Parisians to vote on raising parking fees for SUVs

Parisians will be asked to vote Sunday on whether to triple the cost of parking Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) in the French capital, a move denounced as manipulative by motorist groups.

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Polls will be open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (0800 to 1800 GMT) in 38 voting stations for 1.3 million voters to answer: “For or against creating a special tariff for parking passenger cars that are heavy, bulky and polluting.”

Under the plan, internal combustion or hybrid vehicles weighing over 1.6 tonnes — two tonnes for electrics — would be charged 18 euros ($19.60) an hour to park in the city centre, and 12 euros in the outer districts.

Parisians with resident parking permits, taxis, tradespeople, health workers and the disabled would be exempt from the charge.

Paris has already pedestrianised roads along the River Seine, banned private cars from the central Rue de Rivoli, built bike lanes across the city, and closed off several local streets.

Justifying the latest proposed measure, Paris’s socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said in December: “The bigger they are, the more they pollute.”

Hidalgo also argued that SUVs monopolise space: city officials said the size of the average car had grown by 250 kilogrammes (550 pounds) since 1990.

‘Pushing too hard’

Drivers’ groups have attacked the scheme. SUV is “a marketing term” that “means nothing”, said Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France.

And while compact SUVs would not be covered by the measures, they would hit family-sized coupes and estate cars, he argued.

Conservative opposition figures on the Paris council say this imprecise targeting of the referendum “shows the extent of the manipulation by the city government”.

“A new, modern SUV does not pollute more, or can even pollute less, than a small diesel vehicle built before 2011”, said drivers’ group 40 millions d’automobilistes (40 million motorists).

“All you want is to annoy motorists in their daily lives,” a senior member of the group, Pierre Chasseray, said on news channel BFM TV, denouncing Hidalgo’s plan.

“You’re pushing too hard, something’s going to give, something’s going to break,” he added.

Hidalgo has made a credo out of turning Paris into an environmentally friendly city as it prepares to host the 2024 Olympics this summer.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo likes to tout her environmental credentials.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo likes to tout her environmental credentials. © Julien de Rosa, AFP

Her office claims the measures would affect about 10 percent of cars parked in Paris, and bring in an extra 35 million euros a year.

The last city referendum in Paris, on banning hop-on, hop-off rental scooters from the capital’s streets, passed in an April 2023 vote — but only drew a turnout of seven percent.

Hidalgo will be hoping for a higher turnout Sunday.


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