Germany: parking row brews as Green mayor plans to increase fees by 600%

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<span>Photograph: Yann Schreiber/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Yann Schreiber/AFP/Getty Images

The mayor of the southern German city of Tübingen has attracted praise and scorn alike for a new plan to increase parking fees by 600% in an effort to discourage cars – especially large ones – from the city.

Boris Palmer, a member of the Greens party, has won initial support for his proposal, which would see the annual parking fee for SUVs rise from 30 euros to 180.

Palmer had originally pushed for a fee of 360 euros, but did not secure sufficient backing from city officials in the climate committee.

According to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the top fee of 180 euros will apply to cars with combustion engines more than 1800 kg in weight, as well as electric cars weighing more than 2000 kg.

Palmer said that people on social security will pay half the regular fee. Exceptions are also due to be made for people with disabilities and care workers dependent on their vehicles to be able to carry out their job.

Palmer, whose controversial proposals and statements regularly make headlines beyond the university city where he has been mayor for 14 years, said the aim of the parking fee was to persuade car drivers to leave their vehicles at home and use public transport instead.

“There should be a noticeable difference between the fees small city cars and big sport utility vehicles have to pay, which actually aren’t needed in the city,” he argued.

Like other German cities, Tübingen aims to become climate neutral by 2030, requiring the huge expansion and increased accessibility of its public transport system. Central to the plan will be making it cheaper to use. Revenue from the increased parking fees is due to flow back into financing public transport. Other towns and cities are piloting similar schemes and the Tübingen proposals have won the broad support of environmental campaigners.

The final decision is to be met by the local council at the end of this month, but Palmer has reportedly secured the necessary backing as the backbone of the climate protection programme the council has in principal agreed upon.

Palmer initially laid out his argument for the increases this summer on Facebook, using the frank language for which he has become well known across Germany.

Addressing ‘dear car drivers’, he said: “You didn’t pay for the roads. Neither do you pay enough taxes. Your favourite form of transport is massively subsidised as it is, by all other taxpayers and the next generation. If the prices were to reflect the real amount you should be paying, a parking space would have to cost not 30 Euros a year, but 3000.”

The ensuing backlash saw Palmer stand accused by one Tübingen resident of “conducting a personal campaign against cars and their owners”.

Palmer replied he was “only against people who want other people to pay for their parking space, and then go on to moan on top of that”, and accused Germans of getting too emotional about their cars.

Palmer has previously been threatened with expulsion by the Greens after making remarks considered racist over a depiction of multicultural Germany in an advert by the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn, as well as for criticising a footballer in remarks for which he was also widely accused of racism.

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