gThe removal of cars from cities has become an international concern. But city authorities, planners and citizens still lack a clear, evidence-based answer to the question: what works to reduce car use in cities?
We looked at almost 800 peer-reviewed reports and case studies from across Europe published since 2010, and used real-world data to rank the 12 most effective measures European cities have introduced.
The ranking reflects the cities’ successes not only in terms of measurable reductions in car use, but also in terms of improving the quality of life and sustainable mobility for their residents.
Our study, conducted at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies and published in Transport Policy Case Studiesfinds that more than 75% of urban innovations that have succeeded in reducing car use have been led by a local city government, including those that have proven to be the most effective, such as congestion charging, parking enforcement and traffic, and restricted traffic areas.
Narrow policies don’t seem to work – there’s no magic bullet. The most successful cities typically combine a few different policy instruments, including carrots that encourage more sustainable travel choices and sticks that charge or restrict driving and parking.
The research is clear: to improve health outcomes, meet climate goals and create more livable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority. Yet many governments in the United States and Europe continue to heavily subsidize car driving through a combination of incentives such as fossil fuel production subsidies, car travel tax rebates, and car incentives. of society that favor driving over other means of transportation. Essentially, these measures pay the polluters while imposing the social costs on society at large.
Ranked: 12 Ways to Reduce Car Use in Cities
12. Applications for sustainable mobility
Mobile phone technology is, unsurprisingly, a growing aspect of strategies to reduce car use. The Italian city of Bologna, for example, has developed an application allowing individuals and teams of employees of participating companies to track their mobility. Participants competed to earn points for walking, cycling and using public transport, with local businesses offering these app users rewards for meeting point goals.
There is great interest in such gamification of sustainable mobility – and at first glance the data from the Bologna app looks striking. An impressive number (73%) of users said they used their car “less”. However, unlike other studies that measure the number or distance of car trips, it is not possible to calculate the reduction in distance traveled or emissions from this data, so the overall efficiency is not clear. (Skipping a short car trip and skipping a year of long car trips both count as “minus” driving.)
11. Personalized Travel Plans
Many cities have experimented with analytics and personal travel plans for individual residents, including Marseille, France, Munich, Germany, Maastricht, Netherlands, and San Sebastian, Spain. These programs – providing travel advice and planning for city dwellers to walk, cycle or use (sometimes discounted) public transport – have been shown to deliver reductions of 6-12%. However, since they encompass all residents of a city, as opposed to smaller populations of, for example, school or workplace commuters, these approaches can still play a valuable role in reducing overall the use of the car. (San Sebastian introduced academic and custom trip planning in parallel, which likely helped reduce car use more than either alone.)
10. Planning school trips
Two English cities – Brighton and Hove and Norwich – have used (and evaluated) the carrot-only school travel planning measure: providing travel advice, planning and events to pupils and parents to encourage them to walking, cycling or carpooling to school, along with the provision of improved cycling infrastructure in cities. Norwich found it was able to reduce the share of car use for school trips by 10.9%, using this approach, while Brighton’s analysis found the impact was d about half.
Perhaps surprisingly, car sharing turns out to be a somewhat conflicting measure to reduce car use in cities, according to our analysis. Such schemes, where members have access to easy rental of a nearby vehicle for a few hours, have shown promising results in Bremen, Germany, and Genoa, Italy, with each shared car replacing between 12 and 15 vehicles. private. Their approach included increasing the number of shared cars and stations and integrating them into residential areas, public transport and cycling infrastructure. However, other studies point to a risk that car-sharing may, in fact, encourage previously car-less residents to increase their car use, so we recommend more studies on how to design car-sharing programs to really reduce the overall use of the car.
8. Mobility services for universities
The Sicilian city of Catania used a carrot-only approach for its students. By offering them a free transit pass and providing shuttles to campus, the city has managed to reduce the share of students who drive to campus by 24%.
7. Plan university trips
University travel programs combine the carrot of promoting public transit and active travel with the stick of managing campus parking. The most successful example highlighted in our review was the University of Bristol, which reduced car use among its staff by 27% while providing them with improved cycling infrastructure and discounts on public transport.
6. Workplace Travel Planning
A major 2010 study assessed 20 UK cities and found that 18% of commuters switched from driving to another mode if their companies put in place travel strategies and guidance to encourage employees to end commutes. their journeys by car, including company shuttles, reductions for public transport. and improved cycling infrastructure, as well as reduced parking supply. In a different scheme, Norwich secured nearly identical fares by adopting a comprehensive plan but without the reductions for public transport. Interestingly, these carrot-and-stick efforts appear to have been more successful than Brighton and Hove’s approach of providing plans and infrastructure such as bicycle storage at the workplace, which has led to a 3% drop in car use.
5. Parking fees at the place of work
Another effective method is the introduction of parking fees at the workplace. For example, a large medical center in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam managed to reduce employee car trips by 20 to 25 percent through a program that charged employees to park outside their offices, while giving them the option to “pay” for their parking. spaces and use public transport instead.
This scheme was found to be around three times more effective than a larger scheme in Nottingham, UK, which applied a workplace parking charge to all employers in large cities with more than 10 parking spaces. The revenue generated was used to support the city’s public transport network in the Midlands, including the expansion of a tram line.
4. Mobility services for commuters
The most effective carrot-based measure uniquely identified by our review was a campaign to provide mobility services to commuters in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Local government and private companies have collaborated to provide free transit passes to employees, combined with a private shuttle to connect transit stops to workplaces. This program, promoted by a marketing and communication plan, has reduced the share of commuters going to the city center by car by 37%.
3. Restricted traffic areas
Rome, traditionally one of the most congested cities in Europe, has shifted the balance towards greater use of public transport by limiting car access to the city center at certain times of the day to residents only, as well than to those who pay an annual fee. This has reduced car traffic in the Italian capital by 20% during restricted hours, and by 10% even during unrestricted hours when all cars can visit the centre.
2. Parking and traffic control
In some European cities, removing parking spaces and altering traffic lanes – in many cases replacing space formerly dedicated to cars with streets, cycle paths and pedestrian walkways – has proven effective. . For example, Oslo’s replacement of parking spaces with pedestrianized streets and cycle paths reduced car use in the center of the Norwegian capital by up to 19%.
1. Congestion charges
Drivers must pay to enter the city centre, with the revenue generated going towards sustainable alternative means of transport. London, an early pioneer of this strategy, has cut city center traffic by 33% since the charge was introduced by the city’s first elected mayor, Ken Livingstone, in February 2003.
Other European cities have followed suit, adopting similar schemes after polls in Milan, Stockholm and Gothenburg – with Swedish cities varying their prices by day and time. But although congestion charges clearly lead to a significant and lasting reduction in car use and traffic volume, they alone cannot entirely eliminate the problem of congestion, which persists as incentives and infrastructure favoring the use of the car remain.