Street parking cuts to improve city flow

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Authorities in Oslo plan to ban parking on many streets or raise parking fees, in a bid to get more drivers to use parking garages instead. The City Council hopes the plan will free up the streets for trams and buses, which would no longer be held up while drivers maneuver into park places, slowly circle as they look for spaces, or leave parked cars jutting across tramlines. 

Oslo's trams often have to compete with cars on city streets, so city authorities say they will remove street parking spaces to make more room for public transport, including the bus. City residents in buildings without garages are not pleased. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Oslo’s trams often have to compete with cars on city streets, so city authorities say they will remove street parking spaces to make more room for public transport, including the bus. City residents in buildings without garages are not pleased. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The first cull will remove 150 parking spaces along Thereses Gate between Bislett and Adamstuen, and Thorvald Meyers Gate in Grünerløkka. Newspaper Aftenposten reports Oslo’s new Transport Commissioner, Guri Melby, is on a mission to get trams and buses moving faster through downtown.

“It can seem undramatic with two minutes delay as an isolated event, but that spreads to the rest of the transport online and can result in many having to stand for a long time and wait,” she says. “The parking garages are half full, with 40 to 50 per cent coverage, which shows there isn’t a lack of parking places overall. We must channel traffic where it is available.”

Melby admits the move to remove street parking or raise its cost is controversial: “In the city centre it costs less to park on the street than in a garage. The garages are private, so in this case it’s the price of street parking that must rise.”

The move has already angered some residents. Aftenposten spotted car owner Kaja Bille Johnsrud in Thereses Gate, who told the newspaper that “it is so incredibly difficult to find a place to park here in the area. If they remove parking spots, they must give us who live here another offer.”

Mixed business reactions
Business groups within Oslo are mainly concerned that people continue to come into the city, also to shop, instead of heading for suburban shopping centers. “If parking spaces on the street level disappear, these must be replaced with space in garages that are central enough,” says Project Living Oslo’s Yngvar Hegrenes.

Garage operator EuroPark believes the council has overestimated the amount of space private garages have available. Spokesman Pål Gleditsch wouldn’t reveal exactly how much space is free for commercial reasons, but says the price of street parking doesn’t have so much impact on the use of multi-storey parking. “Garages offer a whole other service, especially in the winter,” he says.

Meanwhile, Lillestrøm’s council-owned Skedsmo Parkering says there are better ways of regulating street parking than comparing fees to those of garages. “If I could venture to offer advice to the Oslo municipality, it would be to have a progressive fee where it is more expensive to park in the second or third hour, or have fees which vary depending on the time of day,” says manager Jon Anders Kvist.

Changes already underway
Oslo’s Environment Department doesn’t keep statistics on street parking use, but says income from parking fees has remained constant in recent years, reports Aftenposten. This is probably because of price rises, because new bus and cycle lanes have already reduced the amount of street parking available. Many other street parking spaces have been set aside for electric cars, and offer recharging facilities.

Oslo streets to be affected by accessibility changes throughout 2014 include Thereses, Thorvald Meyers, Josefines, Waldemar Thranes, Toftes, Hausmanns and Schweigaards gater. Frogner, Solli and Wessels plass will also be affected, along with Sannergata, Storgata, Fagerheimgata, Trondheimsveien and Grefsenveien. Measures vary, but will include removing parking spaces, adding bus lanes or traffic lights, or banning turns that cause congestion.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate