What Can the US Learn from European Parking Policies?

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Bicycle parking, Amsterdam (photo by Alex RK/Flickr)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Making parking more expensive and less convenient, encouraging residents to trade in parking permits for transit passes, and dedicating parking revenue for things like bike sharing programs...according to a new report, these are just a few of the strategies that cities like Amsterdam, Zurich, and Barcelona employ to make their streets more bike-and pedestrian-friendly--while reducing pollution.

A new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (a group that plans transit systems for cities worldwide) called "Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation," (you can find a PDF of it here) details an approach to parking that would make most American politicians and retailers blanch.

"European cities are deliberately making driving less convenient, but while they're doing that, they're boosting bike infrastructure and transit availability,"  said ITDP's Michael Kodransky.

He also said that the European experience shows that restricting parking makes financial sense.

"The trend here is to feed demand by creating more parking." Kodransky said. "European cities realize that if they make other modes more convenient, and create restrictive parking policies, people will drive less -- and shop more."

The report fleshes this out.  "A study conducted in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, found that retailers on one of the busiest shopping streets grossly overestimated the percentage of customers who arrive by car. Shops in a pedestrian zone where parking spaces have been wholly removed generate more income than those outside. In the most prominent pedestrianized shopping district in Munich, only 16% of people come by car, while 72% come by public transit. The remainder walk or bike."

Another big difference between European and American cities is the use of residential parking permits.  While many American cities use them, some European cities issue permits based on vehicle CO2 emission levels.  Many cities digitize their systems, which reduces fraud. Amsterdam allows residents to forfeit their permits in exchange for a one-year transit pass.

You can read highlights from the report here.

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