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Driving to neutral: 10 steps to lowering carbon emissions

(Image credit: Image Credit: Moon Light PhotoStudio / Shutterstock)

The nationwide lockdown is giving transport decision makers across the UK time to reflect and think about the future of our industry. Following through on carbon neutrality pledges is one topic that hangs over many decision makers in today’s climate conscious culture, especially as pollution numbers lower during the lockdown itself.

Big companies are setting bold precedents here: Sainsbury’s has locked into investing £1 billion over twenty years towards becoming a Net Zero business across its own operations by 2040, furthermore Microsoft has pledged to be carbon negative by 2030. Although the results of these pledges will take time to come to fruition, what is obvious is that these businesses are endeavouring to create positive strategies to drastically reduce and cancel out carbon emissions in the race to net zero.

While these big organisations may be able to dedicate time, people and, most importantly, money to this aim, there are many things that local authorities and private parking operators can do to make a significant impact. 

  • Emissions Based Parking

The biggest thing in transport any of us can do is to swap to an electric vehicle. City Science suggests this alone will have the effect of reducing carbon emissions by 52 per cent.

The introduction of emissions based parking (EBP) has already reduced the most polluting diesel vehicles by 13-20 per cent in areas where it has been implemented. Specifically, Westminster is seeing estimated journey reductions of 250,000 each year due to EBP and Central London nitrogen dioxide has dropped 38 per cent in the two years since EBP was introduced.

It’s quick, easy and inexpensive to implement EBP – where variable parking tariffs are automatically charged based on a vehicle’s emissions.  Not only this, but motorists are given a message each time they park, highlighting the polluting impact of their vehicle, which in itself is a significant driver of change.

  • Cutting machines

Removing parking machines has countless environmental benefits. Fewer physical resources, obviously but also significantly fewer journeys for cash collections, banking, maintenance, vandalism and repair.  Plus less electricity usage and simply saving paper by eliminating the need for tickets.  The benefits all mount up. 

Reducing one cash collection van, driving 20,000 miles per annum, will save 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.  

  • Eliminate location circling

Nowadays, people expert services and products to be available at their fingertips for convenience. But having such a close link to technology can also help in the fight against pollution. Reducing pollution with a space availability prediction tool, for instance, is one way tech can be used to promote greener travel.

It is estimated that 30 per cent of urban pollution is caused by drivers hunting for a space. To counteract this, a driver can map the most direct route to a destination to get there in the shortest amount of time, which incidentally burns less fuel and produces less fumes. This knock-on effect from one basic tech capability is huge and helps create less congested and polluted urban centres. Traffic flow for inner city areas is often a burden for local councils, and Birmingham even announced they want to ban cars from the city centre completely, but it’s a mammoth task to undertake, so this sort of pocket tech that is easily deployable and massively helpful is key – when everyone becomes swept up in pledges, focusing on big goals, the ways to incrementally affect change for resident drivers are the way forward.

  • Park & Ride for the environment

As ULEZ’s and CAZ’s increase, parking hot spots will gravitate further and further out of town and city centres. To get ahead of this potential issue, identify new locations for commuters, promote existing Park & Ride sites with cashless payments and provide flexible solutions to make the transportation combination work for everyone. This not only reduces emissions and improves air quality, but also minimises traffic in city centres. 

  • Install and Promote EV Charging Points

To increase electric vehicle (EV) purchase and usage, motorists need to know there are plenty of charging points, so they don’t worry about being stranded. Local authorities need to invest in installation of charging points, but also need to help drivers find them. This can be done through parking apps that map charging points and direct drivers to the nearest one for their specific car.

  • Cash in on cashless

Most people already use cashless applications, but increasing usage in the parking industry carries many of the same benefits as reducing machines. This can be encouraged by making cashless options cheaper, introducing cashless only zones, extending charging areas further out of town, scrapping scratch cards and swapping physical permits for virtual ones. 

  • Use big data to drive big change

Car parks that use technology to enable payment are constantly providing data on usage, pricing, emissions and enforcement, but often these insights sit somewhere untouched. By tapping into this data, you can understand parking habits, drive better outcomes, promote underutilised areas and determine where to site EV charging points. All this helps incentivise use of more environmentally friendly options.

  • Virtually incentivise vehicle change

Offering virtual solutions like ePermits reduces physical journeys in a number of ways. By putting all processes online, councils can limit staff processing time and eliminate the need for physical distribution of collateral. ePermits also provide a great way to offer discounts and incentives for cleaner driving cars.

  • Go digital to reduce congestion

Many cities struggle with parking and congestion during special events. Using digital solutions to pre-emptively plan for the congestion, together with additional parking solutions can keep you on track with your carbon minimising goals.

  • Offset alongside reducing

While reducing impact is a valiant goal, it can take time. Finding other ways to offset carbon emissions can be a great short term solution, specifically:

  • Planting trees – one tree offsets a tonne of carbon
  • Turn unused parking machines into living machines that are covered in plants that help to reduce air pollution
  • Encouraging flexible hours/remote working reduces staff footprint
  • Providing (electric) scooters or bicycles for local journeys rather than always taking a car
  • Encouraging use of public transport

The journey to carbon neutral is a long road and it is unlikely to be without its hurdles, but there are lots of small things we can all put into action quickly and affordably to start making a difference today.

Integrated technology is the way forward for pollution reduction; combining solutions and their associated data can not only significantly improve journeys, as demonstrated by innovations as diverse as connected traffic lights and Google Maps, but also help reduce congestion and pollution. With tech-enabled parking, concerns are no longer limited to floor markings and broken machines – parking departments now manage complex integrated technologies, which allows drivers to control their journey through smartphone applications. Drivers making deliberately greener choices benefits the wider community as well as environment and helps to create cleaner, healthier and more liveable towns and cities.

Peter O'Driscoll, UK Managing Director, RingGo

Peter is the UK Managing Director at RingGo, which is part of the BMW/Mercedes NOW group. RingGo's purpose is to make cities cleaner, healthier and more liveable.