Take Heed City Planners: Fewer Parking Spots Leads to Reduced Auto Emissions

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Since cars need spots to park in, losing parking spots leads to fewer drivers on the road, which leads to a drop in auto emissions. Surprising but really it’s basic math, people.

According to Scientific American, a new study examines how ten European cities have experimented with reducing the number of parking spaces available through municipal policy changes. The result? A significant drop in the number of miles driven.

(More on TIME.com: Another Way to Combat Traffic? See Congestion Pricing in Atlanta)

Through a number of different policies–from losing one on-street parking space for every off-street space available to trading minimum parking¬†requirements in new developments for maximum limits–these cities saw rates of city traffic dropping, with people opting for more convenient methods of commuting such as biking or public transport. Amsterdam, one of the ten cities, saw as much as a 20 percent drop in inner city traffic.

It makes sense that if you make driving more inconvenient, fewer people will want to do so. After all, who doesn’t detest searching for a parking spot? But won’t these policies just stir up ire in commuters? Not if there is a trade-off.

Michael Kodransky, the co-author of the study, said that people were more accepting of changes if the revenue was shifted to making other means of transport convenient–such as Barcelona’s bike share program, where bicycles are widely available for inexpensive, short-term hire.

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of gridlock in Bangkok)

So would such an endeavor work in America? Yes, according to Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, and it might not even take as drastic measures as losing parking spots. Simply charging more money for parking is likely to reduce the number of people on the roads he says.

Basically, whether people are annoyed with parking due to lack of available spots or due to outlandish prices doesn’t matter. As long as they are frustrated enough not to drive, the environment will be better off. ¬†(via Scientific American)