How cities should think about car use


As cities strive to reduce their emissions, car use is an essential part of the urban planning discussion. The parking policy must consider both home and city parking simultaneously.

Many cities have considered reducing parking in the city center or around shops and other public spaces to discourage driving, but my research suggests another important area that city planners should consider when looking to reduce traffic. car use – the amount and type of parking people have access to at home.

Using data from the New Zealand Department of Transport’s Household Travel Survey, we were able to show that the more access a person has to parking at home, the more cars they own and the more likely they are to drive to work. Our data showed that access to more parking at home had a greater impact on car ownership and car use for commuting than household income.

My research focused on the greater Wellington area. Outside of the city center and immediately nearby areas, there are very few restrictions on on-street parking, and off-street parking is also generally available. This makes it much easier for most households to own at least one car, or even more than one. Households that own a car are much more likely to make several trips in this car.

This abundant access to parking means that if city planners and councils want to reduce the number of cars in the city centre, they will have to impose restrictions on on- and off-street parking in suburban areas.

Research by others reveals that having parking available at home significantly increases the price of housing, adding further pressure to New Zealand’s already tight housing market.

Our research also focused on work parking and provides insight into changes that could be made to city parking to reduce congestion and climate impacts. We found three key areas that affected people’s use of parking in the city.

The two main considerations for parking are location and cost. For off-street parking, location is the most important factor – commuters are less likely to use the more distant off-street parking.

However, for on-street parking, cost is the main consideration – the more expensive a park, the less desirable it is.

We have also shown that employers who provide their employees with private off-street parking significantly increase the chances that they will drive to work. This type of parking can also make it difficult to reduce traffic and emissions, as private parking is not subject to city parking policies.

Discussions have been going on for some time about reducing available parking around shops and town centers to discourage driving. While this is an important part of reducing car use and the impacts of driving, it is only part of the equation.

Easy access to parking at home and in central spaces leads to increased car use, higher emissions from transport, traffic congestion and longer journey times in cities. To address these issues and make cities more environmentally and resident-friendly, parking policy must consider both home and city parking simultaneously.

However, if the ability for individual households to travel to and from the city by car is removed, this means that other transport options must be provided. The obvious solution is to improve public transport.

Reducing travel time on public transport through the allocation of special lanes for buses should reduce travel time for public transport and make it a more desirable option. Another way to improve public transport would be to transform existing parking lots into public transport nodes to facilitate access to public transport.

There could also be a network of connected walkways for walkers, cyclists, scooter users and similar groups, which would encourage the use of other modes of transport.

Another option would be to keep some parking buildings but give priority to carpoolers, thus reducing the number of cars on the road. Reducing home parking would also encourage carpooling, as fewer households would be able to own individual cars and could instead be encouraged to share cars and parking spaces.

This research has given us a new understanding of parking and its impact on travel behavior, an area that has received little attention until now.

We hope it will provide empirical evidence for transport planners and suggest new approaches to parking policy for the future.