Does car ownership increase car use?

1st December 2011

Does car ownership increase car use?

New research from the Berkeley Group shows that while most people want a space to park their car, very few residents use it for travel to work. This calls into question previous assumptions about the impact of parking provision in new residential developments on road capacity and the environment.  The research examined 18 new developments across the capital, ranging from inner city schemes in Chelsea and Hackney to suburban developments in Worcester Park. It found that:

  • Most car owners do not use their vehicle for peak hour travel: they walk, cycle or use public transport instead to get to work
  • Many vehicles are in fact stored by their owners for use in the evenings or at weekends
  • Providing too little parking generally only results in overspill and parking pressures on the surrounding community

The findings come as the Government eliminates national parking standards and councils are being given the flexibility to set their own local standards. They suggest that residential car parking can be provided without undermining efforts to promote sustainable travel.

"Most people want a home with a full range of travel options. They will often use a bike, bus or train to get to work and then enjoy their car at weekends or on family business. Having enough parking on new developments is a crucial issue for homebuyers and doesn't appear to be the major cause of congestion on the roads," said Rob Perrins, Group Managing Director of the Berkeley Group. "We should strongly encourage the use of sustainable travel but don't ban people from owning a car."

At the Hamptons development in New Malden, made up of 654 new homes, only 34% of residents travel to work by car, even though parking provision is comparatively high at more than one space per dwelling; while at St George's Wharf in central London only 1 in every 32 residents' cars is being used during peak hours.

In London, Boris Johnson has expressed his desire to see 'an appropriate balance' struck between promoting new development and preventing excessive car parking. Berkeley's latest research demonstrates how important it is to inform often heated debates about parking provision with hard evidence, and allow councils the flexibility to define local parking standards in a way that reflects their local circumstances.

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