A restrictive parking policy; enough to boost the market for car sharing?

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Fewer parking lots and higher parking cost in new residential housing developments have increased the use of sustainable means of transportation among residents. With the most expensive parking permits in the city, the new district Ørestaden in Copenhagen has a lower level of car ownership than the rest of the city. There is also evidence to suggest a restrictive parking policy might be enough to create a hospitable market for car sharing operators, without any municipal requirements on developers.

Copenhagen has experienced a decrease in car usage in recent years and sustainable means of transportation are used more than before. Despite this development the car ownership in Copenhagen has increased each year, especially among residents in newly built areas who on average have access to one or two cars per household. The newly constructed district Ørestaden gives some insight as to how future development can turn this trend around.

Low parking requirements

In Ørestaden the requirements for parking is 1 space per 200m2 and the district’s parking facilities are shared between businesses and residents. The parking requirement was lowered by 50 % to enhance the use of a new metro line in the district and discourage car ownership. Street parking isn’t possible in the area, where a majority of the parking is located in multi-story parking facilities and the nearest free parking is 1 kilometer away in an adjacent neighborhood.

“Nobody wants a car when you can’t park it” proclaimed one of the residents in the area. Another explains that they have chosen a life without a car “because everything is so close and in walking distance then it doesn’t make sense to have a car. Especially not in Ørestaden City where it is crazy expensive to park.”

The new metro line, fewer parking lots and a monthly fee for parking have resulted in a 27 % lower rate of car ownership than the city as a whole. In Copenhagen, the average household has 0.48 cars, compared to 0.35 cars per household in Ørestaden City.

Access instead of ownership

Instead of owning a car, many of the residents use car sharing vehicles. Five car sharing schemes operate in Ørestaden City with around 20-25 cars in total. The operators experience a higher usage of the cars here than in many of the locations in the city center of Copenhagen. Car sharing in Ørestaden City was not established by the actions of municipal planners, but rather by the market itself recognising the opportunity. The free-floating operator Green Mobility find the location profitable despite having to lease parking spaces for their vehicles, due to the limited parking in the area. Some of the car sharing schemes are mainly used for short trips while others often are booked during the weekends to go on longer trips. The demand for the car sharing vehicles is high and residents say you sometimes need to book a car a month in advance.

Changed everyday life

The parking policy in Ørestaden influences everyday life of the residents who have changed the way they travel to work, do their grocery shopping and pick up their kids. However, residents in the area explain how the move to Ørestaden has given them more possibilities despite a restrictive parking policy and that the change in car usage and ownership is partly affected by the proximity to services and public transport. All in all, the Ørestaden’s experience with a high cost for parking and a limited amount of parking space shows these are useful tools for changing residents’ car usage and reducing car ownership in the city.


Text and photo: Hanne Collin Eriksen, Aalborg University, Copenhagen.

Learn more about Urban development and Parking.