New Urban Space

If you look at the public space in cities, it is absurd that huge spaces are allotted to idle cars, which on average only transport people from A to B for one hour a day. The remaining 23 hours they actively reduce our urban area by 1.5 million square meters. At the same time, Berlin is growing and the price of property is skyrocketing. But a residential parking permit in an ideal location still only costs €10 per year – a gross undervaluation of the public realm!

The right to own a car has been a manifestation of status for decades, and many people cannot imagine not owning a car. However the rapid development of technology in the mobility sector is making life without a car possible. Car sharing, self-driving cars and advanced intermodality through new information and communication technologies will all help to significantly reduce the demand for road and parking space in the future.

Optimistic forecasts suggest that a large amount of urban traffic will be handled by self-propelled e-minibuses in the future: without stops, free-floating buses will continuously drive exactly the right route to meet individual transport needs. This urban travel option could become so cheap and convenient that it would simply makes little sense to own a car. Even a pessimistic view of the future acknowledges that our cityscapes will fundamentally change, even if people refuse to change their habits and hold on to their privately owned cars. Autonomous vehicles, which are seen as the most realistic replacement for contemporary cars, can also park autonomously – be it in tight inner-city parking spaces or beyond the city limits. The next day such cars could then be easily summoned, much like a chauffeur.

Not only in the future, when self-driving cars are market-ready, but even today, it would be possible to provide citizens with incentives to use car sharing systems, as long as they gave up their own cars. Theoretically, eight out of nine vehicles and consequently 120 out of 135 square meters of parking area could be used in other ways. Ideally, such space should be used as public property for all (Quelle 33 + 34).

A cycle lane such as the Radbahn could give a first perspective on this future by creating a space that creates simultaneously attractive transport and living options. Such spaces could, consciously or subconsciously, influence individuals to question why similar spaces are not available in other places across the city. This could then precipitate the paradigm shift necessary to alter the existing transport sector.

hours is the average amount of time that cars are parked and not in use every day, and each car occupies about 15 m2 of urban space.*

Randelhoff, M. (2013): Die größte Ineffizienz des privaten Pkw-Besitzes: Das Parken. Zukunft Mobilität. 23.02.2013.

is the annual cost of a residential parking permit for marked parking zones in Berlin. In Tokyo, even in the suburbs, the costs range from €960 to €1,680 per year.*

The Economist (2017): Parkageddon. How not to create traffic jams, pollution and urban sprawl. 08.04.2017.

Already possible

Instead of 9 parked cars today, there could be just one, if it was shared. Estimations on how many cars could be replaced due to car-sharing vary between 16:1 and 7:1. So we took a rather conservative stance. But one thing is for sure, due to a consistent change towards sharing-mobility a lot of public space could be enhanced.

A Glimpse into the Future

On account of their excellent driving ability and reduced size, autonomous cars require only about 50% of the parking space of today’s cars. Furthermore, their parking lots do not have to be designed for people, so a ceiling height of 1.5 m is more than enough and would generate another space saving of 50%.

(1) Knie, A. (2013): Gastbeitrag: Flexibles Carsharing stärkt U- und S-Bahn. Zeit Online. 08.08.2013.
(2)Martin, E., Shaheen, S. (2016): Impacts of Car2Go on Vehicle Ownership, Modal Shift, Vehicle Miles Travelled, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Five North American Cities. Working Paper. University of California, Berkeley