Using parking for CO2 reduction

4 December '18

Our managing director of Parkmobile Benelux, Esther van der Meer, shared her views on the role of parking in CO2 reduction and how Parkmobile is contributing with their shift in focus. Read the full article below:

Using parking for CO2 reduction

The acceleration of CO2 reduction is the most important trend in society today. This is the opinion of Esther van der Meer, managing director of Parkmobile Benelux. After eighteen years, this has resulted in a focus on two areas: more cooperation with municipalities and more attention to off-street rather than on-street parking.

Van der Meer has a background in hotel management, but has worked in the online world since 2008 (Booking.com and Catawiki). There she was involved in the transition from data analysis to product innovation. She decided to join Parkmobile because she was attracted to the company’s bigger goals – facilitating sustainable mobility solutions for towns and cities. ‘Parkmobile wants to use its data to help municipalities achieve their social goals for their towns. Such as creating car-free or low-traffic city centres. We are running programmes in both Paris and London, for example, where we are no longer looking at the number of transactions, but at moving those transactions to other parts of the city to speed up our contribution to sustainable CO2 reductions.’ Van der Meer is managing director for the Benelux and has two responsibilities. ‘The first is the oldest market, the Benelux, in which the company has been operating since 2000. The second is a group responsibility: the group’s customer experience. This means using all our user data on the platform to ensure that our users are happy and stay happy.’

The main trend that Van der Meer identifies is the acceleration of the CO2 reduction. At the recent climate conference in South Korea, for example, it was decided that there must be zero CO2 emissions in city centres in 2050. ‘You see that this leads to accelerated interest in the mobility landscape and in the contribution that mobility can make. It also means that we have more and better opportunities to talk to municipalities and off-street parking locations – both private and commercial – as an alternative for on-street parking.’ Van der Meer feels it is important that Parkmobile focuses on this aspect: ‘We mustn’t pretend that we can resolve everything in the mobility world.’

London and Paris
A good example of how Parkmobile wants to help municipalities reduce CO2 emissions is London. ‘Westminster, London’s financial district, has decided to charge fossil fuel-powered cars more for on-street parking than electric cars. We can see that this is currently leading to a decline in the number of transactions, because there are so many more fossil fuel-powered cars. However, we know that this is the right thing to do and our data and services ensure that our own earnings model remains good.’

In Paris, the situation was different. ‘There the municipality claimed it had no insight into the mobility flow in the city. Where do cars enter the city and where is it busiest? We built a dashboard with real-time data and lead maps about parking transactions. This shows the municipality how busy it is in all the boroughs with paid parking and at what times. They can then use that data to take measures to fulfil their goal of making some boroughs car-free, for example, and to control where parking is allowed and the charges to be imposed. Other rival providers can also connect with that platform in Paris, meaning the user is free to choose which commercial parking solution they wish to use.’

Partnerships
To help reduce CO2, Parkmobile wants to help the municipalities get cars off the street and into the parking garage. ‘The need for parking will remain, whatever type of car or fuel.’ The company is therefore open to partnerships. ‘That’s with parties like ParkBee, a technology provider which works with all existing parties. But we are also talking to or have plans to talk to barrier manufacturers and to commercial and municipal parking garage operators. I see that all these parties are also open to partnerships due to the higher goal. Time will tell how we organise this and what the earning models will look like.’

Garages
It brings Van der Meer to an important shift of focus within the company. ‘Over the first eighteen years, our focus was on-street parking. During the next twenty years, we will have to ensure that the parking garages are made available to the user. By doing that, municipalities can really gain control, either based on their own or our information. And it benefits the users too: they will probably be offered a cheaper alternative which also contributes to CO2 reduction.’ As an example, she mentions the city of Nottingham in the UK, which has decided to significantly raise the charges for on-street parking and reduce them for car parks. ‘That’s a huge statement, but the right decision to facilitate the transition from on-street to off-street. Because as a municipality, you force the user to look at parking from a different perspective and you get more public space on the street with more sustainability as a flat parking place.’

Text: Peter Bekkering