The Parking Paradox

Surrounded by parked bikes, everybody needs to park…

As life goes on I still bring my camera out every once in a while. So I was relaxing in a café and I looked at that parking machine. Then it struck me, the parking issue in Amsterdam is one of the most absurd things here. Actually call it a paradox because everybody needs to park (mostly car owners) but nobody likes it.

Now if you think that last sentence seemed silly, well that is reality here. You see Amsterdam is an old city, about 6 centuries old. The city centre has hardly changed regarding space requirements for modern traffic. So during the transition from horses and wagons to auto-mobiles the streets stayed narrow.

Fast forward to post-World War II and the Netherlands are rebuilding themselves in the Marshall-Plan era. Traffic increases, more highways are built and people travel from home to work by car. Amsterdam has always been a hub for companies and jobs and well working people with cars follow. Now try to park your car in a small city centre.

Up to now everything seems to make sense. Okay prepare because the city council sees opportunities to get revenues from charging fees for using parking spaces. Over the years the hourly fees increase. The city council is happy because city revenues increase. But people start disliking the parking fees increasing up to expensive levels and avoid parking in the city.

What happens next? The parking fees remain relatively high, but avoidance of parking in the city leads to declining parking revenues and the city council starts to wonder. The last few years this situation has sort of continued and many people with cars avoid parking here or try to find an affordable alternative.

The city council now has policies in place to decrease traffic in Amsterdam to make it more pleasant for walking around (tourism!). At the same time parking revenues are still important for the city revenues. Parking fees are still relatively high because “pecunia non olet.”

So when you arrive by car in Amsterdam and bring up the topic, we know. This paradox of needing parking space while not wanting to park in Amsterdam is understandable.