Cities and municipalities have been facing a mobility dilemma for some time now: Growing cities with more people mean a steady increase in motorized traffic. The resulting problems, for example in finding a parking space, are a central challenge for cities, as an additional expansion of the transport infrastructure is hardly possible in many areas. In a position paper, the VDA has called for measures for efficient parking space management. This article shows what these can look like in cities.

More inhabitants, more commuters, more delivery traffic: Space is becoming scarce and competition for the use of existing capacities is becoming increasingly fierce. At the same time, mobility remains a decisive factor in the functionality of urban spaces. A key contribution to solving these problems lies in the area of digitalization: Smart, platform-based parking management can provide targeted support for sustainable urban mobility by enabling the optimization of traffic flows, thereby helping to significantly reduce the amount of traffic seeking parking. This topic is also being increasingly promoted in Germany: The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the German Parking Association (Bundesverband Parken e.V.) are calling for targeted parking space management of public parking spaces in city centers.

Importance of efficient public parking space management

In order to consider comprehensive management of parking spaces, one question first arises: What do associations actually understand by parking space management or parking space management? The German Institute of Urban Affairs (DIFU) understands parking space management as “temporal and spatial influence of parking space usage through constructional, organizational and traffic law measures […], which takes local conditions into account. Parking space management thus serves to control the supply of parking space and the associated demand, taking particular account of efficiency, economy and compatibility. According to DIFU, successful parking management requires the inclusion of measures and data from supply control, parking space supply, information and guidance systems, and parking space management. And most importantly: parking management describes an important component of an integrated mobility concept.

Ultimately, traffic chaos and road congestion always develop when public and private parking areas lack efficient parking management. This is the background against which the VDA’s position paper on parking space management should be understood. At the beginning of 2020, the VDA drew up main topics and measures to enable efficient parking space management in urban areas. We have compiled the 5 core measures.

5 measures for efficient parking space management

  • Ensure efficient use of parking spaces – Manage parking space across the board

The area-wide introduction of parking information and guidance systems, partly also virtually or online integrated via navigation systems, is a basic prerequisite for the effective utilization of the existing infrastructure and thus reduces the traffic searching for parking. Comprehensive parking management in the city additionally prevents the shift of parking traffic to other, unmanaged districts. The explanation is simple: free parking spaces and parking disc regulations in combination with low parking fees trigger increased parking search traffic, while parking garages that are not free are avoided. According to VDA demands, parking fees should therefore be fair and equally regulated throughout the entire city area and should be at least as high as the fees in the existing managed parking facilities. In this way, there are equal parking conditions for all urban road users and the traffic searching for a parking space is distributed evenly.

Shared use of public transport space – parking lot sharing

A common problem of limited parking space is the lack of efficient use by all road users. To ensure this, the implementation of shared space concepts is required. For example, residents and employees can use the same parking space at different times and thus efficiently manage the available space. The implementation of such a concept is already being tackled with the help of various apps such as Ampido or Parkinglist.

The advantages of parking lot sharing concepts are obvious, both for owners of parking lots and for drivers looking for a parking space: Those who rent out their parking space via one of the platforms or apps on the market can do so with almost no effort and secure an uncomplicated additional income. All you have to do is indicate the time during which the corresponding parking space is free and the price you are asking for it. The rest is done by the respective providers. In addition, the parking space is optimally utilized and the annoying search for a parking space is significantly shortened. Shared parking spaces are often also cheaper than classic parking garages and underground garages. Not to forget the facts: Finding a parking space costs around €896 per driver per year, or a total of €40 billion. There is therefore a great potential for savings, which is addressed by parking lot sharing.

  • Regulation measures for inner-city parking

The aim of a fixed maximum parking time is to divert stationary traffic to the existing parking garages. The idea behind this can be compared to reserving a deck chair by the pool: If there is no maximum parking time, vehicles often stand at the roadside longer than expected and are not moved in order not to give up the well-situated parking space. However, this reduces the chance that other road users will also use the parking space. For this reason, the occupancy time per roadside parking operation should be limited. Clear parking rates in time units that are not too small can provide useful support here.

In order to manage parking spaces clearly and sensibly, illegal parking should also be prevented. This could be achieved by structurally designing public spaces in such a way that parking is only possible in the areas designated for it. This can be ensured, for example, by means of access barriers such as bollards or barrier bars.

On the other hand, intensive and spatially extended parking space monitoring could prevent incorrect parking. For this purpose, cities and municipalities, police or even parking space surveillance organized under private law such as Playfair-Parking are available. The VDA believes that it is worth considering the possibility of adjusting the associated warning money. If these for parking violations are significantly higher than the daily maximum in a parking garage or at the side of the road, many illegal parkers may consider giving preference to legal parking.

  • Expand Park+Ride systems – for less traffic in the city

In the opinion of the VDA, Park+Ride locations outside the core city should be planned and managed in such a way that unplanned use, for example by residents, can be avoided. The aim of this measure is to significantly expand the existing P+R infrastructure, without which there can be no functioning traffic turnaround.

In addition to the municipalities, however, it is above all the higher-level institutions that are called upon to implement this measure. The transport ministries of the federal states could take over the coordination of the expansion of the parking infrastructure and at the same time harmonize the standards for Park+Ride offers. The city of Munich is one example that has expanded P+R facilities in the past. According to a test conducted by the ADAC, the facilities are user-friendly and should be further expanded.

The Strasbourg traffic concept proves that a sustainable commitment is worthwhile: The Strasbourg public transport model, modified over the years and now well established, relieves the environment and the traffic chaos in the city center. With the help of a revival of the streetcar, driving bans could be avoided; the ticket for park and ride spaces also serves as a ticket for the streetcar. Incidentally, the business community in Strasbourg has contributed to the costs of implementation. Meanwhile, public transport in Strasbourg functions in an exemplary manner, with six streetcar and 32 bus lines. Over the past 20 years, the city has successively expanded the streetcar system, after it was initially discontinued completely in 1960. The most important factor in the new traffic concept is the traffic hubs with large “park and ride” areas outside the city gates. Up to 24 hours of parking there costs just over 4 euros, and the parking ticket is also the streetcar ticket. Eight parking areas and multi-story parking lots are now available around Strasbourg to enable people to switch from cars to a well-functioning system of trains and buses. In addition, lockable parking spaces for bicycles are also available and rental bikes are available for tourists and citizens. Strasbourg shows the sustainable urban transport of the future: modern public transport instead of driving bans and cheap park and ride tickets instead of perceived fee rip-offs.

  • Improving service in parking garages – the parking garage as a mobility hub

Attractive additional service offers are to optimally complement the functions of an existing parking garage in the future. The parking garage will thus not only become a parking space, but also a service and mobility hub: Experts speak here of promoting “intermodality” – switching between cars, rental bikes and e-scooters can be easily implemented in a parking garage. Concepts for shared mobility such as car-sharing or the installation of e-charging stations have also become firmly established in many modern parking garages, which are transforming into comprehensive mobility service providers with this offer. However, the topic of attractiveness does not only refer to the existing offer: parking garages should be more than just functional spaces. In the future, a sustainable exterior and interior design as well as the aesthetics of the buildings that can be experienced will play just as important a role in the modern cityscape as the services offered as such. Examples for a higher level of user-friendliness in the design are sufficiently wide parking spaces, ramps that are easy to drive on, brightness, orientation aids at the entrance/exit and parking decks, as well as appealing cleanliness of the facility – because all this promotes acceptance and frequency of use by citizens, residents and tourists.

After considering all the facts related to the subject, one thing cannot be denied: Efficient, area-wide parking management contributes to the quality of life in urban areas. The advantages of successful parking management for cities and the people who move around in them are very clear: For residents, citizens and tourists, efficient parking management in the city means a sustainable environment to which digitalization can easily contribute – the parking management apps create more transparency and make it easier for visitors to find parking spaces quickly and without stress. Many smart parking apps such as PARCO already allow payment and control by law enforcement agencies. For cities, the positive image of the city is reinforced and lower traffic volumes make the city center more attractive for residents and tourists due to lower emissions and noise pollution.

Conclusion: Modern city parking is not possible without parking management

Although the concepts for comprehensive parking space management are still in their infancy in many cases, more and more cities are dealing with the conditions, concepts and providers of urban parking space management. In the meantime, a large number of networks and activities, including more than 40 projects and over 300 protagonists, are working on smart solutions for the city.initiators of smart city parking projects Those responsible can draw on existing know-how: Some companies and start-ups such as ParkHere already offer mature, intelligent solutions for digital parking management that are ready for practical implementation.

The first city concepts for intelligent parking management are already being implemented in cities such as Strasbourg or Berlin. With the “Smart City Berlin” project, political leaders are pursuing the goal of making Berlin the leading Smart City in Europe in the fields of energy and environmental technology, traffic and mobility, and information and communication. The new structures thus created create prospects for innovative products and services, raise living standards and contribute to climate protection.