Nottingham is the first city in the UK to introduce a levy (i.e. tax) on all workplace parking to finance public transit. Stephen Joseph at the UK’s Campaign for Better Transport thinks it’s a better strategy than congestion pricing (or as I have always advocated calling it, decongestion pricing):
Although every city is different, there might be some wider lessons here. One, for the transport economist geeks, might be to stop obsessing with congestion charging. Efficient in economic theory though this might be, Nottingham looked at it and decided that it would be very costly – all those cameras and enforcement – and would not target peak hour traffic jams and single-occupancy car commuting as effectively as the levy would.
The wider lesson from this is that the politics of a levy are different, too. With congestion charging you have to get support from the whole city and potentially its hinterland; and referenda in Manchester and Edinburgh show how difficult that is. With a workplace parking levy, there is a narrower and potentially more politically winnable discussion with businesses and commuters about what a levy could pay for – things that might make journeys to work easier and cut peak hour jams and pollution.
This may indeed be a good strategy at least for smaller cities.
This is not the first parking levy in the world: Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth in Australia all have them in their inner cities, as does Montreal in Canada. Toronto is debating the issue now, while in the UK, Cambridge is considering following Nottingham’s lead.