Paris residents have voted to triple parking fees for SUVs—nine months after the Montreal borough of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie began tying parking pass prices to the mass of the parked vehicle.
The voter turnout was poor (5.7%), and the mandate was hardly a slam dunk (54.5% in favour, 45.5% against,) but the recent referendum will still see the French capital implementing the threefold increase, reports Reuters.
Applying to all internal combustion vehicles 1.6 tonnes and over—and electric vehicles weighing two tonnes or more—the increase will have drivers of large vehicles paying a whopping C$26 per hour to park, a charge that is meant to discourage “bulky, polluting” cars, City Hall said.
“We’re proud of having posed an eminently environmental question,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said after the referendum, calling it a “form of resistance” in Paris to the “very concerning movement” where dangerously large vehicles are becoming ubiquitous on city streets.
Hidalgo’s comments echo what Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said after Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie hiked long-term parking fees for SUVs in May 2023.
“How do we protect the more vulnerable on our streets?” she asked. “The bigger the vehicle, the less vision you have. It’s proven.”
More recently, Brussels-based Transport & Environment is warning that the rise of wider cars is leaving precious little space for other road users. “It is quite nuts how bad the problem of widening cars is getting,” climate researcher Ketan Joshi wrote on LinkedIn last week. “I can’t help but see every single net zero/climate pledge from these car companies in the context of them actively making their products more harmful and more dangerous for us.”
Joshi added: “As someone who faces daily threats as a pedestrian and cyclist in car-obsessed Oslo, mostly when I’m walking with both of my kids in a trailer, it’s very clear that car companies need to be strictly regulated ASAP if we have any hope of staying safe in public spaces.”
Rosemont Mayor François Limoges also pointed out the problem of equity. Citing an École Polytechnique Montréal study, he told Global News the popularity of mammoth vehicles, which typically occupy far more than a single parking spot, means that “his borough has lost as many as 10,000 parking spots in recent years.
“It’s time to have the conversation about the scale of the vehicles,” Limoges said.
As with Paris, the Montreal borough’s decision to penalize big vehicles was fuel-agnostic: ICE or EV, the cost to park increases with your car’s mass. Under the new pricing regime, vehicles under 1,550 kilograms cost $115 to park for a year. Annual passes to park vehicles 1,600 kilos and more are now $205.
Back in Paris, under Hidalgo’s direction, the bike network in the City of Light has expanded significantly, with 84 kilometres of cycling lanes added since 2020. Bike usage has surged correspondingly, jumping 71% between the end of the pandemic lockdowns and 2023.
Those who need to use SUVs to get around are expressing their displeasure at the new parking fees.
“It’s going to be about €200 a day,” Laure Picard, 37, told Reuters. “That’s extremely expensive. Life is expensive, children are expensive.”
“The goal is that we stop using our car, but we need our car to leave Paris during holidays and weekends,” Picard added.
But Juliette Bruley, 27, sees no problem with the parking pass increases. “Do you really need an SUV in Paris?” Bruley asked. “I carry my son on a bike, we found solutions.”
The “40 millions d’automobilistes” motorists’ lobby group has launched a petition to support the freedom to choose one’s vehicle. “We must firmly oppose these attacks on freedom pursued under false green pretexts,” the group said. “If we don’t stop it now, this unjustified rebellion led by an ultra-urban and anti-car minority will spread like gangrene to other cities.”