Image from image provided by the Park4SUMP project by Municipality of Vitoria-Gasteiz
Over the next several weeks, we will share stories from CIVITAS projects on-the-ground that implemented innovation uptake and e-mobility solutions as news items. These are also compiled in a publication and infographic.
Read all short stories as they are published at: https://bit.ly/Impact-Stories.
Park4SUMP and the power of parking
Consider all of the ways that parking impacts daily commutes, choices of where to live and work, and leisure behaviour. This thought exercise helps make it abundantly clear that parking management can be a powerful tool to support more sustainable mobility systems and better quality of life.
Understanding the potential power of parking, the Park4SUMP project helps cities integrate innovative parking management solutions into their SUMPs. These solutions use participatory methods to free up public space currently used for parking, and ensure that parking revenues are invested in sustainable mobility and developing human-centred neighbourhoods.
To help all cities to achieve these goals, Park4SUMP developed the ParkPAD tool. This “tool” is a locally-applied audit process that helps cities review their parking policies, achieve consensus on improvements, and develop a parking action plan.
Mobility in Vitoria-Gasteiz
Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country in northern Spain, has a long history of sustainable urban planning, which eventually led the city to be recognised as the European Green Capital in 2012.The city is designed in concentric circles, with a green belt of semi-natural green area, partially reclaimed from degraded areas, that surrounds the centre and brings nature into the city. In fact, the entire population lives within just 300m of public green space.
Despite this culture of sustainable urban planning, until the final decades of the 20th century, the local modal share of private vehicles continually increased, causing a significant negative impact on the environment. The city’s 2008 Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP), which is currently under review, played a fundamental role in addressing this situation, and inverting the unfavourable trend. Various solutions were put in place with the objective of reducing the number of car journeys; promoting public transport, cycling and walking; and recovering the value of public space as a place for enjoyment and coexistence.
Of particular note, Vitoria-Gasteiz demonstrated how cities can adapt parking management policies and deploy effective and innovative solutions as part of their SUMPs. This was made possible by Vitoria-Gasteiz being one of the leading cities in the CIVITAS Park4SUMP project, which aimed to demonstrate how cities can adapt parking management policies and deploy effective and innovative solutions as part of their SUMPs. In particular, Vitoria-Gasteiz made use of the project to undertake feasibility studies, to expand the bicycle parking network, and to further develop cooperative links with private sector stakeholders.
The importance of parking management
Parking management has become an important “steering instrument” in the Vitoria-Gasteiz SUMP. With a city design that accommodates both super blocks and a historical city centre, the restriction of parking has become top priority. In particular, the creation of superblocks, where public space is re-ordered in a network of priority roads and traffic calming “islands”, led to a significant reduction in the modal share of the private cars. Furthermore, in recent years, around 1,400 on-street parking places have been removed in order to make space for a new tram line.
One telling example is the redesign of Médico Tornay street in the city’s Judimendi neighbourhood, which took place between August 2019 and May 2020. This area, which had
been known for narrow pavements and winding routes occupied by parked cars, was transformed into a large pedestrian space, consisting of two triangular squares that cover a total of 5,500 square meters. Furthermore, 68 parking spaces were eliminated and private car traffic along the street was reduced significantly. Vehicle access to the area is now open only to residents.
Parking goes beyond cars
Parking regulation in Vitoria-Gasteiz doesn’t only relate to car parking. In most European countries, the number of car parking spaces to be provided in new developments is set by parking standards in local, regional or national regulations; however, the same cannot be said for the provision of bicycle parking. At a national level, only six EU Member States have set minimum requirements for bicycle parking. Yet, many individual cities are proactive in this area, including Vitoria-Gasteiz.
To ensure the provision of enough bicycle parking to accommodate both current and expected demand, Vitoria-Gasteiz has sought to make changes to its parking standards regulations. In sum: it worked to increase the minimum required bicycle provisions, and to broaden which developments are required to provide bicycle parking to include, for example, industrial estates.
This is just one of many actions that Vitoria-Gasteiz has taken on to extend and improve the existing infrastructure available for bike parking. In January 2018, the city developed a smart, secure, and municipally-owned bicycle parking network called VGBiziz. This network provides secure parking in areas of high demand (city centre, sporting venues, train, and bus stations), and in residential areas with a shortage of parking.
Today, the network consists of 10 low cost parking sites for bikes, which collectively provide up to 556 bike parking spaces. Most of the sites are made up of detachable modules located on public space, with a capacity of 50 parking spaces each. The network does, however, also include parking facilities inside buildings and in car parks. All facilities have camera surveillance systems. In trickier-to-reach areas – such as in the old quarter where public space is scarce – bicycle parking has been installed on the ground floors of residential buildings, in the bus station, and in a centrally-located car park.
Users can purchase monthly parking vouchers, through a mobile app, that allows them to park anywhere in the network. They access the facilities via the app, or by entering a personal key on a keypad. They can also use the app to check occupancy in real time and report any problems with the service. Depending on intensity of use, different rates are applied, and are set according to the public prices of the City Council. The so-called “MAX1 rate”, for example, costs 1 EUR per day, and allows a user to park their bicycle for 24 hours.
During its first year, 796 people registered to the VGBiziz bicycle parking network. By 2020, this number had more than doubled. Furthermore, a number of these are regular users; currently, there are around 400 regular users. What’s more: work is already underway on the next extension of the network. By 2023, seven new premises will be added, with a capacity of 578 new parking spaces.
Vitoria-Gasteiz’s experience with the VGBiziz network can be transferred to any number of cities. This includes cities that are starting to improve their cycling infrastructure, those that are seeing increases in bicycle commuters, and/or cities with residential buildings that don’t have enough room to create private bike parking facilities.
Furthermore, the installation of bicycle parking facilities – which was advocated for by locals – goes beyond VGBiziz. An impressive 12,000 on-street cycling racks have been installed in the city and, in 2018, the city introduced a new type of parking facility: “bike igloos”. Designed to securely protect bicycles from the elements, they are installed in areas connected to the cycling network, but which lack bicycle parking.
Evidence of Success
In addition to these ground-breaking parking initiatives, Vitoria-Gasteiz was also the first Spanish city to receive the ParkPAD certificate. Vitoria-Gasteiz has successfully completed the parking policy audit, and created a starting point for its ParkPAD action plan.
From new bike parking regulations to the VGBiziz network, Vitoria-Gasteiz’s efforts to encourage active travel have been successful. In the last decade, cycling’s modal share has almost tripled from 3 to 8%.
Vitoria-Gasteiz provides an excellent example of sustainable mobility planning through parking management. The city reversed the trend in its modal split, seeing car usage reduce (down to 25%), and travel by public transport, by bicycle and on foot increase.
What’s more, parking management has helped recover public space – spaces that can now act as foundations for future urban development that supports community and respects the environment.
Project website: https://park4sump.eu/
Local contributions from Isabel Garnika Ortiz, Local Coordinator for Park4SUMP in Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Authors: TRT TRASPORTI E TERRITORIO, ICLEI Europe