Legislation passed last week will allow Scottish cities to implement workplace parking levies and spend the proceeds on cycling infrastructure and improved public transit. Glasgow and Edinburgh could lead the charge, and they would be doing so thanks to the example shown by Nottingham in England, which has had a workplace levy since 2012, a scheme which has so far raised £61 million and which the council spends on measures to reduce car use.

Nottingham charges employers £415 per parking space per year. The council’s levy has radically improved the city’s air quality because fewer people now drive to work. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by a quarter since 2015.

Residents and visitors to Nottingham can dot around the city on a £580 million tram network, the latest sections of which were part-funded by the parking levy.

Nottingham has also taken road space away from motorists and given it to cyclists, making it easier and safer to cycle in the Midlands city.

Today In: Industry
Canal Street, a traffic-choked multi-lane highway next to Nottingham’s train station, is currently being downsized as part of the city’s £250 million “Southern Gateway” plan, which will also see some streets fully pedestrianized. Nottingham City Council estimates that this people-first regeneration will create 532 full-time jobs and a further 2,300 indirect jobs.

Council leader David Mellen told the Financial Times that the parking levy was controversial when first proposed: “The chamber of commerce was dead against it. They said businesses would leave Nottingham, and investors would not come.”

The opposite happened. Since 2012 the number of businesses in the city has increased by almost a quarter. There has been a net increase of 23,400 jobs. The newest part of the city’s tram network, built in 2015, extends to the south of the city, reaching 20 of the 30 largest employers in the metropolitan area.

Credit scoring company Experian—which has 3,000 staff in Nottingham—pays the levy for those employees who continue to drive, saying the tram network and other measures to reduce car use “boosts the image of the city.”

Car use in Nottingham has dropped by 7 percent since 2002, and public transport use has increased by the same amount.

“Most people in Nottingham have not got a car,” Mellen told the FT. “Driving to work is not a right.”

Councillor Adele Williams, in charge of the city’s transport, told me: “Offering people good, reliable alternatives to the car is the key to keeping the city moving. Currently over 40% of journeys into the city center are made by public transport—well above the national average—and this is increasing year on year.”

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