Many London boroughs are now proactively using parking and kerbside interventions to achieve wider transport policy objectives. But different boroughs are at different stages of this journey. This chapter presents a mixture of interventions that boroughs can use to encourage their residents to think differently about car ownership and use, and to create better streets.
Kerb space allocation
Reviewing kerb space allocation in its entirety is essential to making well-evidenced policy decisions. Centre for London’s 2017 Street Smarts report recommended that all boroughs should develop kerbside strategies that allocate road and kerb space in accordance with clear user hierarchies. 47 While the principle of road user hierarchies is relatively well-established as a tool to manage movement, equivalent kerb space hierarchies can help guide the allocation of parking and drop-off space, as well as other social uses for different types of streets (see Figure 8 for example hierarchies).
A kerbside strategy (as a standalone document or part of a wider strategy) can link parking management and transport policy together as well as balancing competing uses of the kerb,such as different transport modes, the parking of different vehicle types and other uses that benefit local residents and businesses. Southwark was the first (and so far, only) borough to publish a kerbside strategy, 48 but this was absorbed into a more comprehensive Movement Plan that includes provisions for parking management and kerbside space reallocation. 49
Boroughs’ kerbside strategies should include a commitment to reallocate a certain percentage of parking space (even if it is as little as one to three per cent) every year to other high-priority uses, such as cycleways, EV charging, disabled bays, or green space. To help demonstrate the benefits, this could start with a small trial; some temporary alternatives (such as parklets) can also be implemented quickly so that residents can see the benefits before more permanent measures are installed. When reviewing where parking should be located, boroughs should take off-street provision into account and cluster on-street provision together, with clear signage to prevent people driving in search for a scant number of scattered bays. Requiring residents to walk a short distance to their car could also help reduce usage.
Case study: Copenhagen
Copenhagen has been gradually rebalancing priorities for its city centre streets over several decades. The initial pedestrianisation of certain streets was met with opposition at first, but the transformation has proven to be extremely popular since being implemented. The city authority has adopted an integrated traffic management strategy for the city centre, reducing the number of parking spaces by a fixed percentage every year and increasing charges for on-street parking. It has also reallocated road space on several main routes into the city for bus and cycle lanes, restricted through-traffic, and invested in the suburban train, bus and bicycle networks. In the city centre, 80 per cent of all journeys are now made on foot and 14 per cent are made by bicycle. 50
The Mayor of London currently has a limited role in forming parking policy apart from setting maximum parking standards for new developments through the London Plan. However, the Mayor produces a Transport Strategy, and boroughs are required to produce Local Implementation Plans (LIPs) that demonstrate how they will achieve the objectives of the Mayor’s strategy at the local level. The Mayor could support the boroughs by developing model kerbside hierarchies and guidance, but could also require boroughs to produce kerbside strategies as part of their Local Implementation Plans.
Recommendation 1: London boroughs should develop kerbside strategies that allocate road and kerb space in accordance with clear user and kerb space hierarchies. They should also commit to reallocating a certain percentage of kerb space to higher priority uses. The Mayor should support boroughs with guidance to include kerbside strategies in their Local Implementation Plans.
Controlled Parking Zones are the tool that boroughs use to manage competing demands for kerb space, as well as on-street parking from residents and visitors. They are mainly deployed in the areas most affected by parking pressures, such as those around town centres, railway stations or car-free developments. The specific restrictions are designed according to the area’s needs. CPZs are implemented through Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) following public consultations, and can be paid for by developers if delivered as part of a new development with limited or no parking. TROs are required to introduce space dedicated to specific uses and to introduce permits and charges for their use. Without them, boroughs cannot allocate kerb space to specific priority uses (such as disabled spaces, EV-only bays, or bike hangars).
As discussed above, the extent of CPZ coverage varies by borough, as do the procedures for initiating them. Some boroughs will only consider introducing a CPZ if explicitly requested by residents. Others will proactively identify areas that would benefit from parking controls and consult residents on their introduction and/or operating conditions. The process of implementing CPZs can be long and arduous, and it is not uncommon for residents to reject controlled parking in their street only to petition for it later when they feel the displacement effects of new parking zones implemented in neighbouring streets. Londoners seem to be split on the benefits of CPZs: our survey showed only 47 per cent of car owners would be prepared to pay for a resident parking permit to control parking by non-residents in their area.
This highlights the importance of the consultation and public engagement processes. Boroughs must make every effort to engage a diverse range of residents and be aware that consultation respondents are unlikely to be a fully representative sample. This awareness should also be reflected in decision-making. Some boroughs we spoke to felt a duty to be as “impartial” as possible in the communications sent to residents as part of the consultation process, with no explanation of the need for the proposed policies. Other boroughs have used a combination of more deliberative methods and local incentives to achieve buy-in for parking controls.
Case study: Newham
In order to build local consent for parking controls and hear the views of a wider range of consultees, Newham have consulted at the early stages of the development of their renewed Parking Strategy. Using the format of a number of Citizens’ Assemblies taking place across different neighbourhoods – and specifically inviting different road user and stakeholder groups – the process was designed to provide a more accurate and representative picture of public opinion. 51 Similarly, in order to demonstrate the importance and public benefit of parking charges, Newham are proposing that local groups will have a say in determining how some parking revenue from their “Residential Parking Zones” will be re-invested locally in highways and environmental improvement projects.
Additional tools like hotspot maps for air pollution, congestion and road danger can help build evidence of the need for change. The Positive Parking Agenda – supported by the majority of boroughs, London Councils and the British Parking Association – is also seeking to improve public opinion by outlining the importance of parking management, improving standards and increasing consistency. 52
The size and condition of CPZs can have a significant impact on car journeys in a borough. For example, Kensington and Chelsea has only one CPZ covering the entire Borough. Tower Hamlets is divided into four main CPZs, which are each subdivided into two to six “mini-zones” each with their own operating hours. Permit holders can park within their main zone for an unlimited period and for up to three hours in any other zone in the Borough. Both these examples mean that residents are permitted to make intra-borough journeys for free. In contrast, Camden is divided into 19 CPZs with different hours and days of operation, restricting permit holders to free parking in their zone only. Reducing the size of CPZs can be a powerful tool in discouraging short intra-borough trips, when these can be made by walking, cycling or public transport.
An additional tool for boroughs in which the number of permits issued significantly exceeds the number of spaces available is to limit the number of permits issued. One option is to introduce a cap on the total number of permits issued. Once this cap is reached, new applicants (with the exception of those with Blue Badge entitlement) and renewing applicants would need to join a waiting list. To reduce the impact on existing residents, they may be allowed to keep renewing existing permits, while moving new applications (including for additional vehicles of existing residents) to the waiting list. If boroughs pursue a policy of a gradual reduction in the total number of parking spaces, the cap in parking permits can be lowered over time.
Another option is to limit eligibility for new residents. Councils may stipulate that, when existing residents move away, the address will become effectively car-free and new occupiers will need to evidence need against given criteria, rather than automatically releasing new permits for the same address. With a reasonable level of household churn, a better balance between permits issued and spaces available can be achieved. Waiting lists and limited eligibility should be accompanied by incentives to entice low-car-use households to give up their permits.
Case study: Brighton
To manage local parking pressures, Brighton and Hove Council have introduced a residential parking permit waiting list for two parking zones in the city (excluding Blue Badge holders, who have automatic eligibility for a resident’s permit). In total, the parking zones are allowed to provide around 3,000 permits. Permits that are no longer in use (either returned or not issued for renewal) are offered to people on a waiting list. For example, in January 2020, around 40-50 permits were offered, in comparison to 174-265 people currently in line to purchase one. 53
However, there is a risk of perverse incentives for households to keep a car they rarely use just to maintain a permit that they think might be needed in the future. A cap that only applies to new residents can also be perceived as unfair. It is essential that people considering moving into the area are provided with the clear message that they may not be eligible for parking permits immediately and may need to join a waiting list.
Boroughs have a statutory duty to review their parking policies (including CPZs) on a regular basis to ensure they continue to meet their stated policy objectives. The nature of both residential areas and town centres can change over time, with new lifestyles, leisure habits and travel patterns: these can shift parking pressures to different times and areas. So it is important for boroughs to regularly review the coverage and operating hours of controlled parking.
Recommendation 2: London boroughs should regularly review the coverage, size and operating hours of Controlled Parking Zones, engaging a diverse range of residents in the consultation process to ensure they meet local and mayoral policy objectives. To make sure that the total number of permits available is consistent with policies to gradually reallocate road space, boroughs should introduce a cap on the number of permits issued, using waiting lists or limited eligibility for new residents.
Once CPZs are introduced, pricing is the main variable that affects demand. By law, boroughs are not permitted to increase permit prices with the primary objective of generating a surplus for other transport projects – even if surplus can legitimately be spent on these projects – but prices can be set at a level that is needed to manage traffic congestion and parking demand. With reduced car usage and modal shift being central objectives of the mayoral Transport Strategy (and therefore boroughs’ Local Implementation Plans), boroughs need to ensure that permit prices and short-stay charges are set at a level that helps meet these objectives locally, as well as allocating sufficient space to uses that support sustainable transport.
Residential permit prices should be set at a level that (at minimum) covers the full cost of administration, enforcement and a reasonable proportion of maintenance costs (as discussed in Chapter 2). This would mean that any surplus generated from short-stay parking or enforcement does not cross-subsidise residents’ parking, but allows boroughs to invest in local sustainable transport, low-traffic neighbourhood schemes, and public realm improvements such as green and community spaces. To ensure transparency, all boroughs should report the costs and revenues from resident and other permits separately from short-stay parking.
In addition, all boroughs should move to a staggered emission-based charging structure to incentivise take-up of cleaner vehicles. As the ULEZ expands and the government’s deadline for phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles approaches, boroughs may also wish to ban residents from applying for permits for the most polluting vehicles. Boroughs should also ensure that the number of vehicles per household is limited through escalating charges.
London Councils should also encourage boroughs towards greater harmonisation on whether the different pricing brackets should be based on emission standards, engine type and size or real-world tested emissions for each model – as well as the range of each bracket. This would give Londoners moving between boroughs certainty when deciding on a vehicle purchase.
Recommendation 3: London boroughs should set residential parking permit charges at a level that helps achieve strategic modal shift objectives and fully covers the total operating costs of residential parking. All boroughs should move towards a harmonised emission-based charging structure, alongside escalating charges for additional vehicles.
High street and workplace parking
In addition to controlling and pricing parking at journey origins (i.e. near people’s homes), boroughs can discourage car trips by controlling and pricing parking at destinations (i.e. high streets and employment centres).
For high streets and town centres, reviewing parking allocation and pricing should be part of boroughs’ kerbside strategy review. Policies should prioritise low traffic neighbourhoods and public realm improvements to enable travel by public transport, walking and cycling. Remaining short-stay parking for private vehicles should be charged at a level that both reduces demand and achieves optimal occupancy: how technology can help to facilitate this is discussed later in the present chapter.
There is a common belief that the introduction of parking controls or reallocation of kerb space from parking will harm local economies. However, there is a significant body of evidence that town centre and high street vitality is supported by better placemaking and high quality public realm that is not dominated by cars (whether moving or stationary). The vast majority of high street retail customers arrive by walking and public transport: while pedestrians and cyclists typically spend less per trip, they make more frequent trips and therefore spend more altogether than those arriving by car. 54 There is compelling evidence that large-scale public realm improvements (such as creating a safe and pleasant pedestrian and cycling environment) can help support local town centres by increasing footfall and therefore profitability. 55 But even smaller, incremental improvements can help.
Regarding journeys to work, parking provision at workplaces is now much less common than in the recent past, particularly in central and inner London. For areas where workplace parking provision is still prevalent, the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) is one tool available to local authorities to target it specifically. WPL is a levy charged to large employers and educational institutions on the basis of the number of parking spaces they provide to employees or students. The institution can then decide whether to pass the cost on or not.
Case study: Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy
In 2012, Nottingham City Council became the first local authority in the UK to implement a WPL. Commuters accounted for about 70 per cent of peak traffic in Nottingham, with the resulting congestion costing £160 million each year. 56 As of 2020, employers who provide more than 10 parking spaces must pay an annual charge of £424 per workplace parking place. 57 Roughly eight out of 10 companies pass this charge onto their employees. 58 Combined with the impact of public transport improvements paid for by the levy, traffic in Nottingham City declined by nine per cent compared to levels in 2004. 59 Revenue from the levy is being used to fund the redevelopment of Nottingham train station, the bus network, and the development of the Nottingham Express Transit service. The latter is currently on its second expansion and has successfully doubled the size of Nottingham’s tram network. 60
London boroughs already have the power to introduce WPL, and the Mayor has issued guidance to boroughs suggesting a minimum charge rate of £750 per year per parking space. 61 A number of mainly outer London boroughs are now considering its use (Hounslow is the most advanced, having already consulted on a scheme). Yet given the less dense public transport network in outer London, any proposals should be linked directly to investment in public transport infrastructure schemes that benefit the commuters affected and can be delivered quickly. A common concern for some boroughs is that if WPLs are implemented in relatively small geographic areas, there may be a risk of local authorities engaging in a downward spiral of competitive pricing to draw in business. However, in reality the annual WPL costs for large employers are typically a small fraction of the potential cost of relocation, and there is no evidence of this occurring.
WPL can encourage large employers to locate in areas with good public transport provision, and to work collaboratively with employees to rethink their travel plans. Facilitating more commutes by public transport, walking, cycling, and employee ridesharing will enable employers to reduce the number of parking spaces they need to provide, reduce their WPL liability, and use any freed-up space for commercial purposes. In future, the principle of WPLs could potentially be extended to other types of non-residential parking – for example, allowing boroughs to charge for retail parking spaces (although this would require an amendment to the GLA Act 1999). However, action to rein in excess workplace parking does not necessarily need to be initiated by the public sector. There are large employers who may wish to reduce their parking provision for a variety of reasons – including meeting regulatory standards (e.g. air quality), following their own environmental policies, complying with planning conditions, or simply reducing costs and freeing up land for more profitable use. Planning policy should enable this.
Case study: Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport is one of the largest single-site employers in the UK, with more than 70,000 people working for the airport, different airlines, retailers and construction companies on site. In its strategy for growth, Heathrow has committed to reducing employee car trips by 25 per cent by 2030, and by 50 per cent by 2040 (when measured against a 2013 baseline). To help meet these goals, the airport launched the Way2Go campaign in 2019 to help employees change the way they travel. Way2Go offers 75 per cent off rail and bus travel, discounted bikes and equipment in its Cycle Hub, access to the Liftshare app, and dedicated car-share parking bays. 62 To date, this has resulted in approximately 50-100 fewer colleague trips per day at Heathrow’s head office, and an estimated £1 million saved in car running costs due to sharing.
Recommendation 4: London boroughs with significant levels of private workplace parking should consider introducing a Workplace Parking Levy as part of a package of measures to shift travel-to-work patterns. Boroughs should review their planning policies to enable large employers to reduce private parking and facilitate modal shift among employees.
Providing alternatives to the private car
For policies that reduce the availability and increase the costs of parking to be seen as fair and effective, they need to be supported by the provision of a range of attractive and affordable alternatives to the private car. While ultimately the goal is for most trips to be made by public transport, walking and cycling, drivers can be reluctant to give up the convenience of their car for the journeys they cannot easily make by these means, even if these are only occasional. In our survey, 44 per cent of car owners agreed with the statement “I rarely use my car, but I still need it for occasional trips”, while 51 per cent disagreed. However, only 20 per cent of car owners say they rarely use their car and have considered or would be willing to consider alternatives such as joining a car club.
Research has shown that once people own a car, they tend to use it more frequently and may perceive alternative transport modes as less convenient. In addition to “push” policies, the availability of an extensive and affordable network of car club vehicles can help persuade habitual but low-usage car owners to give up their vehicles. For many such households in London it would make clear economic sense to adopt car club membership instead of maintaining a vehicle they rarely use. Research suggests that when insurance, tax, fuel, MOT and parking costs are taken into account, Londoners who drive less than 2,000 miles a year (roughly four hours a week) would be better off using a car club than owning a car, before one even considers the cost of the vehicle itself. 63 Despite this, take-up of car clubs in London is still low compared to many other European cities.
Case study: Bremen
Introduced in 1990, car sharing in the northwest German city of Bremen was one of many strategies to remedy increased parking demand and overall poor parking practices. The car sharing service is located at mobil.punkte (mobility hubs) on main roads around the city. Evaluation of car-sharing provision in Bremen has estimated that for every shared car, 11 private cars have been replaced, leading to 2,300 fewer private cars and preventing the purchasing of another 2,700 cars. The scheme has also stimulated a greater uptake in environmentally friendly transport alternatives. 64 A reported 85 per cent of residents are aware of the car-sharing opportunities provided, due in part to the scheme being embedded into the city’s travel season ticket.
Car clubs can therefore contribute to reduced car ownership and usage, driving the transition towards cleaner vehicles. However, different approaches, operating conditions and charging levels across boroughs can stifle operators. Recently, the flexible model car club Drive Now announced it was pulling out of London, citing “high costs of operation and the different circumstances in the single boroughs” 65 – as did electric vehicle provider Blue City. 66
The ULEZ extension in October 2021 offers an opportunity to encourage more Londoners to shift away from car ownership. As part of the existing scheme, the Mayor has introduced a vehicle scrappage scheme for small businesses, disabled people and low-income Londoners, which allows the grant to be used as car club credit instead of towards the purchase of a new vehicle. 67 As well as extending this scheme to households within the wider area, the Mayor, TfL and the boroughs should promote the opportunity for car-owning residents to switch to ULEZ-compliant car club vehicles at a much greater scale, saving the expense of acquiring a new car.
To residents who give up their parking permits, boroughs could also offer mobility credits that can be used for car clubs as well as public transport. This would be similar to how people moving into new car-free developments can be offered car club credits in lieu of a parking space. For such measures to work, boroughs will need to ensure there is sufficient provision across London, with standardised parking and other rules for customers. London Councils are currently developing a pan-London approach to car clubs, with recent efforts aimed at better information sharing. 68
Harmonising regulation to enable pick-up and drop-off of dockless hire bikes in any borough – the subject of a proposed new by-law – would also help support take-up, alongside reallocation of parking bays to bike hire stations.
Recommendation 5: Boroughs should ensure there is sufficient and accessible car club provision across London by allocating sufficient on-street parking spaces and charging a fair price for them. London Councils should draw up a recommended regulatory and pricing framework for car club and bike hire operation to support harmonisation across boroughs. Transport for London and the boroughs should launch a system of mobility credits that can be used on public transport and private mobility services, using these as incentives for reducing car ownership.
Parking technology is key to improving and streamlining parking provision nationally, but take-up has been slow. The need for upfront capital investment, ongoing relationships with current providers, and hesitation to commit to an uncertain future have all held up progress. While most London boroughs have moved away from cash payments in favour of payment by phone, the take-up of parking apps and automated payments is still low, though more prevalent among younger people. Steps towards standardisation are already underway – with a Department for Transport-funded initiative to develop new national and global parking data standards that support data sharing, and the development of apps to make parking easier. 69 There is also progression from paper Traffic Regulation Orders towards digital formats to enable faster, more efficient processes for introducing and amending TROs, but the degree of digitisation is variable among local authorities. 70
Technology offers opportunities for much more efficient management of kerb space, as well as pricing that is actively responsive to real-time demand. Installing digital sensors that identify vehicles and communicate directly with the in-vehicle system would allow more precise pricing and automated charging. By signposting available spaces, this technology could reduce searching times and congestion. It can also charge drivers by the minute and take payment directly from the customer’s account as the vehicle departs. This also has the potential to change an adversarial culture around parking. Rather than risking fines, drivers can park in the knowledge that they will only pay for what they use, and not feel they have been unfairly charged (as is all too common).
Technology also has the potential to create large cost savings for boroughs. Automated payment can particularly benefit home service and healthcare providers, who can spend as long with customers and patients as needed without worrying about topping up the parking meter.
Case study: Harrogate
Using over 2,000 smart bay sensors and the AppyWay platform, the “Smart City Parking” solution launched in Harrogate in January 2019. Users of the app can see real-time availability of spaces, saving both time and miles driven looking for parking. They are also able to start pay-per-minute sessions that automatically end when they drive away. As the vast majority (87 per cent) of drivers surveyed found the solution more convenient than using pay and display machines, they stayed in the bays longer than comparable pay and display sessions – an average of 10 minutes extra for on-street and 50 minutes extra for off-street locations, resulting in increased revenues for the local authorities and more time spent by individuals on the high street. The technology has thus enabled the local authority to better manage and optimise their existing parking assets. The scheme is now expanding to cover other bay types, including the integration with EV bays. Portsmouth, Halifax and Dundee are also in the process of embedding the technology.
Digital mapping of the kerbside and sensors can also change a parking space’s designation and charging rates throughout the course of the day. For example, empty resident bays that are empty during the day can be made available for short stays and charged different rates by the minute. There are also platforms that can enable commercial vehicle operators to request an available parking space for use as a loading bay and pay for it in real time. 71 Even ultra-short stays, such as passenger pick-up/drop-off or loading and unloading, can be automatically charged a small fee (a micro-transaction of a few pence) for stopping at the kerbside. This can help boroughs manage demand for high-turnover space – such as that around public transport hubs or busy town centres – at low transactional costs.
The same technology could be used to enable dynamic pricing – the ability to vary prices more flexibly to balance demand and supply for on-street short-stay parking in town centres and achieve optimum occupancy levels of about 85 per cent. The aim is to reduce congestion and pollution by reducing the amount of traffic searching for a parking space, which has been estimated to make up a significant proportion of local traffic (from 15 per cent to 70 per cent dependent on time and location). 72
Drivers benefit from knowing that occupancy will be maintained at a level where some spaces are available at all times, although this may mean paying a premium for popular locations at busy times of the day. More price-sensitive drivers will be directed to parking spaces further away from destinations, or can switch to visiting at less busy times of the day. The net result should be a reduction in the vehicle mileage associated with searching for parking spaces. Dynamic pricing schemes can also be broadly revenue-neutral if higher rates at peak times are balanced by cheaper rates off-peak. While the initial upfront investment would be a barrier to many boroughs, the efficiency and enforcement cost savings – as well as additional revenue from micro-transactions – could improve boroughs’ overall financial position.
Case Study: SF Park
With the launch of SF Park in 2011, San Francisco was one of the first cities to adopt a dynamic approach to pricing metered parking. 73 Charges vary by block, time of day and day of week to achieve a target occupancy rate of one to two available spaces on every road segment. Availability of parking spaces can be identified on the SF Park website or via mobile app. Evaluation of the pilot phase indicated a 16 per cent reduction in parking non-availability, while users reported a 43 per cent reduction in parking search times. In areas where an improvement in parking availability was measured, overall traffic volume decreased by around eight per cent. The average hourly rate paid by users actually fell from $2.69 to $2.58 as charges in less-used blocks were adjusted downwards. 73
However, there are presently some regulatory barriers to this approach. Current legislation prevents charging for short stays of under five minutes, which means automatic charging for small time increments is not possible. In addition to digitising Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) as describe above, the government should also allow dynamic TROs. At present, every time an authority wishes to change the designation of a parking space, a new TRO is required. Dynamic TROs would allow parking spaces to be multipurpose, so that the authority can change their designation frequently without the need for a new TRO every time.
Recommendation 6: Boroughs should embrace the opportunities created by new technology to manage demand for kerb space – including automated charging, dynamic space designation, micro-transactions for ultra-short-stay parking, and dynamic pricing for short-stay parking. Central government should enable dynamic management by allowing for charging in small increments and introducing dynamic Traffic Regulation Orders.