Parisians have voted to triple parking charges for out-of-town SUV drivers as part of the city’s efforts to address road safety, air pollution, and climate change. The proposals were narrowly approved in a referendum vote on Sunday, with The Washington Post reporting that 54.6 percent of participants voted in favor of measures aiming to reduce the presence of “heavy, bulky, and polluting” vehicles in the city center.
Starting September 1st, gas or hybrid SUVs, and other larger vehicles weighing over 1.6 tonnes (1.76 tons), will be charged €18 (around $19.40) per hour to park in the center of Paris, and €12 (around $12.90) per hour in the rest of the city. The new pricing also applies to electric vehicles weighing over two tonnes (2.20 tons). Exemptions are in place for taxis and city residents, which means those traveling into Paris from outside the city will be most impacted. According to one of the posters for the referendum, only three in 10 Parisians even own a personal vehicle.
“Paris is transforming itself to allow people to breathe better and live better.”
“We’re doing this to reduce pollution and to make our children safer because these cars are dangerous,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo while campaigning last week. “Paris is transforming itself to allow people to breathe better and live better.” In a video published to Facebook on November 14th, Hidalgo promoted the referendum by referencing a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) study that found SUVs to be 20 percent more polluting and twice as likely to kill a pedestrian in a collision compared to smaller conventional cars.
Turnout for the referendum was low, which saw just 5.7 percent of Paris’s registered voters participating. The vote was closely monitored by other capital cities like London, which face similar challenges in tackling the various safety and pollution issues caused by the growing global popularity of SUV-type vehicles. On Friday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told The Guardian: “We always examine policies around the globe. I’m a firm believer in stealing good policies. Rather than inventing [new policies] badly, if other cities are doing stuff that works, we will copy them.”
The increase in SUV parking rates is the latest measure Hidalgo has pursued to make Paris more friendly to the environment, pedestrians, and cyclists. Paris officials have improved cycling infrastructure and announced plans to set up a traffic-reducing “tranquil zone” to reduce the flow of vehicles into the city center, for example, and successfully banned rental electric scooters last year following a rise in injuries and fatalities among users. Hidalgo said last week that the removal of rental scooters had introduced a “feeling of liberation and calm,” which Paris aims to build upon further by reducing the number of SUVs in the city center.