking is usually off street and further from destinations, with lower charges the further away from town centres the car parks are. This is designed to keep traffic out of town centres.  On street parking is often competed for by different users, and an order or priority for allocation of space is needed.  A common source of conflict is between commuters and residents. It is clear that parking policies establishing which type of parking and control is used where and when, must be designed not only to tackle traffic management issues, but also conflicting user needs.

Technology

NETApen

Most forms of parking control now require some level of technological input. Enforcement is usually through the issuing of fines, often via a handheld terminal. These terminals operate on a similar basis to personal digital assistants (PDAs), although they also include portable printers. As with PDAs, the handheld terminals link to office-based PCs to download stored data. Specialised parking management systems are available to operate parking management centrally. These systems control the recovery of fines issued, tow away schemes, the issuing of permits, number and location of spaces (sometimes in real time), and any other aspect of parking management the client specifies for custom built systems. Thus, even uncharged on-street spaces subject only to a duration control require some technology. Where charges are used as a means of control, payment collection technology (on-street meters, in-car meters and smart cards, off-street pay-on-foot kiosks and entry/exit ticket and payment machines) is required. Details of this can be found under Parking Charges.

Technology also has a role in controlling entry and exit to car parks, which can be combined with payment. Off-street parking is often subject to these controls to issue tickets and regulate the volume of search traffic within the car park. Sensors built into ticket machines identify vehicles approaching a barrier or raised bollard, which triggers the issuing of a ticket. When the driver takes the ticket, this raises the barrier or depresses the bollard. The ticket machine then regulates the number of vehicles entering the car park to prevent more cars entering than there are spaces available. On exit from the car park, payment is collected through the same process or a staffed kiosk. The machines are linked to a central computer, which calculates the number of spaces available and stores data on charges received.

Entry and exit controlsIncreasingly, entry and exit controls merely regulate the number of vehicles within a car park; payment is by a pay-on-foot machine – drivers obtain a ticket from a machine located near pedestrian exits as they leave, and pay at the same machine on return. Tickets are then returned to the driver who inserts them into an exit control machine to prove that payment has been made.

Increasingly, real time technology also has a role in providing parking information. It is now common for direction signs to indicate when a car park is full, and in some cases, which alternative car parks have the most spaces available. Full details are given under Parking Information.

Why introduce car parking controls?

Parking controls are implemented for a number of reasons. Firstly, to restrict parking on street where it is unsafe or is disruptive to moving vehicles. 

Secondly, to reduce the impacts of excess demand for parking:

  • Congestion caused by searching traffic,
  • Atmospheric and noise pollution caused by searching traffic,
  • Severance caused by searching traffic,
  • On pavement parking creating barriers and obstacles for pedestrians, especially those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs or prams, 
  • On pavement parking placing pedestrians in danger by forcing them onto the carriageway (see Pooley et al. 2013),
  • Accidents caused by searching traffic,
  • Illegal parking on the road.

Thirdly, to allocate scarce space according to priority needs. The order in which priorities are ranked will vary between local authorities and their overall transport policy objectives, and the type of area. For example, in residential areas residents may receive priority over other users, or in areas seeking to develop their retail centre shoppers may receive high priority. The following users need to be catered for in a parking policy:

  • Disabled users
  • Leisure shoppers (long stay)
  • Utility shoppers (short stay)
  • Visitors/tourists
  • Residents
  • Commuters
  • Deliveries
  • Taxis
  • Lorries
  • Special needs e.g. medical assistance, craftsmen
    (European Parking Association, 2002).

Fourthly, to manage the level and location of car use within an area to meet wider goals regarding reductions in the negative impacts of car use.

However, it should be noted that in areas where the negative impacts of car use are largely derived from through traffic and/or vehicles with private parking provision, control of parking would have little impact.

Demand impacts

Responses and situations
Response Reduction in road traffic Expected in situations
This is a dominant response to duration controls, but it is unlikely to change vehicle kilometres. If travel at less congested times is encouraged, change in departure time may reduce the duration of journeys.
/ Small changes may be made near to destinations when different car parks are selected, especially in response to real time parking availability information.
Where drivers travel further to destinations where suitable parking (e.g. long stay in response to introduction of duration controls locally) is available, or to places with less restrictive controls.
Where restrictions are accompanied by good alternative means of access.
Where good alternatives are provided.
-
-
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Short and long run demand responses

Demand responses
Response - 1st year 2-4 years 5 years 10+ years
-
  - / / / /
  Change job location
- Shop elsewhere
  Compress working week
- Trip chain
- Work from home
- Shop from home
  Ride share
- Public transport
- Walk/cycle
  -
  -
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Changes in destination will occur where this allows drivers to avoid restrictive parking controls and usually results in longer journey distances.

Supply impacts

Supply impacts will vary according to type of parking. A reduction in on street parking will increase road capacity, which may be dedicated to general traffic, or to public transport, cyclists or pedestrians. Parking bans combined with time of day controls will also vary parking supply at different times, so a day time ban will maximise road capacity when traffic flows are highest. Changes in volume of off street parking will not alter the supply of road space or public transport infrastructure. As reductions in total parking supply are often politically unpopular, it is common to influence the location of parking through controls and the planning system with regard to off-street parking. The location of supply of parking may not change the total number of journeys, but can influence where the journeys terminate. Nevertheless, small reductions in parking supply over time may be possible, or merely not increasing supply as car use increases. Conversely, some areas seeking to attract inward investment may seek to increase parking supply. However, such policies need to be balanced against the negative impacts of the likely increased traffic volumes in the area.

Financing requirements

The financial commitment needed to operate parking controls can be substantial. Where technology is necessary, this is a substantial cost. Whilst the manufacturers of the technology do not make their costs public (as it is likely to be custom designed and therefore vary between installations), the cost may represent a substantial proportion of the income generated by parking charges and fines. Even where technology is not required, there will be enforcement and administration costs.

Expected impact on key policy objectives

Contribution to objectives

Objective

Scale of contribution

Comment

  By reducing delays and improving reliability.
  By ensuring residents have parking spaces and social areas, and streets are not congested with other traffic parked or searching for spaces.
  By reducing air and noise pollution, and visual intrusion.
  /

Parking controls which prevent obstructions for pedestrians can bring benefits of accessibility and improved safety, especially for people with limited mobility and for children.   

Controls that restrict supply mean that demand is satisfied on a first come first served basis, which may not coincide with priority of need. Duration and time of day controls may also exclude those with important needs. Permit only areas exclude those not eligible for permits, which can be problematic where no alternatives are provided.
  By controlling parking in unsafe locations.
  Where reduced congestion and pollution improves environmental quality, and neighbouring parking policies are not contradictory.
  Cost of operations. Revenue may be generated through parking charges.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected impact on problems

Contribution to alleviation of key problems

Problem

Scale of contribution

Comment

Congestion

Where search traffic is reduced and/or alternative modes are easier to use.
Community impacts Reduction in severance where searching traffic is reduced.
Environmental damage / Less on-street parking will have a positive contribution. Positive benefit where controls against inappropriate parking on or near environmentally sensitive sites are enforced More off-street parking at a new out of town site or multistorey will have a negative impact.
Poor accessibility Where searching traffic is reduced. Further benefit where parking controls are well designed i.e. non-essential traffic is kept of the road making access by alternative means easier, and there is more and better located provision for disabled drivers.
Social and geographical disadvantage / If appropriate provision for people with disabilities or in emergency. Negative if not appropriate provision.
Accidents Inappropriate parking increases risks of collision especially for vulnerable road users. Further through less search traffic, as drivers searching for spaces may be on unfamiliar roads or have their attention districted by the search.
Economic growth Uncertainty on evidence on the relation between parking controls and economic growth.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected winners and losers

Winners and losers

Group

Winners/Losers

Comment

Large scale freight and commercial traffic

Through less congestion in centres when making deliveries and times periods when free access is allowed.

Small businesses

Through reduced congestion and better access to premises.

High income car-users

Through reduced congestion and availability of parking spaces near to destinations.
Low income car users with poor access to public transport / Inappropriate controls can be detrimental to people who are car dependent. Beneficial for people walking or cycling.
All existing public transport users Where public transport is subject to less congestion related delay.
People living adjacent to the area targeted If parking problems are merely shifted to their streets.
Cyclists including children Parked cars are associated with increased danger of collision with child pedestrians and cyclists (Petch and Henson 2000); reduced parking might improve child safety.
People at higher risk of health problems exacerbated by poor air quality Where searching traffic is reduced.
People making high value, important journeys Through reduced congestion and availability of parking spaces near to destinations.
The average car user Suitable car parking or alternatives should be available where and when needed.
= Weakest possible benefit = Strongest possible positive benefit
= Weakest possible negative benefit = Strongest possible negative benefit
= Neither wins nor loses

Barriers to implementation

Scale of barriers
Barrier Scale Comment
Legal Legal barriers to parking controls can be significant. Most notably, it is not possible to control existing private non-residential parking in most countries. Additionally, legislation or local decrees may be required to introduce permit systems, e.g. residents only zones, or any other controls in countries where there is little history of parking control.
Finance Costs of administration and enforcement.
Governance / Arrangements between public and private sectors organisations may be required to implement controls.
Political acceptability / This can be considerable where competing areas do not have co-ordinated policies.
Public and stakeholder acceptability / Parking controls can be contentious and face some public opposition. Conversely those affected by inappropriate parking may support parking controls.
Technical feasibility Space to provide long stay parking further from town centres can be a problem.
= Minimal barrier = Most significant barrier

Parking Policy in Bern, Switzerland
Parking Policy in Helsinki, Finland

Parking Policy in Bern, Switzerland

The case study reported here is taken from “Parking Policy Measures and their Effects on Mobility and the Economy. Swiss Case Studies” prepared by Ecoplan for the COST (European Co-operation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research) project Parking Policy Measures and their Effects on Mobility and the Economy, number 342. The report was produced in 2001.

Context

As in other major cities, Bern has experienced an increase in traffic volumes and the associated negative impacts, which has shift transport policy away from predict and provide towards demand management. The main pillars of current transport policy in Bern are public transport and parking policy, which is considered “the most important policy measure in order to achieve a substantial reduction of traffic volume within the urban area of Bern and especially within the city” (European Commission, 2001a). A reduction in traffic volume of 20% was desired from transport policy in 1992. The guiding principles of the parking policy are:

  • “to restrict the quantity of provided public and private parking spaces in order to reduce car use selectively
  • to follow a parking fee strategy in order to reduce motorised private transport and to promote the switch to public transport and the use of bicycles instead.”
    (European Commission, 2001a)

Parking policy measures in Bern are summarised in “Parking Policy Measures in the Urban Area of Bern”

Parking Policy Measures in the Urban Area of Bern
Bern PPM

*Blue Zones are located in residential areas. On weekdays parking is limited to 60 minutes between 8am and 6pm. Three hour parking is permitted in the interpeak period. In areas with a lot of leisure traffic, restrictions can be extended to weekends. Residents (including businesses within the Blue Zones can purchase a parking permit at a cost of 240 francs per month. Visitors and other users can purchase daily parking permits. New local legislation was required to enact Blue Zones, and as with other parking measures, was subject to initial opposition and appeal from the Automobile Club and some residents, who claimed that the system contradicted federal law. The system was introduced in 1999, including the removal of 10% of public parking spaces.

Parking charges were to be increased from two Swiss francs in the central business district to four and from one franc to two in outer districts, plus the introduction of a one franc charge for park and ride spaces. However, there was significant opposition from the business community. As a compromise, only the charges in residential areas were increased; one day permits rose from 8 francs to 15 and new four hour permit was introduced fro 8 francs. Charges also became applicable 24 hours per day. External costs are not incorporated into the charges, as the necessary increases would be unacceptable in the current climate. It should also be noted that as the increase to four francs for city centre spaces was blocked, the local authority charge remains lower than that for privately operated car parks.

There was also objection to the reduction in number of public parking spaces. The “Action Plan on Air Pollution” of 1992 promoted this, but the political will and legal basis was missing. A compromise was reached in 1997, resulting in a plan to move 154 ground level spaces from the old part of the city underground, to achieve a pedestrian friendly environment. However, objections were raised against enlarging existing subterranean car parks, resulting in no progress.

Objections against limitations on duration of stay are not reported. thus, public spaces in the centre of Bern are subject to severe restrictions to deter car commuters and provide for visitors. Maximum duration restrictions vary between 15 and 60 minutes depending on charges and centrality. Many central spaces are free, but restricted to 30 or 60 minutes.

It should also be noted that the introduction of a traffic management system within the city also included a parking guidance system. The first area-wide parking guidance system in Switzerland was introduced by the operators of private car parks in Bern in 1997. The system was funded by car users through a 0.10 franc per hour increase in charges. One year on, more customers were using car parks, including park and ride facilities on the outskirts, and revenues were higher than expected. The rest of the traffic management system has been blocked due to opposition on cost grounds, although discussions are on going.

More restrictive controls were introduced for visitor parking around the exhibition centres and sports stadium, as the free public transport (for those with tickets) was not enough to dissuade drivers due to the plentiful free parking spaces. Consequently, fees of 5 francs per half day were introduced. Additionally, legislation was introduced to allow the introduction of White Zones with time limits applicable 24h hours a day, seven days a week. In these areas around the exhibition centres and stadium, parking is limited to 60 minutes unless special allowance has been obtained. As with the Blue Zones, residents’ permits can be purchased. A reservation system is also being investigated, such that only those with a pre-paid parking ticket may access spaces.

On the outskirts of Bern, park and ride has become more important as parking restrictions in the centre and residential areas have increased. Park and ride facilities are operated privately (by a community or public transport operator for example) with financial support from the local authority. Support is dependent upon:

  • Park and ride facilities minimising the driving distance for car traffic and being located at public transport access points in the surrounding countryside,
  • Facilities should not compete with local public transport else modal shift to the car may result,
  • The facilities must be managed in terms of a charging structure, access limitations and surveillance,
  • New facilities must correspond with the goals of regional planning and transport concepts.

Parking spaces on local authority premises are also subject to regulations:

  • Neither civil servants nor visitors have a right to a parking space
  • A fee is charged for use of a space
  • The fee should include the costs of land use, maintenance and investment
  • The fee is reduced if a private vehicle is used for official purposes.

Private non-residential parking is also subject to regulations, but there is also substantial opposition. In some cases, this is from a canton disputing Federal Court decisions, not from private companies. The Federal Court ruled that the Canton of Bern must collect parking fees from the customers of new and existing shopping centres, however, this obligation has been dropped by the Canton. The handbook on “Implementation of Parking Policy Measures” was introduced to persuade organisations of the need for voluntary parking controls and explain how they should be planned, introduced and managed. Whilst shopping centres suffering from the poor image created by significant amounts of search traffic may introduce charges (somewhat unwillingly) the lack of compulsory measures for shopping centres is often used to argue against parking charges on public spaces in the centre of Bern. Indeed, opposition from companies has been less, due to the high opportunity cost they pay for their parking spaces, which is not traditionally passed on to employees. Fritz Studer AG only provide a parking space for employees living outside a certain area (i.e. beyond the reach of public transport), and even then a fee is charged. The more central the car park, the higher the charge. Revenues are used to maintain the car park and promote public transport use amongst employees. Planning regulations are also used to limit PNR around new developments, with the number of spaces more limited where the destination is well served by public transport. These measures are similar to the company travel plans introduced elsewhere.

Impacts on demand and supply

Bern transport polices have resulted in a stabilisation in traffic growth on arterial roads (although not on motorways), with levels below that forecast as in “Traffic Growth in the Urban Area of Bern”. However, it should be noted that the desired 20% reduction had not been achieved by 2001. The parking policy is credited with much of this success, as if a free parking space is guaranteed, 90% of commuters will drive.

Traffic Growth in the Urban Area of Bern

Traffic Growth in the Urban Area of Bern
(European Commission, 2001a)

The Blue Zones have been the most successful element of the parking policy:

  • Traffic volumes decreased by 15% on average – 14% in the morning peak, 21% in the evening peak and a 13% reduction in the number of vehicles in restricted areas.
  • Demand for spaces dropped – the average occupancy of parking spaces decreased by 13%. Residents had fewer problems finding a space and search traffic was reduced.
  • There was displacement of commuters out of residential areas, as in the short run there is little modal shift. Although, where high quality alternatives exist, modal shift does result. In the northern residential district of Bern, the Blue Zone resulted in the occupancy of the nearest park and ride increasing from 150 to 600 spaces on average.
  • To counteract displacement and encourage modal shift the introduction of Blue Zones in neighbouring areas should be co-ordinated.
  • Residential areas have become more appealing to shoppers as they can find a space. Around shopping centres a time limit of 60 minutes was introduced for public spaces, thus the Blue Zones have not caused disadvantages for urban retailing compared to shopping centres.
  • Regular and strict enforcement is necessary for success. High fines should be imposed if time restrictions are abused. In 2001 the fine was 40 Swiss francs, with plans to increase it to 60 over the following five years.

Parking fees applicable to public car parks and spaces around stadium used for large events have been less successful:

  • In the central business district charges have barely had any impact on demand as they are not high enough. In some streets, as much as 20% of the traffic is search traffic.
  • With regard to spaces around large events, charges had only been in place for 6 months in 2001 and demand for parking spaces was nearly as high as the previous year. It is thought that there may be greater change as time progresses and people become aware of the charges.

It was not possible in 2001 to assess other parking measures due to lack of implementation.

Environmental Impacts

Again these are largely attributable to the Blue Zones. Nevertheless, most people had not perceived a change in the levels of nuisance from air pollution and noise, as illustrated by “Perception of Change in Air Pollution and Noise in Residential Areas with Blue Zones”.

Perception of Change in Air Pollution and Noise in Residential Areas with Blue Zones
Perception of Change in Air Pollution and Noise in Residential Areas with Blue Zones

(European Commission, 2001a)

Economic Impacts

The city centre parking charges are too low to be having any impact in terms of covering full costs or revenue raising. Similarly, park and ride charges cannot be set high enough to cover costs, as making them significantly higher than city centre parking will dissuade people from using the facilities. However, the Blue Zones are operating at a profit level. Purchase of permits generated 6 million Swiss francs per year, whereas introduction and enforcement costs amount to 2 million Swiss francs. These costs have been reduced through the outsourcing of enforcement to a private company. This resulted in a 20% drop in enforcement costs. Enforcement has also become more effective as a dedicated team can perform regular checks that the police could previously not manage. The surplus generated by the Blue Zones will be used to fund traffic calming measures.

Policy contribution

Contribution to objectives
Objective Comments
  The Blue zones have resulted in greater efficiency in residential areas due to increased availability of parking spaces and reductions in search traffic.
  Blue Zones have also made streets more liveable as residents can find spaces and there is less search traffic.
  The reduction in search traffic in Blue Zones also reduces air and noise pollution.
  There are no reported impacts on equity and social inclusion.
  The reduction in search traffic in Blue Zones also reduces the risk of accidents, so long as speeds do not increase significantly. Future traffic calming should prevent this.
  The growth potential is not fully realised as charges in the centre of Bern are not high enough to noticeably reduce car traffic and improve the environment, making it more attractive to shoppers and visitors.
  The Blue Zones are operating at a considerable profit, but charges in the centre, and park and ride facilities are not covering full costs.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Parking Policy in Helsinki, Finland

The case study reported here is taken from "Parking Policy Measures and their Effects on Mobility and the Economy. Case Studies - Finland" prepared for the COST (European Co-operation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research) project Parking Policy Measures and their Effects on Mobility and the Economy, number 342. The report was produced in 2001.

Context

Helsinki is a coastal metropolis and is the fastest growing in the EU. The city centre is sited on a peninsula 12Km2. The total population of the metropolitan area is 955,500, 65,000 of whom live in the city centre. There are 480,000 workplaces within the metropolis, 100,000 of which are in the centre. As in other developed cities, car use grew at the expense of other modes through out the 1970's and 1980's, although car ownership decreased in the early 1990's as a result of economic depression. In 2001, car ownership stood at 360 per 1,000 inhabitants, with 605 of households owning at least one vehicle. Whilst modal split over the Helsinki metropolitan area indicates less car dependence than is apparent in many cities, the limited land access to the peninsula (9 streets) results in familiar problems resulting from car use. In view of this and the rapid growth, increasing the modal share of public transport is seen as essential.

Modal split of total trips in Helsinki

Modal split of total trips in Helsinki

(European Commission, 2001b)

Modal split of total trips in Helsinki downtown

Modal split of total trips in Helsinki downtown

(European Commission, 2001b)

As in Bern, parking policy aims to ensure that using public transport is more attractive than driving into the city. Public transport in Helsinki consists of bus, tram, three rail lines for commuter trains and one metro line. Over half of all public transport trips are by bus. In 2001 69% of motorised trips into the city centre in the morning rush hour trips were by public transport. Over the whole day, the share is 62%. The aim is to increase the morning peak share to 70% in the short term, and 75% in the long term (short and long term are not defined). Nevertheless, 260,000 vehicles cross the city centre border each day.

Parking policy is designed to meet all non-commuter related demand for parking spaces within the inner city and suburban regions. Long-term parking in the city centre is discouraged. In the inner city area there are approximately 93,200 parking places, 36,500 of these are in the city centre and 4,000 of those are subject to a charge. Of the spaces in the city centre, 45% are on street (including residential parking), 11% are in parking facilities and 44% are private. It is notable that most parking facilities are located near to the main rail station in the heart of the city.

The parking policy consists of the following measures:

  • Enforcement
  • A dynamic guidance system in the city centre
  • Reserved residential spaces for the City Car Club
  • Maximising the number of on-street spaces
  • Introduction of time restrictions for on-street parking
  • Introduction of charges for on-street parking
  • Designated unloading areas and times
  • Residents parking:
    • residents only areas
    • shared business and residents parking to reduce the number of spaces below average in an area with good public transport access
  • A park and ride system catering for cars and bicycles, as well as access to all forms of public transport:
    • 4,000 passenger car spaces, used by 2,200 vehicles in 1996
    • Number of spaces to be increased to 12,000 by 2020
    • 5,000 bicycles used the system in the summer and 1,000 in winter in 1996
    • Number of bicycle spaces to be increased to 16,000 by 2020
    • Park and ride facilities at intervals along corridors entering the centre of Helsinki
    • €33.61 million investment between 1996 and 2020, and
  • Parking standards for new private and residential developments (unfortunately, the city cannot control existing off-street private and residential parking).

The charges introduced for on-street parking vary according to centrality. In the central business district the charge is €2 per hour, areas surrounding the peninsula are €1 per hour, and the remainder of the inner city area is €0.5 per hour. Charges apply from 08:00 to 17:00 on weekdays and 09:00 to 15:00 on Saturdays in the central business district. In the central business district parking duration is restricted to one or two hours. If there is a restriction in other zones it is four hours. The highest charge for off-street parking facilities (mostly underground) is €2 per hour, and there are usually empty spaces available at all times of day and year. However, there are special rates for long-term and regular parking. Additionally, customers of near by shops may get price reductions or free parking if they spend enough on purchases. Whilst this charging regime is not particularly unique, the means of payment are novel. On-street parking can be paid for through conventional metering, pre-paid scratch card tickets to be displayed in the windscreen, or an in-car electronic meter with reloadable smart card. Use of this later means of payment allows holders to park anywhere within their designated zone, only pay the actual time they are parked and receive a 20% reduction in parking charges, although there is a €90 fixed charge for the meter and smart card. Approximately 25,000 in-car meters are in use. A pilot project to collect parking fees by mobile phone is also underway.

A residents parking scheme has been in operation in Helsinki since 1983. A zone-specific residential licence is displayed in vehicles, allowing drivers to ignore time restrictions and charges (applicable to everybody else) within their designated zone. Licences are granted for a year at a time, but each individual may hold a licence for two vehicles. Since 1992, local businesses have been able to hold licences as well, and have parking priority. Firms can hold three permits per office. There are seven residential zones, with 15,200 spaces for 20,000 residential permit holders and 1,500 business permits. Residents pay €25.51 per annum, whilst businesses pay €252.10. Change in occupancy rates over time is reported for the period 10:00 to 14:00 in "Residential Parking Occupancy".

The Residental Parking Occupancy from 10am to 2pm

(European Commission, 2001b)

The notable drop between 1994 and 1995 and consequent rise in occupancy rates is unlikely to be a result of the parking policy given that it pre-dated the surveys reported. It is possible that the pattern is a consequence of fewer shoppers using spaces due to the recession. Regardless the occupancy rates for other time periods throughout the day in 2000 suggest that demand is not exceeding supply at any point in the day.

Inner Zone Occupancy Rates - Spring 2000

Time period

Occupancy Rate

Before 08:00

30%

08:00 to 10:00

54% (fee charged, one hour parking limit)

10:00 to 17:00

86% (fee charged, one hour parking limit)

17:00 to 21:00

96%

(European Commission, 2001b)

Illegal parking is a problem in Helsinki. Almost 10% of on street and other public parking in the city centre is illegally parked. Unfortunately, the €35 fine is low compared to the cost of long-stay parking, but raising the fine requires legislation. (In time restricted free spaces a parking disc must be used). Revenue from parking meter and ticket sales, plus parking fines was €12.83 million.

Impacts on demand and supply

Impacts reported here are based on stated preference modelling, which included a 30% increase in the parking charges. This increase resulted in modal shift representing an 8 to 10% reduction in the share of trips made by car. The change is greatest for trips between the home and workplace. Unsurprisingly, the greater the increase in parking charges, the greater the modal shift. Doubling the increase in charges approximately doubles the modal shift.

It was also established that if parking costs and public transport fares were equal [i.e. parking charges were increased] for equivalent journeys, then the share of car trips would decrease by 8%. The change is quite small as the resulting parking charge would be €2.60 per day, which is small for the stated preference survey respondents, especially if the employer covers the cost. If public transport fares were reduced by 30%, then the modal share of the car would only decrease by 2%, suggesting that cheaper public transport does not induce significant modal shift and that parking charges are more effective. If the public transport fares were altered to equal the fuel cost of the equivalent journey by car, then there would be a 2% shift from car to public transport.

Whilst these models suggest that small changes in parking charges do reduce car use, the effectives are not substantial. It was concluded that regulating the location of parking facilities would be more effective, as drivers do not like to walk. However, lack of control over existing private non-residential and off-street residential parking makes this option difficult. A walking distance of 400 metres between parking space and destination would result in a 9% decrease in the car share. If the walk distance were the same as that for the public transport alternative (based on routes that do not include transfers as people avoid this eventuality), then car share would decrease by 13%.

Contribution to objectives

Contribution to objectives
Objective Comments
  If the increases in public transport modal share targets are achieved, then there should be an efficiency gain.
  Occupancy in the zoned residential areas is never 100%, thus search traffic and inability to park for residents must be minimised.
  The availability of parking suggests that search traffic and the negative impacts this has are minimised.
  There is no evidence on this, although public transport fares appear to be higher than parking charges. Thus, there could be a negative impact on low income car owners, as alternatives may be unaffordable.
  Minimal search traffic will minimise accidents involving such traffic.
  Ample parking availability is likely to promote economic growth so long as negative congestion and pollution impacts do not become significant.
  The financial outcome of the parking policy is unclear, but it is thought to be negative. It is not clear how much is spent enforcing parking controls, or whether parking and ride is funded from the same revenue stream, but regardless, the cost of park and ride investment is substantially more than generated by charges and fines.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Gaps and Weaknesses

Whilst there is evidence on the effect of car parking controls, the body of evidence is not large. Additionally, the evidence on specific controls is not always seperated out - a wholistic approach to multiple controls is often taken.

With regard to the Bern and Helsinki examples cited here; the controls appear to be under performing. In Bern parking charges form part of the controls package and they do not appear to be high enough. In Helsinki the supply of parking appears to be too great.

Expected contribution to objectives

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comment
  By reducing delays and improving reliability.
  By ensuring residents have parking spaces and social areas, and streets are not congested with other traffic parked or searching for spaces.
  By reducing air and noise pollution, and visual intrusion.
  /

Parking controls which prevent obstructions for pedestrians can bring benefits of accessibility and improved safety, especially for people with limited mobility and for children.   

Controls that restrict supply mean that demand is satisfied on a first come first served basis, which may not coincide with priority of need. Duration and time of day controls may also exclude those with important needs. Permit only areas exclude those not eligible for permits, which can be problematic where no alternatives are provided.
  By controlling parking in unsafe locations.
  Where reduced congestion and pollution improves environmental quality, and neighbouring parking policies are not contradictory.
  Cost of operations. Revenue may be generated through parking charges.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Contribution to problems

Contribution to alleviation of key problems
Problem Scale of contribution Comment
Congestion-related delay Where search traffic is reduced and/or alternative modes are easier to use.
Congestion-related unreliability Where search traffic is reduced and/or alternative modes are easier to use.
Community severance Where search traffic is reduced.
Visual intrusion / Less on-street parking will have a positive contribution. More off-street parking at a new out of town site or multistorey will have a negative impact.
Lack of amenity Where it becomes easier to access amenities and hence, more worth while providing them.
Global warming Where search traffic is reduced.
Local air pollution Where search traffic is reduced.
Noise Where search traffic is reduced.
Reduction of green space / Positive benefit where controls against inappropriate parking on green space is enforced/ Negative benefit where new off street parking is provided out of town
Damage to environmentally sensitive sites / Positive benefit where controls against inappropriate parking on or near environmentally sensitive sites are enforced/ Negative benefit where new off street parking is provided out of town
Poor accessibility for those without a car and those with mobility impairments Both groups should benefit where parking controls are well designed i.e. non-essential traffic is kept of the road making access by alternative means easier, and there is more and better located provision for disabled drivers.
Disproportionate disadvantaging of particular social or geographic groups / As above, if appropriate provision for people with disabilities or in emergency. Negative if not appropriate provision.
Number, severity and risk of accidents In appropriate parking increases risks of collision especially for vulnerable road users. Further through less search traffic, as drivers searching for spaces may be on unfamiliar roads or have their attention districted by the search.
Suppression of the potential for economic activity in the area Where neighbouring parking policies are not contradictory.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected impact on problems

Expected impact on problems
Problem Scale of contribution Comment
Congestion Where search traffic is reduced and/or alternative modes are easier to use.
Community impacts Reduction in severance where searching traffic is reduced.
Environmental damage / Less on-street parking will have a positive contribution. Positive benefit where controls against inappropriate parking on or near environmentally sensitive sites are enforced More off-street parking at a new out of town site or multistorey will have a negative impact.
Poor accessibility Where searching traffic is reduced. Further benefit where parking controls are well designed i.e. non-essential traffic is kept of the road making access by alternative means easier, and there is more and better located provision for disabled drivers.
Social and geographical disadvantage / If appropriate provision for people with disabilities or in emergency. Negative if not appropriate provision.
Accidents Inappropriate parking increases risks of collision especially for vulnerable road users. Further through less search traffic, as drivers searching for spaces may be on unfamiliar roads or have their attention districted by the search.
Economic growth Uncertainty on evidence on the relation between parking controls and economic growth.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Appropriate contexts

Appropriate area-types
Area type Suitability
City centre
Dense inner suburb
Medium density outer suburb
Less dense outer suburb
District centre
Corridor
Small town
Tourist town
= Least suitable area type = Most suitable area type

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