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Change parking policy to reduce appeal of car ownership, says TPS report

Deniz Huseyin
15 December 2023
The highway should not be assumed to be principally for parking cars and could be used for a range of other purposes, including parklets for al fresco dining, says TPS
The highway should not be assumed to be principally for parking cars and could be used for a range of other purposes, including parklets for al fresco dining, says TPS

Current parking policy inadvertently promotes car ownership and does nothing to challenge the widespread expectation that parking should be provided at a low cost, says a new report by the Transport Planning Society (TPS). 

There is “little discussion or understanding regarding the costs that the parking of cars and other vehicles can impose on others in society through congestion, noise, pollution, consumption of space and risks they pose to vulnerable road users”, the report says.  

Current parking policy has done little to address the problem of parking on verges, pavements and other public spaces, it adds. 

Research by TPS also discovered that new developments often provide abundant parking. Developers often press for ample parking in their planning applications “to make the development viable and the properties attractive to their market”. In response, many councils have insisted that parking provision is increased to “avoid overspill into neighbouring streets”, the report says.  

In more recent years there has been recognition among some councils that designing new developments with access to local goods and services and transport is crucial to creating the places people wish to live and work in. “One of the lasting impacts of the [Covid-19] pandemic appears to be an increase in walking to and from, and use of more local goods and services,” observes the report. 

“If new housing is to be imaginative and avoid the indifferent, enforcing a reduction in parking provision through the planning process is a fundamental and long-term solution for bringing about a permanent change in travel habits and curating a sense of place.” 

The new report - called Just the Ticket! - outlines 18 parking policy recommendations to encourage behaviour change towards lower carbon travel. 

These include: 

•           Increased use of charges and taxes for workplace parking 

•           Enabling employers to provide tax-free incentives for non-car commuting to the workplace 

•           Reducing parking provision in residential areas to an agreed timeline as part of a long-term process of reducing car-dependency 

•           Nudging vehicle choice through differential parking charges for more polluting vehicles 

•           Moving away from parking charges based simply on duration of stay to one based on access charges. 

These policies would make the allocation of road space more efficient and equitable, says the report. “Parking charges would be fairer by reflecting the impact of the whole car journey on the whole of society. The changes proposed would deliver benefits both immediately and in the long-term, driving behaviour change and helping decarbonise the way we travel.” 

There is a “significant cost” of providing parking for residents’ cars, says the report. “It is unreasonable and unequitable that the value of providing what is often preferential access (where residents or others have a permit scheme that gives them exclusive use of the parking) and use of public space to local residents for the parking of personal vehicles are not properly assessed nor adequately recovered for the benefit of the wider community who ultimately own that space.” 

The availability of a space for residents through a permit scheme is not a right, the report argues. “Any permit scheme should adequately value the use of that space by not only including the full costs of provision and maintenance of the highway, the costs associated with the enforcement of the privilege but also the opportunity cost of the space occupied. Councils should be setting the charges for residential parking permits based on what rent could be achieved for an equivalent area in that vicinity.” 

Tom van Vuren, Director of Policy at the Transport Planning Society, said: “Parking is often one of the most hotly contested issues in a neighbourhood, yet the lack of effective parking policy takes public space away from vulnerable road users and more valued alternative kerbside usage, and so contributes to further local air and noise pollution, and congestion. 

“This report shows the pivotal role of well-designed parking measures in reducing car dependence and use, promoting alternative modes of travel, ultimately cutting our transport emissions and reclaiming public space.” 

Andrew Potter, author of the report and Director at Parking Perspectives, said: “As all car travel relies on parking at the start and end of each journey, parking policy has a significant influence on how people choose to travel. 

“The recommendations outlined in ‘Just the Ticket!’ offer a clear and practical approach to reshaping parking policy to bring about progressive changes in behaviour needed for a greener transport network.” 

Just the Ticket 




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