Over the last few decades, transport infrastructure and spatial planning across the country have been subordinated to personal vehicles, the number per capita of which has risen well above the European average. Cars have become the dominant means of transportation. In cities, which are the final destination for most routes, cars pollute the air and create congestions; transport infrastructure with roads and parking spaces also takes up a lot of space. By providing extensive parking areas, cities often reduce the extent and quality of the public space and environment while stimulating even greater demand for parking. City authorities across Slovenia face the challenge of how to ensure a high quality of living in cities in a highly motorized society.
Parking policy can help. This is a formalized agreement between local authorities and communities to regulate stationary traffic; in a hierarchy, it is subordinate to the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan and consists of a collection of well-coordinated measures. Modern parking policies are based on the optimum use of parking spaces and generally aim to reduce the supply of parking lots or introduce new parking regimes that influence the reduction of car use. Parking policy measures ensure that people who need parking the most can always find a parking space. Other users can benefit from the measures because they make space for other uses of space and establish infrastructure for pedestrian, cyclist and public transport. Successfully implemented parking policy measures give city centres more quality, diverse, healthy and secure public spaces and become more accessible to all forms of transport, including cars. In short, a good parking policy significantly improves the city environment and living conditions for all.
The process of creating a parking policy
A good parking policy determines the most appropriate parking regime for every location throughout the settlement and ensures it benefits the city and its users to the greatest extent. Parking policy is designed with public engagement based on detailed analysis. The analytical part includes an overview of municipal planning documents, research on parking needs and mobility habits. The key to this is the Parking Beat Analysis, which provides us with information for each parking space when and how long the parking space has been occupied or available.
By processing this information, we can infer who the parking users are: resident, city user or employee in a nearby location. We address each group with appropriate measures and influence their habits with restrictions or incentives. A classic example of a parking challenge is full-time employees occupying parking lots near service providers during working hours, which prevents costumers from parking close by. A possible solution could be to enforce short-term free parking for costumers in such areas while arranging for employee parking. Employers could additionally encourage employees with financial measures to use their car less and enable them to come to work by foot, bicycle or public transport or organise car-pooling.
The case of Trebnje
Trebnje is a smaller city in the central part of Slovenia, with 12,500 inhabitants. It lies near the highway and next to the railway line, in the valley of 50,000 inhabitants, a lot of who use the regional connections through Trebnje daily. Although there is not much traffic on these roads, it is increasing every year. Also, the municipality faces poorly functioning public transport, a lack of safe routes for cycling and walking and congestions in the city centre in rush hour. This also includes public space in the city centre being overloaded with car parking. Following the adoption of the SUMP in 2017, the municipality decided to make a significant move in 2019 and began to address parking issues in the municipality.
IPoP prepared the described analysis for the Municipality of Trebnje. The results of the analysis were first presented at an open debate to municipal authorities and other city stakeholders as well as the public. Participating residents, representatives of public institutions, businesses and pubs as the of the most familiar with the area, testified about the parking problems and possible solutions. Together, we drew up a list of challenges and potentials, for which IPoP formulated appropriate measures and presented them to the citizens at the next public debate. We wanted the residents to adopt the measures, so we invited them to identify which measures they found acceptable and unacceptable and the reasons why. We kept the Trebnje public informed about the process of developing the parking policy and its value for the city. With the help of the municipal administration, we published articles in the municipal newspaper and on the website. A lively debate also developed on the municipal Facebook social profile page.
Engaging the interested public in the parking policymaking process is important for everyone involved: the residents, the economy, the city government and the policymakers. The availability of parking due to the freedom that a personal vehicle brings can often be taken quite personally, so it is important for everyone involved, such as the residents and visitors to understand the reasons for the introduction of new parking regimes and to be able to participate in the policy formulation. Public engagement also reduces the political risk in implementing less popular measures and increases the legitimacy of the solutions. Residents are also an important source of information for policymakers, as the knowledge about the pulse of a place and the locals’ habits cannot be gained by mere observation.
At the beginning of the process, all the participants in Trebnje expressed a desire for new parking lots. With the help of the analysis, they realized that there are already too many parking spaces and that the city could be a lot more comfortable if not everyone parked at their door, leading them to agree to the new parking policy and support it. They have realized that the city mostly needs sidewalks, squares and cycling lanes, not parking lots for employees to leave their cars.
The parking policy was summarized in measures and developed with the cooperation of the municipality and the public. In the end, it received a formal framework in Trebnje: a unanimously adopted Decree on the Regulation of Stationary Traffic in the Municipality of Trebnje. The preparation of the permit policy and the pricing proposal now follow, which are also very important and sensitive topics that require good public participation.
The Municipality of Trebnje has recognized that its parking policy can serve as a development step that will allow the development of a people-made city and demonstrates that restrictive parking policies can also be adopted in a small city simply by ensuring the residents understand the reasons for the parking problems and can be involved in the decisions and new solutions.
Head photo: Traffic and parking in the city centre of Trebnje / Photo: Urban Jeriha, IPoP