Detect ticket dodgers and defuse danger spots
In conversation with Dr Almut Neumann, District Councillor in Berlin-Mitte
Dr Neumann, in your district of Berlin-Mitte, so-called scan vehicles have been on the road for about a year as part of a pilot project. What exactly is this about?
At its core, our Scan Car project is about a modern form of parking space management. The districts of Mitte and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg have a particularly high parking density due to their central location in Berlin. Therefore, we are particularly interested in digital solutions for the future. Of course, the whole thing doesn't work without the involvement of the state of Berlin. So together with the Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer and Climate Protection, we have set up a new office to prepare a digitalised parking management system. This office is in the process of bundling and managing all relevant processes.
Is digital parking management, i.e. the recording of parked cars without a ticket, already running - even if only as a pilot project?
No, that would not be possible yet. Although the scan cars have been driving on the streets for months, they only record the existing parking space: How many public parking spaces do we have in Mitte exactly? Of course, the administration had official information on this before, but now an exact mapping is being done. And not only that: the cars also make the utilisation transparent by passing through all parking spaces several times. In this way, it can be determined, among other things, when and where a lot of parking takes place and which spaces are hardly used. The evaluation will take place in the summer.
Why would digital parking management using scan cars not yet be possible?
There are several challenges. First of all, there is the technical component. There is no "Berlin tool" for this yet. However, we are in contact with various providers who are already practising such solutions in other European countries. Examples are cities in France, Poland or the Netherlands. A first test run last year in Grunewald was also very promising. The questions were: Can the number plates still be read when the cars are parked crooked or close together? Another component is the legal one: digital parking management, as we are striving for, is currently not permitted.
What is the legal problem?
The StVO would have to be changed. In its current version, it already provides for digital management - otherwise it would not be possible to book tickets by mobile phone. But only as a supplement, not as the sole means. However, I am confident that the necessary changes will be made in the near future; after all, they are part of the coalition agreement at the federal level. This would implement another small building block for digitalisation in Germany. We also need to pay attention to the issue of data protection. The European General Data Protection Regulation allows digital parking management, but the Federal Constitutional Court has set its own standards for Germany. This requires an independent legal basis. After all, vehicle registration numbers are indeed recognised and compared with databases. But it is not a question of creating movement profiles or the like. This is where the technical and the legal become intertwined: We are required to choose the "least data-intensive" option. This means that the data may only be used for a specific purpose and must be deleted immediately afterwards, etc. We assume that the legislative competence for this lies with the state. As soon as the legal basis would be in place, we would take the next steps. The preparations within the Scan-Car office are already underway, as mentioned earlier.
What other possibilities does digital management offer in addition to effective "ticketing"?
In a further step, parking in violation of traffic regulations could also be penalised. This additional option would be very welcome in the medium term. With geo-fencing via GPS location of e-scooters, which is used to get a grip on the inconsiderate parking of scooters, one can see that there are unfortunately still considerable spatial deviations. However, I think it would be different with the use of scan cars for parking violators. But I honestly believe that we will still need some time to actually punish parking in violation of traffic regulations digitally. For reasons of road safety, however, it is definitely something to strive for.
Speaking of which: In a newsletter you mention "Vision Zero". What exactly do you mean by that?
What is meant is the goal that there should be no more deaths and serious injuries in traffic. In the Mitte district alone, we have 3,000 accidents with personal injury every year. Most of these are pedestrians and cyclists, especially children and the elderly. So we have a huge safety problem. As a public authority, we have a duty to provide people with adequate infrastructure.
What are you doing to defuse the situation?
Last year, for example, we made 50 intersections safer with relatively simple means. Bike racks were placed where the first regular car parking spaces used to be. This way, a better view before crossing the intersection is possible. And the intersections can no longer be illegally parked over. This not only contributes to increased safety, but also helps the traffic turnaround: The safer it becomes, the more people use the bicycle and leave the car behind.
Finally, once again on parking space: What will you do if the evaluation of the model project in the summer shows that the currently available spaces in Mitte are far below the actual demand?
The findings will help us to get an accurate overview. But of course we will not be able to create any new parking space in Berlin-Mitte, if only because of the limited space available. Instead, the goal of the traffic turnaround in the inner city districts is to reduce motorised private transport. One way we can control this is through parking fees. In my opinion, cars actually take up a disproportionate amount of space: Two-thirds of the public road space in Berlin-Mitte is reserved for them, although only one in six trips is made by car. In order to resolve this disproportion, we are also using existing parking space in a different way, step by step: for example, we allow restaurateurs to permanently expand their bar front gardens to include parking bays. Neighbourhood initiatives are allowed to set up street furniture and thus create small green oases. Many tree grates in public spaces need to be extended so that they can absorb more water, especially in summer. We also need more bicycle lanes with special protection from car traffic. For all these projects we will convert public parking space.
That sounds like a car-free Berlin-Mitte ...
In certain situations, you will probably always be dependent on the car, that's quite clear. For example, if you have to carry heavy shopping or are affected by illness. Rural areas also need to be looked at separately. Connecting the surrounding areas is a central challenge - especially with rising rents in the city centre. Here, measures such as "Park & Ride" and car sharing should be promoted.
Thank you for the interesting insight.
DR. ALMUT NEUMANN
studied law in Freiburg i.Br., Paris and London. The "Licence en droit", the State Law Examination and the Master of Laws (LSE) were followed by the legal clerkship at the Berlin Court of Appeal and the doctorate in constitutional history at the Humboldt University of Berlin. From 2018, Neumann worked as a judge in Berlin, most recently as a judge at the Berlin Administrative Court. Since 2021, she has been a district councillor for public space in Berlin-Mitte (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), responsible for order, environment, nature, streets and green spaces.