Policy Instruments

Park and Ride
SummaryFirst principles assesmentEvidence on performancePolicy contributionComplementary instrumentsReferences


Park and ride is a form of integrated transport that allows private transport users to park their vehicles at a large car park and travel into the city centre using a public transport mode. The vast majority of park and ride sites are situated outside the urban areas of city centres and are designed to relieve road congestion along the roads leading into and located within the city centre itself. Whilst bus, coach, light rail or suburban train could all provide the public transport services at park and ride sites, in the large majority of cases these services are provided by dedicated bus services. In most cases the user either pays for the bus services and can park their car free of charge, or pays for their car parking and travels free of charge on the bus. The dedicated bus services tend to consist of modern low floor buses that are branded. They also operate a high service frequency throughout the day, especially during the am and pm peak periods.

The key objectives behind the development of park and ride services have been to reduce: 1) congestion within city centres and along the approach roads to city centres; and 2) the environmental externalities that have accompanied increasing traffic levels. The cost recovery of park and ride services is very disappointing within the UK , with recent evidence revealing that only one scheme ( Brighton ) makes an operating surplus. Despite this the growth in park and ride sites has seen an upward trend, from a handful of sites in the 1980's to 35 by 1998 with another 30 schemes under consideration (CPRE, 1998). This is a reflection of the success the schemes have had in reducing traffic levels within the urban areas.

A more contentious issue is what effect the services have had on traffic levels in the outer urban areas. Recent evidence suggests that they have increased traffic levels through a combination of: 1) users changing route and driving further to reach the park and ride site; 2) existing bus users driving to the park and ride site; and 3) trip generation i.e. completely new trips being made because of the improved ease of travel. Whether this increase in traffic outside the urban areas is greater than the reduction within it is still open to debate. Even if this were the case there may nonetheless be congestion and environmental benefits to be gained providing that the underlying congestion levels within the urban area are more acute than in the outer urban areas. On the other hand, if the roads in the urban area are highly congested then it is possible that any free.road space in the urban area would soon be filled up so dramatically reducing any decongestion benefits of the scheme with the net effect simply being an increase in traffic outside the urban area to access the park-and-ride site.

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Text edited at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT