The city of Tallinn's new parking regulation would not solve the capital's parking problem. While hiking the prices of parking permits for residents would help fill the treasury, the dog lies buried elsewhere, Ain Kivisaar writes.
In short, amendments to the "Tallinn Public Parking Area and Fees" regulation would take away the parking concessions of residents of buildings in the Kesklinn district the building permits of which are issued starting from next year.
The aim of the change is to reduce the number of cars parked on streets in the city's paid parking zones. As a citizen and property developer, it seems to me that the plan is light on substance and will change nothing at all.
Residents of new developments not clogging up the streets
The understanding that the streets are chock full of cars belonging to residents of new developments is mistaken. If people can or are in some cases obligated to also buy a parking space with their apartment, I'm sure they do just that. Even if residents of new apartment buildings kept their vehicles on the street, the regulation would change little as people would just swallow the price hike and continue to do so.
In truth, street parking is mainly for residents of older buildings that have few or completely lack parking spaces. Yards have been developed in other ways or deliberate parking solutions are simply missing. And families with two cars will still find a way to park them both despite higher fees. In other words, the only thing the new regulation will achieve is topping off the state treasury.
On the one hand, lack of a cheaper rate could be just what the doctor ordered for a developer as it would only make it easier to sell people parking spaces. At the same time, what we as developers see is overproduction of parking spaces in city center developments because construction norms are set in stone and fail to reflect the real situation.
It is also impossible to sell extra parking spaces to residents of neighboring buildings, courtesy of a Tallinn apartment ownership amendment from a few years ago. The result is an absurd situation where brand new parking spaces remain empty while the streets fill up with cars.
Tallinn having too many cars is definitely a problem. However, we cannot ignore the fact that people are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and would prefer other modes of transport.
The necessary preconditions are there as our capital is compact enough for people not to have to spend hours in gridlock. Distances are trifling compared to the world's metropolises and one can get around quickly on foot, bicycle and using public transport, especially in the heart of town.
Environmentally friendly real estate development stuck
As a proponent and pioneer of environmentally friendly development, we proceed based on people's needs and changing habits. Our experience suggests many people who want to buy a home in the city center want to get around without a car. People value safe bicycle parking lots and getting to their destination safely and in one piece after stepping out the front door.
At the same time, more environmentally conscious property development is nearly impossible because rigid norms force developers to build parking spots. The current norm prescribes that the bigger the apartment, the more parking spaces per residential unit have to be built. While there is some logic behind this in suburban areas, it makes no sense in the heart of town. Outdated norms have not managed to keep up with new habits.
Bank statistics suggests that the average home loan customer is becoming younger. We can also see security and a favorable financial situation encouraging younger and younger people to buy their first home in a new development. Young people are usually interested in single or two-room apartments that need to have at least one parking space per apartment. At the same time, the same young customers tend to support alternatives ways of getting around.
I have suggested before that we could see passive apartment buildings the parking spaces of which could be in effective cross-usage instead of remaining largely empty already in the near future. Young homeowners would be the potential clients for such buildings as owning a personal vehicle is clearly a waning trend.
That said, changing parking norms requires a more resident-friendly and considered public transport solution and a systematic network of light traffic roads. Right now, we can rather hear and read criticism in social media and newspapers from citizens and activists. Their voices are becoming louder. This tells us once again that something is wrong with the picture.
I'm sure the city is not remaining idle and several initiatives have been received well, such as the Reidi tee light traffic road. Tallinn deserves commendation for that.
Even so, we are slow in moving toward becoming a green capital, despite the city government seeming so keen to get there. I would also be proud to live in a green capital and tell my foreign friends and cooperation partners about it.
Nevertheless, the title remains out of reach, with one of the reasons possibly that we are still far from being able to see the big picture and are only laying the corner pieces of the puzzle. Tallinn's new parking regulation serves as a telling example. The treasury would benefit, while the parking problem would remain.
Editor: Marcus Turovski