Oslo promises more parking for locals

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Residents of central areas within the Norwegian capital are being promised more preferential parking privileges, in an attempt to ease the impact that harsh new parking restrictions have had on them. No relief is likely, though, for at least another one to two years.

Oslo residents woke up a few weeks ago to new street signs that have made life much more difficult for those who own a car and rely on street parking. They suddenly faced not only a 20- to 50 percent hike in parking fees but also extended hours for when the fees apply, along with new limits on how long a car can occupy a parking. Reaction was swift, with many car owners claiming they feel “bullied” by new and overly zealous city politicians keen to curb driving as part of new environmental initiatives.

Politicians put the cart before the horse
Most of the complaints involve accusations that the politicians put the cart before the horse, by imposing the new restrictions before considering the consequences or providing any parking alternatives for residents and small business owners.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that now the new city government politician from the Greens Party, which won government power on a wave of new support for its environmental stance, says she “has a plan” for responding to to the complaints. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, Oslo’s new politician in charge of transport issues in Oslo, says she’ll work towards providing more public parking garages in Oslo and extending preferential parking privileges for far more residents in the actual neighbourhoods where they live.

Oslo’s former Conservatives-led government introduced such privileges (called beboerparkering) as far back as 2009 on a trial basis and expanded the system in 2011. It allows residents to apply for a “beboerkort” (a sticker identifying their car as owned by a local resident) that in turn grants them exemption from parking fees and restrictions that otherwise apply on their neighbourhood streets. The sticker costs NOK 300 a year (USD 35) but allows the car bearing it to park for free, 24 hours a day.

‘Will take time’ to offer relief
Responsibility for the system was turned over to elected councils in local neighbourhoods (called bydelene). Now the city intends to make it permanent in the three districts where it’s been tested out (Frogner, St Hanshaugen and Gamle Oslo) and extend it to five more: Ullern, Nordre Aker, Alna, Stovner and Grünerløkka – eight of the city’s 15 neighbourhood jurisdictions.

It will take time, however, to get the residential parking privileges functioning. City officials need detailed plans for every single street involved in the expansion, new signs will need to be set up, parking places marked and residents registered. The expanded system isn’t expected to be in place until at least 2017 or 2018.

It remains unclear what residents will do with their cars in the meantime. Anne Sofie Durkis of Bymiljøetaten, the agency in charge of carrying out the expansion, claimed there was still “considerable access to free parking places on public streets.” She admitted, thought, that few can be found on or near streets with commercial activity. Such so-called handlegater (shopping streets, like Bogstadveien in the Majorstuen district) won’t be included in the expansion.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund