AGFS Congress 2020: Parking as the main issue
Once again, the AGFS (Arbeitsgemeinschaft fußgänger- und fahrrad-freundlicher Städte, Gemeinden und Kreise in NRW) was delighted with a record number of participants: over 700 participants accepted its invitation to the congress in Essen on 27 February. Under the motto “Hauptsache Parken” (Parking is the main issue), politicians and experts dealt with a central challenge of progressive traffic plan-ning: to use the scarce inner-city traffic areas as efficiently as possible for all users and to literally give more space to environmentally friendly modes of transport, especially the bicycle.
More and more people are attracted to the city for living or working. They are making growing demands on mobility, and the climate targets that have been set simply make it imperative to switch to a lower-emission municipal transport sys-tem. Frank Meyer, Chairman of the AGFS Executive Committee, said that the transport transformation desired by politicians, scientists and planners will gener-ally “cost a lot of money”, but that alone would not solve the problem with inner-city parking spaces: “Today we would design urban planning on the drawing board in a completely different way than the structures that have arisen over time (…) The big challenge will be to achieve a transport transformation towards more local mobility and environmental integration without turning the people affected against one another.” According to Meyer, the municipalities have important, diffi-cult infrastructure measures to implement, and must be enabled to do so by the state.
Hendrik Wüst, Minister of Transport of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as-sured the guests and the interested public of the “broad support for bicycle traffic by the state parliament” and pointed out the 900 million euros in federal subsi-dies and also increased subsidies from the state, which must, however, also be paid out, something that has not always been possible in recent years. He said that the most urgent goal was to speed up planning, which is why 20 new planners have been hired by the North Rhine-Westphalia Road Construction Office (“Straßen-NRW”) this year, half of whom will be working exclusively on the neces-sary infrastructure for bicycle traffic. Furthermore, a law for better bicycle traffic is already being drafted; it will be the first of its kind in a federal state.
The invited experts from local authorities, universities and engineering offices discussed how the topics of parking space and local mobility are shaping up in practice, and in what direction local authorities could develop in view of the pro-gress made in the digitalisation of parking space management, traffic planning and traffic control. It therefore seems certain that the era of spontaneous car parking is running out and will be replaced by increasingly sophisticated control and man-agement systems. As a result, parking can become more convenient. However, it will also become more expensive, because “space costs something” and “high-quality parking space is a business”, as Bernd Bienzeisler from the Fraunhofer Insti-tute for Labour Economics and Organisation (IAO) noted.
Car drivers who are already annoyed by high inner-city parking fees will probably have to pay even more in the future. As a consolation, anyone who can afford a car in German cities is currently still able to get away comparatively cheaply – while in Berlin, Munich or Cottbus the residents’ parking fees amount to 10 to 31 euros, in Copenhagen they are already 158 euros and in Amsterdam 535 euros. In Stock-holm, an impressive 827 euros are charged, according to a survey by Christian Ad-ams, SHP Ingenieure, from Hanover. As the example of Hamburg shows, public parking fees rose by 22 percent for the first time in 2016, while public transport tariffs have risen by 81 to 112 percent since 1994, as Michael Zyweck from the Rhine-Ruhr Transport Association explained. For Zyweck, parking fees and munici-pal parking space statutes are decisive components of municipal parking space management.
However, the fact that parking and money, whether as an investment or as a fee, need to be increasingly thought of together should not obscure the fact that there are also general advantages associated with solving inner-city traffic and parking space problems. “Around 23 hours a day, millions of cars block valuable public space that is urgently needed for green areas, recreation, local mobility, microcli-mates, etc.”, writes the AGFS in its key theses on the future of parking. If we suc-ceed in regaining this space for the benefit of a “green city that encourages en-counters and movement”, motorists will also benefit. After all, for most of the time their car is parked (97% of the day), they and their families are pedestrians, cyclists or residents.