Cities everywhere are on a mission to reduce car traffic and promote sustainable mobility. Not only to improve air quality, but also to provide more space for citizens to enjoy the city outdoors and practice social life in public spaces.
The usual steps towards a more sustainably mobile city usually include improved public transport options as well as different types of measures that support walking and cycling, and restrict cars from some parts of the city. However, these alone have often proven unsuccessful if not accompanied by a strong parking policy.
Nevertheless, restrictive parking policies are not always popular with mayors and city councils as it is not unusual that such policies provoke opposition from local communities and media.Urban mobility experts are therefore looking at ways to deliver new parking policies with citizen support. Combining public participation and hard data could become one of the approaches to develop and introduce new parking policies smoothly.
Idrija opening up the city centre
Idrija is a town in western Slovenia and has just completed their collaboration within CityCentreDoctor, an URBACT action-planning network. Apart from other measures Idrija implemented to revitalise the city centre – which was one of the main aims of the CityCentreDoctor network– they also decided to change mobility in the city.
Based on the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), Idrija decided to introduce a restrictive parking policy – in a participative manner. The aim of the new policy was to fulfil the strategic goals, such as increase the amount of safe and accessible public space and reduce the share of public space used for on-street parking.
Parking beat survey
The new parking policy was designed by a consortium including Kombinat architects, prostoRož, City studio and IPoP(Institute for Spatial Policies). IPoP was in charge of the public participation process and partly research. In every meaningful participation process, reliable data is a crucial foundation for communication and discussion. Data also increases the level of trust local community has in the process itself.
Therefore, IPoP decided to use the parking beat survey. Parking beat is a method used to analyse parking patterns. A number of parking places is observed on a given day (or several days) and each parking place is checked periodically in terms of occupancy. The method supplies the experts with data on every single parking space about (1) the occupancy share at different times of the day, (2) type of users – residents, commuters etc., and (3) the length of parking of individual vehicles. Data can be presented in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand way, serving local community as a reflection of the daily use of cars in the observed area.
In Idrija, the parking beat survey revealed, that the total amount of parking places exceeds demand. Only in the historical centre a minor share of parking places was fully occupied, and even that only for a few hours per day. The analysis showed that a significant share of parking places in the city centre was occupied by commuters that could park a 5 minutes’ walk away at the fringe. The bottom line result of the analysis was that the total amount of parking places in Idrija is sufficient, while locally it requires some adjustments that can be achieved through soft measures, such as removal of some parking places.
Data feeding the public debates
Data collected through the parking beat survey was used to co-design scenarios and measures together with the local community. The participative process consisted of these three main steps:
1. Identification of main problems and potentials.
2. Design of scenarios.
3. Selection of measures.
The identification of problems and potentials was based on an earlier participation process that was conducted for SUMP and included questionnaires, interviews and debates. It was supplemented by targeted interviews with larger employers located in Idrija.
The objectives and expectations collected with this processes were considered when designing potential scenarios. These scenarios were then presented to local inhabitants at a public debate. The participants selected the scenario they found the most appropriate for Idrija.
Measures harmonised with the local community
Afterwards urban planners prepared a number of harmonised measures, such as a new parking regime and removal of some parking places. The measure package was developed together with inhabitants at another public debate and harmonised with the selected scenario aims.
The policy plan was well accepted by the local community and the new parking policy has been unanimously confirmed by the municipal council.
The case of Idrija shows that data can be well used to support participative design of new policies. The emphasis on the use of data for collaborative policy design could be one of the potential development paths of the smart city notion.
Copyright of photos and graphs is to IPoP.
HEADER PHOTO: The City of Idrija
Graph 1: Parking beat analysis, Arkova street
Photo 2: Parking beat survey on site – data gathering
Graph 2: Results of the parking beat analysis
Photo 3: One of the scenarios, presented at the workshop
Photo 4: Discussion at a public debate