Interview EPA

Nick Lester, European Parking Association (EPA)

“Good parking policy as basis for mobility, safety and urban quality”

Good parking policy is an integral part of urban transport policy and necessary for local economic activity. Unfortunately, the impact and integration of parking policy and local mobility and accessibility policy are often misunderstood or neglected. The general public considers parking tariffs simply as a means to generate income.

Many populist decisions have already been made in municipalities, all of which are misplaced, but which are difficult to roll back. For example, the decision taken by the mayor of Rome to abandon paid parking and the decision taken by the ministers of Health in Scotland and Wales to retain free parking at hospitals.

The result of both decisions is not that parking has become easier and cheaper, as proponents promised; finding a place to park has just become more difficult. There is extra traffic congestion, and road safety problems arise because cars keep cruising around looking for a parking space and then end up parking somewhere where it is unsafe or causes extra delays.

Research shows that traffic cruising for a place to park forms 30% of urban traffic and causes congestion and pollution.

Finding a space is one thing, but motorists must be sure that their car is parked safely. For this, good operational management is essential. Motorists will avoid cheap and central locations if the chance that their car will be stolen or damaged is high. Motorists and their passengers also want to feel safe while they are walking to and from their cars.

Design quality

Off-street parking and parking facilities can be a disturbing factor in our urban environment, especially in historical cities. In our experience, money spent on the design quality of parking facilities is a good investment for all municipalities. Consider, for instance, the parking facility that won the EPA Award in 2013: here, in addition to good parking facilities adjacent to the market, visitors will also find a high-quality restaurant.

Q-Park can be proud of its investments in parking facilities. It regularly wins Awards and frequently makes a very positive contribution to the urban environment; something that can and should be celebrated.

At the same time, high-quality parking facilities contribute a great deal to the local surroundings. Case studies about how Q-Park works together with municipalities and how plans and the operation of parking facilities are integrated into municipal objectives, would be welcome. Some are already visible, such as Q-Park's involvement in the trials with dynamic parking route systems in Maastricht.

Just as urban planners and politicians should not isolate parking from transport policy in the broadest sense, so should parking companies not view their parking facilities in isolation.

For many people this is a new perspective and circumstances and needs differ per municipality. It is therefore important that we can learn from the less successful approaches as well as from the real successes.