Reclaim the kerb: The future of parking and kerbside management


London’s growing population and changing travel habits are putting our roads and streets under increasing pressure. There is now a growing consensus that tackling the challenges of congestion, air pollution, carbon emissions, road danger and physical inactivity requires a reduction in motor vehicle usage and an increase in the use of public transport, walking and cycling. Additionally, we must ensure that any car journeys that cannot be avoided are carried out in shared, low-emission vehicles. We call this shift in how we move around the city “New Urban Mobility”.

Parking policy is one tool that can help achieve this shift. This report examines how private car use has changed over time, as well as the value that car owners and non-car-owning residents place on different kerbside uses. It also examines what boroughs can do to encourage and enable people to switch to sustainable modes of travel and create a greener, healthier and more pleasant environment for the benefit of everyone.

Based on data analysis, borough and stakeholder consultation, and a survey of over 1,000 Londoners, we found that:

Personal travel habits are changing…

  • People are travelling less for business and leisure.
  • The number of trips driven per person per day has fallen by 23 per cent since 2013/14.

… but the Mayor’s target for sustainable travel remains a stretch.

  • The Mayor’s Transport Strategy aims for 80 per cent of all journeys to be by public transport, walking or cycling by 2041.
  • While the proportion of trips in London made by public transport, walking or cycling increased from 59 per cent in 2009 to 63 per cent in 2015, there has been no change over the last three years.

Meanwhile car ownership remains relatively high…

  • 56 per cent of households in London own a car and this rate has only fallen by four per cent in the last 10 years.

…and congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions from vehicle use are still major concerns.

Parked cars take up a significant amount of space…

  • There are more than three million licensed vehicles in London, and the average car is parked at least 95 per cent of the time.
  • 43 per cent of all cars are parked on-street, taking up well over 1,400 hectares of space (equivalent to 10 Hyde Parks in size).

…and land used for car parking is valuable…

  • Parking spaces have a market value up to 10 times higher than the annual cost of a resident’s permit.
  • Collectively, London boroughs made an average annual surplus on parking of £376 million between 2014/15 and 2018/19, which was then spent on other transport services.

… but short stay (pay and display) charges are subsidising resident parking permits.

  • Annual operating costs per parking space far exceed resident parking permit revenues, averaging £336 for inner London (compared to average resident permit costs between £51-£230), and £295 for outer London (compared to average permit costs between £29-£154).

While Londoners who need to drive also need to park, better use of street space would benefit everyone:

  • 83 per cent of Londoners are very or fairly concerned about global climate change, and 77 per cent are concerned about local air quality.
  • 49 per cent of Londoners believe children cannot safely play outside or travel by foot or bike on the streets in their neighbourhood.
  • Londoners want to see trees and green spaces, pavements free of clutter, children’s play space and community/recreation space given priority on their streets.
  • On-street parking for residents is only the fifth-highest priority for street use: just 31 per cent of non-car owners believe it should be high priority for street use in their local area, compared to 52 per cent of car owners.

Achieving New Urban Mobility

A more intelligent and dynamic approach to managing parking and the use of kerb space could promote alternatives to car ownership and use, provide more space for the things Londoners value, enhance the environment, and offer a more efficient service for essential trips by car.

There are a number of actions that boroughs at different stages of the journey towards New Urban Mobility can take to enable less car-reliant lifestyles, and to create a greener, healthier and more pleasant environment for the benefit of everyone. We are calling for boroughs to:

  • Develop kerbside strategies that allocate road and kerb space in accordance with clear use hierarchies, and commit to reallocating a certain percentage of kerb space to higher priority uses. The Mayor should support boroughs with guidance to include kerbside strategies in their Local Implementation Plans.
  • Regularly review the coverage, size and operating hours of Controlled Parking Zones to ensure they meet local and mayoral policy objectives, engaging a diverse range of residents in the consultation process. To gradually reallocate road space, boroughs should introduce a cap on the number of permits issued, using waiting lists for new applications or limiting eligibility for new residents.
  • Set residential parking permit charges at a level that helps achieve strategic modal shift objectives and fully covers the total operating costs of residential parking. All boroughs should move towards a harmonised emission-based charging structure, alongside escalating charges for additional vehicles.
  • Consider introducing a Workplace Parking Levy in areas with significant levels of private workplace parking as part of a package of measures to shift travel-to-work patterns. Boroughs should also review their planning policies to enable large employers to reduce private parking and facilitate modal shift among employees.
  • Ensure there is affordable and accessible car club provision across London by allocating sufficient on-street parking space and charging a fair price for them. London Councils should draw up a recommended regulatory and pricing framework for car club and bike hire operation to support harmonisation across boroughs. Transport for London (TfL) and the boroughs should launch a system of mobility credits that can be used on public transport and private mobility services, and promote them more widely in the run-up to the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone as incentives for reducing car ownership.
  • Embrace the opportunities created by new technology to manage demand for kerb space – including automated charging, dynamic space designation, micro-transactions for ultra-short-stay parking, and dynamic pricing for short-stay parking. Central government should enable dynamic management by allowing for charging in small increments and introducing dynamic Traffic Regulation Orders.