Managing parking to contain traffic and promote public transport in Zurich (Switzerland)

By News Editor / Updated: 06 May 2015

The management of parking provision should be part of a comprehensive approach to mobility planning in a city. Zurich has been actively managing parking provision in the city, both publically and privately provided, since the early 1990s as part of an ongoing transport policy to contain car traffic and promote public transport.

Background & Objectives


Zurich has a balance of complementary mobility policies related to traffic calming, public transport investment, expansion of pedestrian and cycling facilities, parking management and land-use policies.
Within this, Zurich has two consistent parking policies:
-  Since the early 1990s there has been a cap on the amount of public parking in the city centre and no additional parking spaces are allowed; and
-  Private parking provision across the city has, since the late 1980s, been restricted and is at present related to a balance between potential ‘need’, practical provision and actual local pollution levels.





Public parking in Zurich has historically been mainly on-street. With the cap on capacity, the fees for use are set high to both discourage car use into the centre and also to offer guaranteed car accessibility for those who need or prefer to use the car for such travel. In addition the on-street provision is also being gradually replaced by parking in garages or underground.
Private parking levels for new developments across the city are set by a three stage process:
-  There is a pre-defined ‘normal need’ level for each type of land-use;
-  This ‘need’ is then modified by translation to a lower maximum norm to reflect the level of provision that can actually be provided within the area; and
-  There is an additional reduction related to the scale of pollution (NO2) levels in the area.


Land-use policy in the area also complements parking policy by ensuring that most main land-use developments in the area are linked directly to the public transport system.
The complementary policies ensure that:
-  The public transport system is of a very high quality and has priority, where necessary, over the private car;
-  The public transport system is strongly marketed;
-  Pedestrian and cycling facilities have been enhanced and expanded; and
-  Traffic use is restricted by low speed limits and dynamic traffic management to reduce excessive congestion.




In overall terms the combined mobility policies in the City of Zurich now show the following modal splits for all journeys and users:


By distance -
- 10.5% foot or cycle;
- 32.7% public transport; and
- 54.6% by motor vehicle.

By trips -
- 26% foot
- 4%cycle;
- 34% public transport; and
- 36% by motor vehicle.

The proportion by public transport compares with the Swiss average of 21% (2011).
In addition, 74% of people entering Zurich used public transport.
In economic terms Zurich has been able to slightly increase the total number of jobs within the city over the last 25 years, with a particularly strong growth in the service sector. Office rent levels in Zurich are roughly twice those for the surrounding areas and development of new office space continues strongly.
The parking policy in Zurich is an integral part of the overall mobility policies. There appears to be a positive indication that the parking policies, with the overall mobility policies, have had a positive impact on the economic development of the city.


Urban mobility planning
Mobility management
Traffic and demand management
Erich Willi
David Scotney
25 Oct 2011
06 May 2015