Planning for Sustainable Travel

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Parking refers to the amount of space planned for the storage of cars and other vehicles (on and off-street) in new development and to the management of space in existing and new developments. It also includes provision for two wheelers (motorised) and bicycles. People do not necessarily park within their destination site so it is necessary to consider parking provision and management in the context of local parking conditions and policies as well as regional standards, where they exist. Servicing is also becoming increasingly important, covering retail, home and other deliveries.

Parking policy is a central element in traffic demand management, however is much under-utilised. It can be used beyond the traditional management of space, i.e. ensuring safe and efficient on-street conditions, catering for servicing and loading, and utilising the available public space to maximum benefit.

Parking provision can be used to encourage less car use in order to improve traffic and environmental conditions in an area and to contribute to broader transport and sustainable development objectives. Parking through restriction of spaces and/or pricing typically complements a variety of measures designed to promote the use of non-car alternatives. It can even be linked to other objectives such as giving priority to low emission vehicles, such as in Richmond and Westminster (London).

Both the amount of parking space and the form in which it is provided (i.e. within the curtilage of private developments, in allocated or unallocated off-street spaces, and in on-street bays) have implications for, and need to be consistent with, wider issues of neighbourhood design and street layout. Car free and low car housing developments have been developed in a number of locations such as Camden and Westminster (London).

Key Questions

1. To what extent can parking control impact on car use?

By definition, the physical amount of car parking space available in a locality places a ceiling on the number of car-based ‘trip ends’ which can occur within it. The significance of this for the overall volume of traffic depends on the amount of through traffic otherwise permitted within the area. In town and district centres and in residential neighbourhoods, a combination of physical layout and traffic management measures (plus the availability of alternative main roads) would normally seek to minimise through traffic – hence the volume of parking space has a critical influence in such places.

Deliberately limiting the amount of space within a particular development below potential demand levels only has a restraining influence on car use to the extent that alternative spaces are not available on street and/or that illegal parking is subject to an effective enforcement regime. Otherwise indiscriminate parking on footways, verges and other unsuitable places is likely to occur. In practice therefore ‘sub-demand’ provision is only suitable in areas which are or are planned to be controlled parking zones, i.e. subject to decriminalised parking enforcement.

2. How important is the form in which parking space is provided?

There is a general presumption that as large as possible a proportion of the permitted space associated with a development (other than its operational requirements) should be in the form of publicly available spaces. This allows:

To maximise the benefits from available public space in town centres and older commercial areas (and to avoid potential displacement to other centres or out-of town developments) management regimes therefore usually discriminate in favour of shorter stay parking. This also deters parking by commuters which in turn reduces the traffic volumes that would otherwise arise in the morning and evening peak periods.

In residential areas close to town centres, other employment areas or visitor attractions (e.g. sports stadia), a combination of designated bays plus a permit system allows available public spaces to be used to meet residents’ needs and to exclude or limit parking by commuters, shoppers, spectators etc.

In new developments, if a proportion of parking spaces not assigned to particular dwellings are rented, this provides an incentive for households to review their level of private car ownership, possibly opting for car club membership instead.

The requirement for less space in individual properties may also enable a development proposal to be accommodated on a more central site, thus supporting the sequential approach to site selection required in PPS6 (in respect of retail and leisure uses).

English Partnerships (now part of the Homes and Communities Agency) has published a useful toolkit covering car parking issues - ‘Car parking: what works where.

Selective Policy Guidance ShowHide

“Reducing the amount of [car] parking in new development (and in the expansion and change of use of existing development) is essential, as part of a package of planning and transport measures to promote sustainable travel choices. At the same time the amount of good quality cycle parking in developments should be increased to promote more cycle use.

A consistent approach on parking should be set out in the RTS to avoid wasteful competition between different locations based around the supply or cost of parking, to the detriment of sustainable development. Policies on parking should be coordinated with parking controls and charging set out in the local transport plan and should complement planning policies on the location of development.

In developing and implementing policies on parking, local authorities should: …

  • encourage the shared use of parking, particularly in town centres and as part of major proposals.
  • where appropriate introduce on-street parking controls in areas adjacent to major travel generating development to minimise the potential displacement of parking where on-site parking is being limited ….

Policies in development plans should set maximum levels of parking for broad classes of development. …There should be no minimum standards for development, other than parking for disabled people ... Applicants for development with significant transport implications should show (where appropriate in the Transport Assessment) the measures they are taking to minimise the need for parking.” (PPG13, paras 49-52 and 55)

“Local authorities should … set maximum parking standards for non-residential development according to a set of criteria” (Policy EC10, Draft PPS4) … including the need to encourage access for those without use of a car and promote sustainable transport choices.

Local parking standards should apply to individual non-residential development proposals (Policy EC10, Draft PPS4).

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Planning Checklist: Parking and Servicing

Practitioners should generally apply separate parking considerations to the main categories of development: business, retail and leisure and residential. All can be conceived in relation to density and public transport accessibility.

Business (excluding retail and leisure):

11.1. Explore the potential for reducing car commuting through the management of publicly available space and through the adoption of travel plans by employers, possibly with a gradual reduction of available space and a Workplace Parking Levy component. If pursued collectively on a neighbourhood basis this facilitates economies of scale in the provision of non-car alternatives and investment on a partnership basis.

11.2. Develop coordinated parking strategies for Travel to Work Areas. Local planning and local transport authorities can work within a framework set by the Regional Strategy. For example:

  • within Local Development Frameworks, include maximum parking standards for new employment development, thresholds for the preparation of Transport Assessments, and the location of park and ride sites and any other major public car parks
  • within Local Transport Plans, include policies and proposals for controlled parking zones, workplace travel plans (including for example car pool, car share, public transport marketing and facilities for cyclists), workplace parking levies where applicable, and complementary transport improvements.

Retail, leisure and similar uses:

11.3. Align the provision and pricing of public spaces with the opportunities available for access by non-car modes (since the car and non-car modes will be in more direct competition than is the case with commuting) having regard to the scale and nature of any competition between out of town developments with free parking and town centre policies.

11.4. Develop visitor travel plans with reference to customer catchment areas.

Residential areas:

11.5. Include maximum parking standards for new residential development.

11.6. In controlled parking areas, potential measures to encourage reduced levels of car ownership and smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles include the pattern of charges set for residents’ permits, a programme of personalised travel planning, the promotion of car club and car share schemes, walking and cycling and local public transport services and the preferential allocation of public parking places (i.e. provision for low emission vehicles).

11.7. In major new housing developments, similar measures should be pursued through residential travel plans negotiated as a condition of planning permission.

11.8. Use the expected impacts of such measures to amend the nationally generated forecasts of household car ownership in setting parking standards for new developments and lessen the requirement for parking space by providing shared spaces (some of these available for use by visitors).

11.9. In controlled parking areas, access to shared space or separate garages should be subject to a rental charge. This is a more equitable distribution of the associated development costs and encourages households to review their car ownership levels.

11.10. To discourage household cars ‘spilling over’ on to the street or other publicly available spaces (where garages are used for purposes other than car storage), minimise the proportion of dwellings with their own private garages (with car ports or hard standing utilised instead).

An important issue is to coordinate strategies across local authority boundaries, and within and between settlements. There has been a recent trend to relax parking standards within some local authorities – this should be resisted, with parking provision utilised as a key tool in managing the demand for travel.

All types of development should provide adequate access and temporary parking for delivery vehicles, but especially new residential development with reduced accommodation for household car ownership. All new developments, where applicable, should also include, or make accommodation for, future charging sites for electric or other alternatively fuelled vehicles.

Evidence and Examples

The evidence given here is necessarily selective, but gives an introduction to the research on this topic. More details are found in the background technical report.

Parking has received comparatively little study compared to congestion, traffic safety and the environmental impacts of transport. This is despite almost every car trip involving parking at both ends and cars spending over 80% of the week parked (RAC Foundation 2004, in Marsden 2006).

Ill-conceived parking policies can have a detrimental effect on travel and the urban environment but integrated, well-formed policies have been shown to contribute to “more efficient use of the transport network, lower emissions, higher densities and better, more inclusive urban design” (Marsden, 2006). Parking policies create a strong link between spatial and transport planning and so have been given particular attention here.

Evidence suggests that commuters are generally less likely to shift modes in response to parking policies (availability or pricing) than people travelling for non-work purposes. Therefore, an area-wide parking strategy is necessary with regard to car-based work trips so that commuters do not simply shift their parking location – the most likely behavioural response from this group (unless improved alternatives are provided).

The Nottingham Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) is proposed by the City Council, with funding raised to be used in the extension of the sub-regional tram system. The WPL is part of an integrated approach to land use/transport planning and public transport delivery at City and County levels. Nottingham has the highest share of bus commuting of any large city outside London (Census 2001).

A study of Edinburgh commuters has shown that people are willing to walk unexpectedly long distances for free parking. This finding further supports the need for area-wide parking policies (Rye et al, in Marsden, 2006).

With respect to retail and leisure uses, there is commonly resistance by local politicians and traders to controlled parking schemes incorporating an element of demand restraint on the basis that this will divert trade and investment to competing centres [a similar experience was found with pedestrianisation scheme implementation]. There is insufficient evidence to counter this position definitively but overall there does not seem to be any systematic relationship between parking provision and urban vitality (Marsden, 2006). Central London would be the extreme counter-example.

A complex set of factors affect the fortunes of individual centres. As well as the volume, price and convenience of parking provision itself other factors include the quality of the centre’s ‘offer’, the availability of non-car alternatives and the nature and accessibility of competing centres. Inevitably in places where major out-of town shopping developments were permitted in the past traditional centres suffered an initial loss of trade. City centres can of course compete as they offer a distinct product (e.g. recent developments in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol, etc.) however the volume of free parking available at out-of-town developments still provides difficulties. This is especially so where out of town retail centre rivals that in the city centre.

There is also evidence which appears to refute the anecdotal observation that car borne shoppers to centres engage in much higher spending than people using other modes (Sharp, in Marsden, 2006).

The evidence on residential parking is even more limited. Balcombe and York (1993) find some substitution from driving to short walk trips among residents with a limited on-street parking supply for fear of losing their parking space. However, there are potential negative effects of limited parking on the street environment and potentially a push toward moving to more suburban areas for residents who want (another) car (Marsden, 2006).

In the London Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames, residential parking permits in controlled parking zones are based on vehicle type with owners of higher emitting vehicles paying more. This is intended to encourage residents to buy lower emitting vehicles when purchasing a new car. The Borough intends to extend this scheme of differential prices by vehicle type to include non-resident parking in public spaces.

Advice on calculating expected car ownership levels and their implications for the amount and form of residential parking provision is given in WSP et al (2007).

Further reading here

Summary Guide Summary Guide Background Technical Report Background Technical Report Northstowe, South Cambridgeshire

Northstowe, South Cambridgeshire - Relatively low maximum parking standards in the planned Northstowe development reflect a high expected incidence of non car trips in the town centre as a result of neighbourhood design and public transport provision, and a commitment to shared parking spaces among uses that incur peak demand at different times of day (e.g. office and cinema).
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