Annex 6 International Case Studies

United Kingdom

Parking standards probably have the single most direct impact on car use.

Formerly in the UK, developers were required by law to provide a minimum number of car park spaces per unit floor area to ensure that all parking generated by their development took place off-street. The parking provided was added to the stock of private non-residential parking spaces. But this meant that the ability of local government to use parking controls as a traffic restraint tool or a Traffic Demand Measure (TDM) was reduced. In recent years in the UK, some local governments have set lower (more restrictive) maximum parking standards to limit the number of parking spaces and thus limit car use. There is still the risk that local government will relax the new restricted standards to attract valuable development, particularly in the case of competing areas with different parking standards.

The construction of new parking lots has a significant impact on car use.

While more parking provision can contribute to economic activity by reducing the need to search for a parking space, it is likely that a significant part of city center traffic in UK cities is circulating traffic made up of cars searching for a parking space. Lack of parking can help to control car use. Expansion of parking facilities may encourage additional car use. The provision of new off-street parking is best provided in conjunction with a reduction in on-street roadside parking. Off-street parking locations are typically clearer than on-street ones as they can be signed using ordinary signs and variable message signs (VMS), so they should reduce circulating traffic and be better for the environment and safety.

Parking controls provide a very effective way of controlling car use.

Parking controls provide a very effective way of controlling car use through reducing the supply of spaces, restricting the duration or the opening hours of parking facilities, and regulating use through permits. But simply reducing the number of parking spaces is likely to result in an increase in circulating traffic looking for a space and thus an increase in congestion. Parking controls need to be well thought out with regard to duration and the type of vehicle that can be parked. They are generally inexpensive to implement, but require ongoing enforcement. Currently, local authorities have the power to impose all these types of control on roadside parking and in off-street public car parks. Legislation also exists to allow local authorities to control privately operated off-street public car parks, but this has rarely been used by local authorities because of the compensation implications. The main problem is that controls cannot be imposed on private non-residential parking, which typically accounts for 40–60% of city center parking spaces. As a result, even strict controls on public parking may result in an expansion of private parking or people just driving through the area.

Parking charges provide one of the most widely used forms of parking control but they cannot be used for through traffic or at private car parks.

Unique among parking control measures, they enable parking demand to be kept below the parking supply. The rule of thumb is that parking meter prices should be set at a level whereby one space in seven is free. The wider impacts of parking charges are that drivers will park on the edge of the controlled zone or will park in private spaces so congestion will not be reduced, merely relocated. Another problem is that the introduction or the increasing of parking charges may encourage leisure trips (such as shopping) to go elsewhere. Parking charges can be easily applied by local governments to public car parks and legislation exists to apply charges to privately operated public parking, but because of compensation issues, the powered under this legislation are rarely used.

Parking information systems can reduce congestion.

Parking information systems can reduce congestion by reducing the amount of circulating traffic looking for a parking space. Detectors identify which car parks are full or nearly full and trigger signs indicating the route to the nearest available space. Studies have shown that the time spent looking for a sparking space can be reduced by parking information systems, but it has proved difficult to estimate the resulting reduction in vehicle-km. Parking information systems give efficiency and accessibility benefits from reduced searching and may give some reduction in environmental intrusion and accidents.

Park N’ Ride facilities can extend the PT catchment area but may generate more car use.

Park N’ Ride facilities can extend the catchment area of fixed track public transport systems such as metro, light rail, and RER into lower density areas by enabling car drivers to drive to PT hubs. Park N’ Ride can also be used to interchange to bus services. The parking facility itself provides a low cost way of extending the range of public transport by increasing the numbers able to use PT and thus helping to reduce congestion, environmental pollution, and accidents in inner urban areas. But is does not offer any large improvements in equity and accessibility as only car users can use the facility. There is some evidence that Park N’ Ride facilities may generate longer journeys by rural residents and thus increase car use. The key issue is where the facilities are located. Land availability and cost are the main barriers to providing Park N’ Ride facilities.

Car-free housing can free up the land normally used for car parking and car access for other uses including more green space.

This approach has been pioneered in Germany and the Netherlands and construction is starting shortly in Edinburgh on one of the first schemes in the UK. These schemes are typically in city centers. Children can play outside in greater safety and residents benefit from better local air quality and less noise. Residents must agree not to own a car. No parking provision is provided.

Local authorities should aim to control the amount of parking spaces provided, their location, and the charges that are levied.

This ideal aim was put forward in the Traffic in Towns Report (London, HMSO, 1963) in the UK, about forty years ago. This remains true today and probably not just for the UK case. However, it was very difficult to achieve in the UK and most local authorities (city and municipal governments) have found that they have inherited considerable private workplace parking out of their control. The Traffic in Towns Report also stated that it was not sufficient for parking charges to merely cover the capital cost of providing the parking space, but that it was necessary to charge whatever circumstances demanded or in other words, whatever is required to achieve the objectives of the parking policy.

If the full predicted parking demand for new commercial developments is realized then this can lead to parking provision on an unacceptably large scale that is operationally complex and environmentally intrusive.

Addressing the balance between the operational, commuter, and visitor parking requirements of a new development and the environmental impact of a large amount of parking is a challenge for designers.

Private workplace parking accounts for a significant proportion of peak hour congestion.

Controlling the price and availability of parking has been shown by research to be capable of reducing traffic in an area. Local authorities can determine the price and availability of public parking, on and off the street. But they have little control over existing parking spaces at private workplaces. They can use their development control powers to limit the amount of parking associated with new developments but, in the past, development was allowed with extensive parking provision, considerably in excess of the standards advocated in current Government guidance.

If parking policy is to contribute fully to an integrated transport strategy then local government control of private non-residential parking spaces is essential.

The UK Government believes that new measures are needed to tackle excessive workplace parking provision at existing developments so local authorities can develop comprehensive parking management policies that support their transport and development plans. It is proposed to introduce legislation to enable local authorities to levy a new parking charge on private workplace parking. This charge would not apply to residential parking. Owners or occupiers of business premises would apply for a license to allow a certain number of vehicles to be parked on site. The aim is to reduce the amount of parking available as a means of reducing car journeys and increasing use of public transport, walking, and cycling.

It is proposed to legislate to enable this new parking charge to apply to all types of private non-residential workplace parking, although we will consult on whether there should be any national exemptions (e.g. emergency vehicles and vehicles used by the disabled). There are strong arguments for workplace parking charges to be levied in all types of location, whether in town centers or at out of town sites, in order to be consistent with our planning policy, particularly on the revitalization of towns and cities, by influencing individual’s travel choice and businesses’ location choice.

A vital element in the effectiveness of this policy will be the use made of the proceeds to improve transport choice locally. In other words, it is proposed that the revenue collected from this new parking charge will be ring-fenced (hypothecated) for transport improvements. The taxation of workplace parking will offer local authorities significant new powers for tackling congestion and pollution in their areas. They will also provide those authorities with significant new sources of revenue for funding improvements, for example in public transport, walking, and cycling.

Non-workplace parking also needs to be controlled.

Free parking at other developments (e.g. for customers and visitors to retail and leisure facilities) also contributes to local congestion, both in town centers and other places. This is particularly relevant at larger retail and leisure developments, although the effects are not as concentrated in peak hours when compared with commuting journeys. Generous parking provision at such places contributes to low-density development, often on the edge of or outside towns that may not be readily accessible other than by car. For new developments the planning policies now being implemented should ensure that car parking space is limited to the minimum necessary and that full provision is made for public transport access. But more needs to be done for existing developments.

In preparing the transport plan, local authorities will have to work with retailers and operators of leisure facilities to identify appropriate measures funded by the private sector to reduce car dependency for access to these developments. Such measures should, in particular, help to ensure that people without a car have access to a wider range of goods and services than at present. The measures that are envisaged are already provided by some retailers and include providing bus shelters and timetable information, funding bus priority measures on the surrounding road network, and providing or supporting bus services to and from the site for customers and staff. Secure bicycle parking should be provided as a matter of course. Retail outlets could also extend or introduce easy and affordable home delivery services, particularly with the development of Internet shopping.

Enforcement of parking can be done by civilian staff, leaving the traffic police free for other duties.

In the UK, local authorities traditionally looked to the police for most forms of enforcement, including parking enforcement. But more specialized staff can fulfill some of these tasks, leaving the police to do more difficult ones. For example, there has been a move away from the use of police for parking enforcement to traffic wardens, some under police control, others employed by local authorities.

Summary of Current Proposed Parking Policy for UK Cities.

Within this framework, local authorities are able to develop local parking plans.

  • Control of on-street parking to prevent vehicles obstructing traffic and pedestrians;
  • New types of equipment for controlling on-street parking; electronic meters, pay and display machines operated by magnetic cards, and voucher systems;
  • Parking enforcement by local authorities, penalties used to fund enforcement, scope for more authorities to take up new powers;
  • Parking control, on and off-street, as a component of plans to reduce the amount of travel in and to congested town centers; and
  • Parking restraint strategies that include packages of measures to improve access to town centers by public transport and deter through-traffic and a levy on parking at the workplace can substantially reduce the amount of traffic in central areas.

Key Element of Proposed Parking Policy for London.

It is planned to introduce road user charging and a levy on parking spaces and to give the new Mayor of London important tools for tackling congestion and air pollution, especially in central London. This would also generate extra revenue that could be used for the improvements in public transport that would be essential to create a significant modal shift in London. The document Traffic Management and Parking Guidance issued to the Traffic Director for London and London local authorities encourages a more strategic approach to parking in London, with a more determined use of parking charges and controls, such as Controlled Parking Zones.

Current UK Parking Standards

Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPGs), which are issued locally, translate national parking policy into local situations. The central government is keen that local governments do not impose higher parking provision in central urban areas where traffic congestion is a problem. The aim is to have a range of acceptable parking requirements, defining not only the operational minimum standards but, more importantly, the maximum provision. One approach adopts a hierarchical set of parking requirements as set out in Table 3 below:

Table 3 Parking Standards based on a Four-Tier Hierarchy – An Example of a UK Approach

Category Type of Area Offices and Commercial Residential Retail
A City center locations with good PT and a strong economy where strict parking controls need to be applied Operational spaces only (with a strict definition of operational space) Contribution from developer to PT as most staff expected to use PT Support the reintroduction of residential use into city centers by allowing one space per dwelling wherever possible Provision for short stay demand only in communal parking areas with an economic price charged
Contribution from developer to PT as most staff expected to use PT
B Town center locations with good PT where parking restraint needs to be applied Operational spaces only (with a broader definition of operational space)
Contribution from developer to PT as most staff expected to use PT
C Smaller town centers, areas next to town centers, along strategic PT corridors where some parking restraint needs to be applied Standards based on about 50% of demand
Contribution from developer to PT as 50% of staff expected to use PT
Where space allows, up to two spaces per dwelling Town center parking spaces to be provided in communal parking areas based on demand. Economic price charged. New developments to be designed to favor PT
D Other areas including major’ out of town’ developments Based on demand standards with economic pricing of parking encouraged Full demand standard (i.e. up to three spaces per dwelling) Based on demand standards when an economic price is charged for parking facilities

Current Practice in the UK

The UK has recently adopted the use of accessibility profiles for different types and sizes of developments so that developers have to choose between city center sites (where parking will be restricted because PT is good) and less central sites (where monetary contributions will be sought from the developer to help fund PT improvements). Parking policies should avoid the scope for competitive provision of parking by neighboring local authorities keen to attract new development. The UK government has proposed maximum levels of off-street parking spaces at new business developments in London. Local authorities are encouraged to seek a balanced approach that recognizes the legitimate need for parking, but balances this against the environmentally damaging effects of more traffic. Consideration is given to the availability of public transport, which would mean that parking space standards would be relatively high for a development that has poor public transport and low traffic restraint, but would be low for a development that has good public transport and high restraint. Parking at retail stores and department stores poses a particular problem. Typical UK standards are one space per 10m2 of gross floor space. Standards are viewed as guidelines rather than fixed rules. On average, food supermarkets would have 12 spaces per 100m2 of sales area; lower levels would apply in other shops. Out-of-town sites often have a higher parking space provision.

Case Study: The Trafford Center, Manchester UK, Parking Guidance and Control at New Commercial Developments:

Introduction: The Trafford Center, Manchester, UK is a typical example of the new out-of-town shopping centers that are being built in the UK. It opened in September 1998. These centers are on a huge scale, with the Trafford Center occupying an area of 1.22km2 with nearly 140,000m2 of retail space with 280 shops, 35 restaurants and bars, a 20-screen cinema complex, and a 16-lane bowling alley. Each year, 30 million people visit. It has 10,000 free parking spaces, 300 coach parking spaces and a bus station capable of handling 120 bus movements an hour. The Trafford Center is near to the national expressway network and several primary and secondary roads. Thus there are potential congestion problems at peak times and in emergency situations.


  • A total car parking and guidance system with Variable Message Signs (VMS), vehicle detection, barrier and interfaces to the Center’s system
  • Two-way flow of traffic data between the Center, the feeder roads, the Greater Manchester Area Traffic Control (ATC) Center and the expressway traffic police patrol
  • Provision to motorists and bus drivers with the latest appropriate parking and routing information via VMS


  • Outside the site there is vehicle detection on approach and access roads to the Center
  • Within the site, there are queue detection loops which are linked to the Manchester ATC loops to provide real-time data which forms the basis of a range of messages automatically advising drivers via VMS of the best routes to take both on and off site
  • Within the site, the 10,000 car parking spaces are divided into 16 car parks controlled predominantly by loop activated barriers but with over 40 rising bollards controlling specific zones
  • Overall there are 50 sites with loops in the roadway and the reliability and cost-effectiveness of loop detection is considered to be better than other forms of vehicle detection and counting
  • Although the vehicle count is in real-time, the information detailing available car parking spaces is only updated to the VMS periodically in order to avoid constantly scrolling (and therefore confusing) displays being presented to motorists
  • The system is linked by two RS485 circuits with an interface to off-site signs and a small number of on-site signs via a low power local radio link
  • Future provision has been made to expand scope to include information about congestion on the expressway

Integration with Trafford Center’s Management System: A key element was the link of the VMS and loop system to the Trafford Center’s management system in order to allow real-time at-a-glance information on car park occupancy and the situation on the approach and access roads. Under normal operation, vehicle routing is controlled by software and VMS messages are displayed from a pre-set menu once certain trigger points are reached. Non-traffic related messages can also be displayed on VMS within the site from a management-defined menu.

Evolution of Information and Data: There is an ongoing collection of statistical data on vehicle numbers, flow rates related to certain days and times of day, and motorist parking pretences. Thus, the information evolves and can be used to improve parking and access management.

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