Umeå's green parking purchase model (Sweden)

By News Editor / Updated: 28 Jan 2015

The densification and expansion of central urban areas requires smart mobility solutions to manage traffic situations while creating attractive urban environments. To this end, Umeå is working with real estate owners on how they can take responsibility for commuter transport in addition to just offering car parking facilities.

A unique collaboration between the municipality, the municipal parking company and property owner Balticgruppen tests a new approach to stimulate sustainable travel patterns. It aims at reducing employee car travel by further developing the existing ‘Parking Purchase’ system and supplementing it with an add-on ‘green’ element. 


Umeå’s population has doubled over the last 50 years to 118 000 inhabitants.  As such, it is one of Europe’s fastest growing cities in an otherwise sparsely populated region. Road traffic in the city centre is resulting in reduced air quality. The municipality, in collaboration with several national organisations, has therefore developed a plan to reduce road traffic and air emissions, and redistribute the traffic flow.

Umeå’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) was adopted in 2011 and together with its parking strategy emphasises the further development of existing Parking Purchase in Umeå. This system allows real estate owners and developers to buy parking spaces from the municipal parking company rather than having to build them. While there are savings to be made by the developer, it’s also a model to steer traffic and improve the efficiency and control of the parking expansion in the city without additional cost for the municipality. 

In action 

Currently, property developers in Umeå need to provide a certain number of parking spaces for cars in order to receive a building permit for their site. Under the unique ’Green Parking Purchase’ system, Umeå lets developers build 40 per cent fewer parking spaces in exchange for a committment to change the travel behaviour of tenants and reduce their car use by 40 per cent.

In February 2012 an agreement was signed between a local property owner and developer, Balticgruppen AB, and the city for a Green Parking Purchase measure to be piloted at Forsete - a new 60 000 m2 urban development that, when completed, will include offices, retail and housing. The agreement identifies the commitment of both the city and the real estate owner in encouraging sustainable travel patterns among employees based at the property. The commitment of the city and the municipal parking company is to:

  • Deviate from existing building standards and allow Balticgruppen AB to build 40 per cent fewer parking spaces for cars in their new development;
  • Manage a public transport fund.

The commitment of the real estate owner is to:

  • Contribute to a public transport fund that will enable incentives for employees to use public transport (PT). The fund guarantees a 20 per cent discount on monthly tickets for PT for a period of 25 years;
  • Provide for extraordinary parking facilities for cyclists. For example, heated garages combined with a bike repair stations and dressing rooms;
  • Provide an on-site car-sharing system, whether private or a commercial alternative;
  • Develop a communication plan to promote the new forms of sustainable urban mobility. The property owner or tenants (employers) specify which communication activities will be carried out, by whom, when, through what channels, and how this will be monitored.

The evaluation of the pilot Green Parking Purchase project, which runs until 2015, consists of three parts:  

  1. measuring a baseline;
  2. calculating the full potential of the Green Parking Purchase with possible outcomes; and
  3. a final measurement of results after all actions have taken place in the pilot site.

Parts one and two are completed, with three yet to come.

The calculation of possible outcomes show that property owner can save up to 10 per cent of the cost of purchasing parking spaces, at around € 13 500 per site. To calculate the full potential of the Green Parking Purchase agreement, an evaluation model was developed, together with the traffic consultant Trivector Traffic. The model’s calculations are based on the known effects of Green Parking Purchase, local conditions, travel patterns and behavioral aspects.

The results of running the model include changes in modal split for employees working in the facility, and reduced CO2 emissions and energy consumption. The model can be used as a forecasting tool to estimate the potential of the Green Parking Purchase for a particular property and to evaluate the actual results.

The result of running the model for Forsete showed that a full implementation of the ’green package’ has the potential to create a 41 per cent shift from private car use to carpooling. Currently, the exact amount of employees that will be working in the development is still uncertain, so exact numbers are hard to produce. However, it shows that the main target of the Green Parking Purchase agreement, to reduce car travel by 40 per cent, is realistic target.

Elin Pietroni from the City of Umeå believes the potential outcomes are promising: ‘It is a great advantage to take a holistic approach and develop a package of green measures for a property,’ she says. ‘Individual actions, or to distinguish investments in infrastructure from measures on behavioural aspects, don’t provide the same opportunity. 

Challenges, opportunities and transferability 

The Green Parking Purchase system a win-win for both sides. The property gains a modern trademark and incentives to promote sustainable urban mobility, while the city benefits from the growth of a sustainable city and reduced car dependency among employees.

’It takes time and committment from all parties working with the model for it to be a success,' says Pietroni. ’But the real estate owner's communication with tenants is crucial - such as promoting the property as having a ‘green’ profile, providing regular information and hosting campaigns and events for sustainable mobility. This can include lectures, competitions and opportunities for employees in the property to test new sustainable alternatives of transportation.’

Pietroni adds that it is also important that the property owner is driven by genuine interest in the issue and not only economic savings. The amount that can be saved depends on how much the property owner invests in sustainable travel alternatives; the city estimates that Green Parking Purchase can save up to 10 per cent of the total cost of car parking. Property owners with larger projects or multiple projects will have more to gain in terms of economy of scale.

Umeå is also battling issues with existing Swedish tax legislation. The public transport fund providing incentives for commuters to use public transport and sustainable parking facilities for employees are considered taxable benefits. Umeå and the municipal parking company have taken the issue to the national tax board and are currently awaiting a verdict. 

Urban mobility planning
Traffic and demand management
Northern Europe
Elin Pietroni
Jan-Willem Van Der Pas
22 Oct 2014
28 Jan 2015