Want to decarbonise transport? Start with parking

We caught up with Scott Ebbett, Senior Consultant here at MRCagney, to get his thoughts on why removing parking from city centres is a critical part of decarbonising transport.

What’s the problem with how we are using our cars?

To tackle the decarbonisation of transport in our cities and towns, we need to support people to reduce their car use. To achieve this, we need to develop our public transport networks further, create safe and connected cycleways, and provide excellent walking options, so people have genuine alternatives.

At the moment, driving is the default mode for travel around our cities because so much investment has gone into making driving as easy and comfortable as possible. You know that there will probably be a parking space wherever you travel, most of those parking spaces will be cheap or free, and roads lead wherever you want to go.

We need to start thinking about how much public land is dedicated to parking and look to charge for the full cost of providing that parking. This will reduce public subsidies that encourage driving over other more sustainable choices.

Charging for parking also supports other modes and ensures we make more efficient use of our parking resources. This allows excess land to be developed for new public amenities rather than continually providing more and more parking.

Is doing away with parking spaces a viable option?

Many cities around the world are taking bold steps in removing cars from their city centres. Paris has probably made the most significant push by saying they will eventually remove 140,000 car parks and use that space to improve walking, cycling and more spaces for people. They have also indicated that it will cost more to park in the remaining areas.

Many other cities around Europe and North America are also steadily reducing parking in city centres because they have realised that providing excess parking spaces increases congestion, air pollution and GHG emissions. It’s bad for people and a poor use of valuable land.

While we need to be realistic and recognise that some cars will still travel into the city centre, those drivers should be prepared to pay the actual costs. Charging the true costs will make us think seriously about the other options we have available.

Reducing parking in city and town centres is a global trend that we must follow in Aotearoa. Many cities have realised it is a critical component of lowering emissions and brings many other significant benefits.

What about parking for apartments?

The requirement to provide a certain amount of car parking with apartment buildings was signalled for removal last year in the Governments’ NPS Urban Development. This effectively told councils that they could no longer require a minimum amount of parking with developments. Developers are now free to make a market-based decision on how many parking spaces to provide.