The Netherlands is less known for parking than for fostering astonishing levels of bicycle use.
But Dutch car parking policies and practices really are well worth your attention. Parking change-makers everywhere have much to learn here.
To find out more, I interviewed one of the Netherlands' top parking policy experts, Dr Giuliano Mingardo, a senior researcher at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Don't expect Nirvana. Cities in the Netherlands have parking politics like everywhere else. They are way ahead of most others on many aspects. But they are behind on others. It's an interesting story.
Read more details below. Or listen to the audio version.
Giuliano Mingardo has been researching parking and parking policy for more than 20 years and was a pioneer in Europe of taking parking seriously as a research topic. At the bottom of this article you will find more information about Giuliano and links to his publications.
Before the interview, I also chatted very briefly with Tony Jordan, President of the Parking Reform Network. A reminder if you missed the news from last time, Reinventing Parking is now the official podcast of the Parking Reform Network.
Below you can read highlights from the interview with Giuliano Mingardo
|Photo credit: Max Pixel|
The ABC policy and accessibility-based parking standardsThe Netherlands' ABC land-use policy of the 1990s received a lot of attention internationally in urban planning circles but it was surprisingly short lived.
This national policy divided the country into A, B and C locations, according to their public transport accessibility. The parking standards (together with other planning settings) applying to each location were determined by which of these categories it fell into.
A return to local control over parking provision
By the early 2000s the ABC Policy had been abandoned after local authorities lobbied successfully to have more autonomy over their parking requirements.
The national government still offers guidelines that remain similar to the ABC framework. The latest were published in 2018 and allow local authorities to apply minimum or maximum parking standards, or a combination of both. These guidelines are not binding but local authorities need to justify any large variations from them.
Giuliano explained that 15 or 20 years ago, in the early days of local autonomy on parking standards, it was normal to have rather high parking standards. This tended to be supported by the development industry, which saw plentiful parking as important.
New trend promoting low parking provision
Recently however, there has been a 180 degrees shift. Both project developers and local authorities now agree that much lower parking provision with buildings is desirable.
In suburban areas away from city centres, a minimum of 1.6 parking spaces per residential unit and a maximum of 2.5 was previously typical, said Giuliano. But now, residential developments in some such areas have parking provision of less than one space per unit. In inner city areas of the largest Dutch cities, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam or the Hague, provision of 0.2 or 0.3 spaces per housing unit is common.
Giuliano pointed out that this trend has not been a result of low demand for parking. Rather it is the result of pressures felt by local governments and developers. Lower parking provision has been prompted by a combination of traffic generation concerns, cost pressures (most parking with new developments is underground and very costly) and the huge need to rapidly build more housing to deal with a national shortage. Does that sound familiar?
Managing the risks of low parking provision
Nevertheless, Giuliano is a little worried that current low parking provision levels may be risky.
Self-selection will help, meaning that people who are happy to live without a car will choose to live in the new parking-lite developments.
But he suggested that local authorities should also try to mitigate the risk of parking shortages, using what Todd Litman calls contingency-based planning. For example, local authorities might require parking-lite developments to reserve some space that can be a green area for now but which might need to become parking at some point if the need becomes acute.
I asked if any cities in the Netherlands have set their parking mandates to zero or abolished them. The slightly surprising answer was no, not yet, although some zero-parking office buildings have been permitted in accessible locations in some of the large cities.
On-street parking management basics
On-street parking in the cities of the Netherlands is well-regulated. There are several keys to this.
One key that we were not able to discuss is good design which makes it very clear where parking is permitted. Unlike many countries where parking is permitted unless signage or markings forbid it, car parking in Dutch cities is only permitted where the street design makes it explicit that this is a car parking space. On-street car parking is not allowed anywhere else. However, Giuliano explained that this is not his area of expertise, so the interview skipped this aspect.
Except in very low-demand places, such as small villages, just about all on-street parking is regulated with time limits, parking fees or both. Pricing is almost universal across the inner-city areas of the large cities.
Local authorities have this responsibility. They sometimes outsource aspects of enforcement private companies, but always under the control of the local authority.
Since the end of the 1990s, parking enforcement has been decriminalized, meaning that it is now a civil matter that rarely needs to involve the courts and that the police are no longer involved in the routine parking enforcement associated with parking management.
Scan cars for enforcement
We also discussed the use of "scan cars" in Dutch parking enforcement.
The Netherlands was a pioneer of using parking enforcement vehicles (cars or mopeds) equipped with cameras that can read number plates. These can rapidly detect illegal parking and check whether parked vehicles have paid the relevant fees and are obeying any time limits that may apply.
Parking fees and this style of enforcement are closely integrated because the payment methods (whether app-based or via payment machines) capture vehicle plate numbers.
This method enables very effective and low-cost enforcement.
These vehicles also generate an incredible amount of valuable parking data which is useful for policymakers.
I asked Giuliano if someone parked illegally in a Dutch city therefore has a very high chance of being penalized. He laughed and said that, although enforcement is certainly more effective than before, there has also been a tendency to use the scan cars to save money on enforcement more than to expand enforcement.
High rates of mobile based parking payments
When talking about the scan cars, Giuliano mentioned that mobile app-based parking payments are dominant. How dominant, I asked.
His striking answer was "… in large cities, we are talking about 70 or 80% of all transactions made by mobile app." Wow.
Multiple mobile payment providers in every city
The approach to competition among mobile payment companies is also sensible in the Netherlands.
There are several providers of payment apps in every city that allows people to pay for parking with a mobile app.
This is the result of an interesting rule. Any one provider does not necessarily cover all such cities in the Netherlands, but all providers have the option to operate in any city that accepts mobile app-based payments. Cities are required to accept all of the providers that want to play in that market.
Inching towards mobile-only payments?
I asked Giuliano if there any cities that are considering having mobile only payments and going without in-street payment machines?
The answer was no. But the number of parking meters has been decreasing.
"Let's say that before mobile app payments, you would have machines, let's say every 200 meters. Now you might have one every 500 meters."
Needing fewer parking machines results in large cost savings for local authorities.
However, it is still compulsory to have some machines.
Demand-based parking fee setting
I asked about the story, which I had read that in one of Giuliano's papers, that Rotterdam was one of the first cities in the world to introduce demand-based price setting.
He confirmed that, yes, Rotterdam was a pioneer of periodically reviewing its on-street parking prices and nudged them upwards or downwards depending on parking occupancy levels. This happened every six months he thought from memory. As a result, on-street parking fees varied by time of day and by location.
|Rotterdam paid parking signage. |
Image credit: Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單) - Wikimedia Commons - © CC BY-SA 4.0 International.
However, Rotterdam no longer systematically carries out these adjustments. I asked why.
Politics seems to be the answer. But Giuliano clarified that this approach has not really been abandoned completely. Parking fees still vary with time of day and by parking zones (as they do in many cities in the Netherlands). It is just that now the adjustments are less frequent and require city council approval each time.
The idea of 'getting the prices right' prompted the point from Giuliano that sometimes cities might actually want to deter parking and not just achieve 85% occupancy, which took us to another striking trend in some Dutch cities – active efforts to remove parking from the public realm in some areas.
Removing on-street parking
I asked about the efforts in cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam to systematically remove large numbers of on-street parking spaces.
Giuliano agreed that this is a clear trend in Dutch cities and across Europe. Space is scarce and some cities are keen to give back space to cities to citizens and not to cars. On street parking in dense inner-city areas is often giving way to gardens, bicycle parking, restaurant seating, and so on. Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been leaders on this, but with many other cities now following.
He also mentioned that some of these areas have under-used off-street parking options, so these removals are not necessarily a large problem for motorists. Furthermore, most of these removals affect commuter and visitor parking, for whom other transport modes are usually an option. In some cases, residents are also being asked to no longer park in front of their homes but to accept off-street parking a short walk away. Experimentation is occurring over how this can be made more acceptable, such as via lower prices for the less convenient parking.
Residential on-street parking permits
This brought us to the topic of residential parking permits and their prices.
Unsurprisingly, this is a politically delicate topic in the Netherlands as it is in most countries.
So most parking permits are cheap. For example, the cheapest permits in Amsterdam are 32 euros per year. And peripheral areas have no pricing of parking at all.
Residential parking permits in Amsterdam's inner core cost 568 euros per year which seems rather expensive by international standards.
But even that price is really very cheap, relative to the market rate, such as the hourly parking rates in the same areas on street or the off street market prices in the same areas.
Waiting lists for parking permits
I asked Giuliano about the waiting lists for parking permits. I had heard that Dutch cities avoid the mistake of issuing many more permits than there are parking spaces.
Giuliano agreed that's the principle. However, he suspects that it doesn’t always work that way. He pointed out that only Amsterdam has a very long waiting list for residential parking permits.
Park and ride
Giuliano has done research on park and ride in the Netherlands and I asked him to share some highlights.
"Park and ride was originally thought as an instrument to reduce car vehicle kilometers, car mileage, because instead of driving all the way downtown to a city, you stop outside and you continue with public transport or with other means of transport. That has only partly happened."
He points to several unintended effects of park-and-ride, such as:
- Some people who previously made their whole trip by public transport may begin to use their car for the first leg.
- Some substitute public-transport access trips that were previously made by bicycle with a car trip to a park-and-ride lot. trip made by car.
- If you build park and ride in peripheral locations but don't change anything in the inner city in terms of parking capacity, then the extra parking spaces in the park and ride are simply increasing the total parking capacity, which tends to increase the total amount of car travel.
The Netherlands is much more famous for bicycle-based park-and-ride and has much more of this type than car-based park-and-ride.
Giuliano agreed and highlighted the Netherlands' 'luxury problem' (a problem some of us might be jealous of) of parking problems with bikes, especially around stations.
I asked if any of the bicycle park and ride facilities change to park bicycles in the Netherlands. The answer was no, at least for general parking.
"It's very hard to tell people you have to pay for parking your bike considering we told people for decades to use the bike because it's good for the environment."
However, there are some premium, guarded bike parking options at many stations, for which people buy a subscription.
You can also listen to the interview
More about Giuliano Mingardo
Dr Giuliano Mingardo is senior researcher at the Erasmus Centre for Urban, Port and Transport Economics (Erasmus UPT) where he has specialised in parking policy and urban mobility.
His parking-related journal publications in English include:
Mingardo G, van Wee B and Rye T (2015) Urban parking policy in Europe: a conceptualization of past and possible future trends, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Vol. 74, pp. 268-281. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856415000221
Van Ommeren J, de Groote J and Mingardo G (2014) Residential parking permits and parking supply, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Vol 45, pp 33-44. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166046213001075
Mingardo G (2013) Transport and environmental effects of rail-based Park and Ride: evidence from the Netherlands, Journal of Transport Geography, Vol. 30, pp 7-16. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966692313000185
Mingardo G and Meerkerk J (2012) Is parking supply related to turnover of shopping areas? The case of the Netherlands, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Vol. 19, pp 195-201. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096969891100124X
He also has chapters in two recent books on parking policy:
Chapter 8 - Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in Dorina Pojani, Jonathan Corcoran, Neil Sipe, Iderlina Mateo-Babiano, Dominic Stead (eds.) Parking: An International Perspective, 2020, Elsevier, pp. 133-145, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-815265-2.00008-X.
Chapter 9 Parking policy and real estate: The case of very low minimum parking requirements, in Daniel Albalate, Albert Gragera (eds.) Parking Regulation and Management: The Emerging Tool for a Sustainable City, 2020, Routledge, DOI https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429278846.
This article was prepared with the help of transcription by https://otter.ai
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