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Reducing parking fees to promote clean vehicles

Stockholm

The elimination of parking fees for clean vehicles created an incentive for the increased use of clean vehicles in city centre areas.

Implementing sustainable mobility

Prior to measure implementation, studies had indicated that reduced parking fees can be a strong incentive for using clean vehicles. Stockholm had strict parking regulations with high parking fees in the city centre during business hours. Drivers of electric cars who lived in the city centre city could apply for a free parking permit, although there were no reduced fees for vehicles running on biogas and ethanol or for electric hybrid vehicles.

The goal of introducing reduced parking fees was to increase the use of clean vehicles within the city centre; and reduce emissions, noise and energy consumption.

How did the measure progress?

As an initial step, cars qualifying as clean vehicles were defined according to environmental properties and the European car-labelling directive. The Traffic and Road Board agreed on the following definition in August 2002: A clean vehicle is a vehicle with a total weight of under 3,500 kg and may be an electric car from any year; or a hybrid car operating on petrol and electricity dating from 2000. In 2005, bi-fuel cars operating for the majority of the time on biogas; and fuel-flexible vehicles operating for the majority of the time on bioethanol (E85) were also approved.

In December 2004, the Road and Traffic Board finally decided to reduce parking fees for clean vehicles. However, the city council also had to approve the measure, and the political process was problematic:

  • the city encountered great difficulties in estimating the number of clean vehicles that would apply for free parking, thus there was a great deal of uncertainty about the amount of “missing income” for the city; and
  • there were discussions about the legalities of introducing free parking for clean vehicles. The Swedish city of Gothenburg had introduced free parking for clean vehicles several years earlier, applying a system in which all clean cars, whether or not they were registered in the municipality, were eligible for free parking within the city. According to experts, this was not in fact legal. Stockholm City Council was therefore more inclined to introduce free parking only for vehicles registered in the municipality of Stockholm and for commercial vehicles with a special parking permit.

There was no common national definition of “clean vehicles” in Sweden. The city of Stockholm applied one definition while the cities of Gothenburg and Malmo applied another. At the national level, there was one definition based on tax regulations, and the Swedish National Road Authority had been commissioned by the government to develop a definition for use by the different national authorities that had issued a requirement for 25 percent of cars to be clean vehicles by 2005. The varying definitions of course created confusion and uncertainty.

What were the outcomes of the measure?

The introduction of the incentive was complicated by the unclear legal and economic implications of the trial. However, the implementation of the trial in Stockholm and other Swedish cities led to increasing national consensus on the definition of clean vehicles.

The measure helped raise awareness of clean vehicles and fuels. Subsequently, the introduction of congestion charging in Stockholm and the creation of a national incentive system for the purchase of clean vehicles led to a rapid expansion of the clean vehicle market in Sweden. As a result, the free parking incentive was allowed to expire at the end of the trial period.

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