The mobility revolution also offers entirely new potential for urban planning. The transformation of transportation creates opportunities for a new, more equitable distribution of public space. Sustainable transport planning should ultimately enhance the quality of life in cities, promote urban life and safeguard the legitimate interests of the economy.
Private cars in particular are seen as a challenge to the guiding principle of a sustainable city. But what does this mean for transportation planning? No more private vehicles in the city at all? A deterrent high city toll? Free entry paid for with expensive parking? Shared space traffic areas? Restrictions on travel times and destinations? More or less parking spaces? There are plenty of ideas and concepts, but most of them still have to prove their practicality.
One thing is certain, however: people want to remain at least as mobile as they have been up to now. Individual mobility therefore continues to play an important role in the personal mobility mix.
The people-oriented city must therefore also be a mobility-oriented city (not to be confused with the model of the car-oriented city, which has been overcome, at least in Europe). This means that urban and transport planners are faced with interesting challenges.
As an effective tool for reconciling these two requirements, the European Union recommends that cities draw up Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs). In short, these are transport development plans that focus on sustainability aspects.
As a planning concept for sustainable urban mobility, a SUMP aims to meet the mobility needs of people and businesses in and around cities to achieve a better quality of life. A structured process is used to develop visions, agree on goals and objectives, and define strategies and measures. Active communication, monitoring and evaluation accompany the process.
Such sustainable transportation planning pursues multiple objectives. Transportation options for all residents and access to important destinations and services are just as much a focus as greater protection and safety in road traffic, reduced air and noise pollution, lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Even though urban transportation planning often focuses on flowing traffic, an important prerequisite for making cities more attractive and safer for citizens is intelligent parking management. Yet this is one of the least developed elements within sustainable urban mobility planning.
The European Commission therefore launched a research project called Park4SUMP some time ago. It aims to help cities integrate innovative parking management solutions into their SUMPs - again with the goal of improving mobility and quality of life in parallel.
Importantly, parking management does not simply mean charging for existing parking spaces or creating new parking lots. Rather, the aim of the Park4SUMP project, which was completed in 2022, was to explore a wide variety of options for making parking management an integral part of sustainable urban mobility policy.
To this end, 16 European cities joined forces to share and further develop their experiences with various parking management procedures.
In doing so, they examined the following fields of action:
A central starting point for sustainable mobility planning proved to be making previously free parking subject to charges and levying corresponding fines. The key point here is that the revenue generated in this way did not simply flow into the municipal budget. Rather, the cities reinvested them for more sustainable mobility - mostly to achieve a modal shift, for example by expanding bike paths and park & ride and car sharing options. At the district level, however, it can also be used to fund actions such as the construction of a park or playground or other measures that directly benefit social impacts in the district.
Another finding from Park4SUMP was that citizen participation in the development of parking management measures proved helpful, as open dialogue appears to improve acceptance of and compliance with new measures.
One thing the Park4SUMP project showed very clearly: smart and digital parking management is an essential component for sustainable urban planning - and an effective tool for planners, real estate managers and companies that want to use their employees' parking space more efficiently.
According to the findings of Park4SUMP, charging (higher) fees for existing parking spaces is thus considered an effective means of controlling traffic flows and financing improvement measures. However, municipalities should not succumb to the temptation to create more parking space out of this motivation. This would merely create new space for cars, not for people.
One attractive alternative from an urban planning perspective is to reduce the number of parking spaces in new buildings - for example, to a maximum of 0.8 parking spaces per household. This leaves more space for green areas, and houses and apartments can be built more cheaply and bought/rented more affordably. At the same time, it changes the way people get around - all the more so if parallel services such as neighborhood car sharing are promoted.
Whether in public spaces or at private housing developments: if there are fewer parking spaces than users, it seems to make sense to share the existing parking spaces among each other - for example, by allocating parking permits for specific times.
This is precisely the basic idea behind parkoneer: residents usually use the parking spaces from evening to morning. When they drive to work, shoppers or visitors can use the parking spaces. Or employees work in the mobile office - then again, a space is available at the workplace for someone else. This dynamic use increases the utilization of an existing parking space. In other words, less space is needed to accommodate just as many vehicles. And this results in more urban quality when embedded in an overall concept.
In many cases, this kind of "parking space sharing" can be realized with little effort with the help of digital parking space management. Thanks to the parkoneer principle, many non-commercial parking spaces can be managed digitally. Parkers simply book their parking space online with the provider, and access is controlled ticketlessly via license plate recognition.
In addition to the obvious advantages of using less urban space for stationary traffic and reducing the amount of traffic searching for parking spaces, there is also the potential for traffic planning: the dynamic adjustment of parking fees makes it possible to control traffic flows.
All these options show: Integrating it into sustainable urban mobility planning takes digital parking management to a new level: from a purely operational level that deals with supply and demand to a strategic level for shaping mobility behavior. This also means that smart parking management can optimize urban mobility.