Should we pay more to park in town?

by , Policy Adviser Transport & Travel 14 October 2010
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Car parking prices are set to soar in Cambridge – is this a sensible way of providing only essential access to a town’s amenities and businesses? Or does car use need to be discouraged from towns altogether?

Parking sign

As the squeeze on public spending intensifies (the bonfire of the quangos this week; the comprehensive spending review next week), councils are surely going to be thinking about putting prices of public amenities up.

Perhaps in a similar vein to Oxfordshire’s money-saving decision to turn off speed cameras, Cambridgeshire County Council is now eyeing a potential £260,000 boost to annual revenues by raising its parking charges.

In the first price rises since 2001, annual permits could go up by £7 to £26. Plus, on-street parking in central Cambridge could go up by between 50p and £1 per hour. To sweeten the pill, there’s a plan to cut parking prices in some bays on the edge of the city centre by 20p per hour.

Time to take the bus?

Presumably the plan (which will take effect from April if approved) is to encourage you to drive to the edge, park and walk in – or maybe use the Park and Ride scheme. Perhaps small medieval university cities need stricter limits on how much parking is allowed or encouraged. But does that hold true everywhere?

And what about the harm this will have on businesses? Restricting parking will not only mean a drop in visitors, but also reduced access for suppliers and deliveries. And people who don’t qualify for the Blue Badge scheme but find it hard to walk are going to find it tough (or expensive) to get into town.

How the figures add up

The council says that these increases are being ‘backed by savings plans’ and should ‘ensure the cost of providing the services does not exceed the available budget’. In other words, keeping parking as it is could result in them losing money.

That’s an interesting prospect. Lots of councils do lose money on parking, which could make other councils ‘do an Oxfordshire’ and (like speed cameras) turn parking off altogether…

But as several of you commented on the clamping and towing on private land Conversation, unfettered parking can be very bad news. And while car parking isn’t always a money-spinner, some councils make a fortune from it (Westminster makes around £15m in profit each year).

Unless they’re ranked ‘excellent’ by the (soon to be chopped) Audit Commission, councils have to spend any extra income on their transport services. Cambridgeshire says its parking income supports its park and ride and Shopmobility schemes.

Well, at least that might make you feel better when you cough up more to park in Cambridge. Will higher charges encourage you to get the bus, pay more to park centrally – or just go somewhere else altogether?

Higher car parking charges would make me:

Park further away and walk or use the Park and Ride (49%, 112 Votes)

Still park in town and pay more (21%, 48 Votes)

I don't drive so it's not an issue (16%, 36 Votes)

Use public transport or cycle (14%, 33 Votes)

Total Voters: 229

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18 comments

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Sophie Gilbert

I pay £80 for my annual parking permit in Edinburgh and as far as I’m concerned it’s money well spent. Now I can find a parking space for my car in my street every time I go home from work. Before the advent of parking parmits in my area it was impossible to find a space during the day if I came back at lunchtime if I had a half day off for example. On a Saturday or a Sunday around Christmas especially there even used to be double or triple parking, there was chaos in the residential streets around the city centre. Now you can park in my area if you have a permit or if you pay for a ticket, and the streets are well patrolled by parking attendants, so cheaters beware.

Incidentally Edinburgh council are thinking of introducing cheaper parking permits for ordinary cars and more expensive permits for gas guzzlers. Bring it on, I say.

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Phil

Why not just ditch parking charges everywhere except in the centre of the biggest towns and cities? My holiday in Provence this year (plus the several days of driving there and back in a leisurely fashion) didn’t entail a single parking charge. Even in a tourist venue like Orange I parked for free as long as a 5 minute walk to town was feasible. Everywhere else, just find a place and park. Lessons to be learnt here I think!

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David

Higher car parking charges would make me…
… either stay at home or go out of town shopping.
In other words I believe town centres will eventually die.
If we want to keep our town centres we should cut charges, perhaps making 2 hours or less free.
This is especially true in rural areas with few or no buses to hop on.

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redkite

We only buy our usual groceries in our small town, so have no need to pay high city parking charges – we have 2 small supermarkets, each with a free car park.

If we need to buy anything out of the ordinary that we cannot get in town, then we go to our nearest city and shop at the out of centre stores, again with free parking.

Other things we buy over the internet or by phone.

Towns/cities that charge high parking fees therefore suffer as we rarely go into a city centre.They will also suffer as more and more people will do as we are doing.

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pickle

Redkite hits the nail on the head – unless parking charges are kept down to a reasonable amount out towns and cities will just lose out. Permitted time for parking is another thing – the usual 2 hours is too short for tourists who want to trail round town and see the sights and possibly get a bit of shopping in as well. There should be additional parks where one could park for, say, half a day.

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mad1

I think what should happen is that only buses, taxi and cycles should all be allowed in town/city centres. All other vehicles should be on a park and ride on the edge of towns/city centres.

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James

” I think what should happen is that only buses, taxi and cycles should all be allowed in town/city centres. All other vehicles should be on a park and ride on the edge of towns/city centres.”

Why? Buses pollute more than cars and cost the taxpayer alot to subsidise them, park and rides cost alot of money for minimal takeup, taxi’s are cars and cycles are only convenient for physically abled people who dont intend to buy or carry much. My mother is disabled and couldnt get into the city using any of them three (she cant risk a taxi as not every car is comfortable for her). And most employed adults with money own a car and you’re basically saying you dont want them in cities spending their money, this is why the high street is dying. When you tell the majority of people with money ‘im going to make it hard for you to come to my shop’ you go out of business, end of.

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pgb65

Paying so much in motoring taxers I dont believe in paying for parking but also try to be considerate. Like if I go to Manchester in the car I can park with a 5 minute walk of the center.I also look for placers that offer free parking. If taking my Mum any wear who has a blue badge I will look up if there is anywear to park for free before going.
PS apt name mad1 not a driver then and how do you get the goods to the shops on a bike,bus or taxi of will you also allow trucks in?

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mad1

Yes I am not car driver and I will include trucks and vans into City/town centres. There are a lot padestrians in the city/town centres who get into accidents or maybe even death by fast inconsiderate dtivers and will make people shop quickly and easier also public transport will not be delayed for passengers.

I stay one of the deprived parts of scotland where there are close to 60% travel by public transport but many private vehicles arrive from the outskirts of the city/town.

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James

“”"There are a lot padestrians in the city/town centres who get into accidents or maybe even death by fast inconsiderate dtivers”"”

Alot of pedestrians get into accidents or deaths with Buses, Trucks and Vans as well, and ive been driving for 12 years and ive never speeded through a town or run anybody over. You want to ban everyone based on a tiny minority. Most accidents involving a pedestrian (over 98%) do not involve a car exceeding the speed limit, and 58% of pedestrians KSE’d last year were confirmed to have ‘not looked’ before walking into the road (Police and DfT figures). Pedestrians need to take responsibility and pay attention as well, not just meander about inconsiderately and blame the poor motorist unlucky enough to hit them for their stupid mistakes. Cars dont mount pavements to murder people and i have no wish to run anybody over, so if a pedestrian gets struck then they’re in the road and should look both ways first. The case of evil speeding motorist trying to run pedestrian over is responsible for around 0.0000000001% of these accidents. With modern Hybrid cars which cause zero pollution at low speeds pedestrians dont hear them coming, but that should be irrelivant as we were all taught to stop and look both ways as well as listen. Not hearing a modern, clean, low or zero pollution car coming is probably responsible for far many more accidents than ‘speeding inconsiderate drivers’ as non-motorists view all 33 million motorists as ‘inconsiderate’ for committing the unholy crime of owning a car. Examine facts and make an informed judgement, dont just let your prejudice shape your opinion.

“”and will make people shop quickly and easier”"

How will it make me shop quicker and easier if i have to park further away, walk further and carry my stuff back to the car further? That will make it longer and harder. Why would i choose to do that rather than buying it online for less money which goes to a Luxembourg tax-free account instead?

“”also public transport will not be delayed for passengers.”"

Delays are a part of life, why should the motorist be delayed for having to park miles away and the bus passenger exempt from this basic part of life? Buses and cars share the road perfectly well where i live with minimal delays.

“”"I stay one of the deprived parts of scotland where there are close to 60% travel by public transport but many private vehicles arrive from the outskirts of the city/town.”"”"

Those outsiders are probably contributing to your economy and preventing your area becoming even more deprived. You should do everything you can to invite them in, not force them to park on the outskirts of town. Why is it politically incorrect to admit the car is the best form of transport? Its not evil, its wonderful, its given the world so much why do you all want to ban it? I dont understand.

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Green Machine

I am sorry, but for once I abhor the which survey/poll, there is an obvious answer/choice which you have omitted, that of I would travel elsewhere where the parking is less/free and the facilities still there.
I refer to the many out of town shopping facilities, where free parking is available. in the recent past this has influenced me more and more on my shopping habits. I now find it financialy cheaper to drive 80 miles round trip to shop, rather than 12 miles round trip to my local town, this is purely due to the cost of parking. Sadly the environemntal impact must be huge, but in todays econimic climate, the immeadiate cost to my pocket is at current more important. I would love to be environmentall friendly on my car usage, but when it costs me upto £21 pound in taxi fares, or £10 in public transport or £15 in car and parking charges when two of us go into town from early to late,, and I can get £8 round trip at my convenience for the 80 miles, today that cost is the predominant factor affecting my choice.

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richard

I note with interest the poll does not give an option of what I will be forced to do – That is drive elsewhere – and so I will take my custom to somewhere else – so local shops will lose my custom..

My local area has just doubled the car park charges to £4 – There are no cycle parking facilities – so I can’t use a cycle and trailer.- even if I wanted to – particularly if they remove the traffic lights which are the only way I can cross the roads – hey doesn’t matter – only impatient inconsiderate young drivers matter!!

There is only one shopping area – because the rest were decimated when supermarkets drove local food shops off – the shops left do not cater for food – I can’t actually afford anything else with my state pension – you try with £95 a week today.

£4 is virtually all of my winter fuel allowance – so I would have to lower my house temperature to below the 54 degrees it is now – called cold – to pay the increase that’s OK I can use more sweaters!!

Finally – I could walk – but being old and frail – I couldn’t carry any shopping – Nor can I handle enough shopping if I use a bus (provided I would wait for one hour each way) – My shopping trip would increase to three hours – and in the winter????

Using a cart is a waste of time – the traffic doesn’t stop unless there are traffic lights – I suppose I’m “lucky” There are no speed cameras – Well not unless I shop elsewhere – then there are!!

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fat sam

I agree with others, if there was an option, I’d be clicking on the one that said ‘shop somewhere cheaper’ whether that be another town or online.

I think most councils live in some Utopian dream where everyone uses public transport. Great where public transport is cheap, reliable, extensive and clean. But until public transport is cheap, reliable, extensive and clean I’m afraid the vast majority of us will use our cars. And have they wondered what would happen if public transport cleared the roads…

So, I think personal transport is here to stay. I also think councils need to find a balance between additional income through raised parking charges against the potential loss in rates from closed businesses as visitors are deterred by higher charges. And in these difficult times I think councils need to do as much as possible to attract people back into town centres.

And town centre businesses need to re-invent themselves to compete against their online rivals to make visiting town centres an attractive option worth paying parking charges for. How about better customer service and more knowledgeable staff for starters?

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Vynor Hill

When I visit a major town/city and pump seven or eight pounds into a parking meter, I feel I’ve been robbed. Yet, I might spend the same on a lunch, a gallon(and a bit) of diesel for the car, three quarters of a haircut, something to read or a few bags of fruit and veg from the market. Is renting a small space of tarmac for a few hours any different from the above? The perception is that parking should be free or, at least peanuts. This is probably because most out of town malls are free-if you can find a place to park and don’t mind queuing to get in and out. The basis of all transactions seems to be: they’ve got something I want; what’s it worth to me to have it? On top of this ( for car parking) is the notion that the marketing of road space for parking or congestion charging is somehow immoral and we’re being ripped off. Space is limited in town and one way to ration it is to charge for it. I hate parking fees as much as anyone else, but wonder how rational that reaction actually is!

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James

” Is renting a small space of tarmac for a few hours any different from the above?”

I think it is. The difference is when you go into a shop to buy things you’re paying a business for their products. We already pay for the public road out of all the taxes we all pay, Council Tax, Income tax etc And more tax revenue is raised by those shops being there, open for business and paying their business rates as a result of your custom. Their shop rent keeps property companies open which also pays hefty tax etc…Plenty of tax is raised to cover what they make from parking charges. Why should we pay for the same thing again? To use your comparison it’d be like going to pay for your coffee in Costa, and then being charged for it again due to the space you took up in the shop to sit and drink it. You wouldnt get charged for your petrol twice due to the space you took up on the forecourt. You wouldnt get billed twice for your haircut due to renting the chair during the haircut etc In the case of the congestion charge, most of the money goes to a private company to fund the running of the scheme and with Hybrids being exempt despite being the same size as any other car shows its nothing to do with road space or congestion, its all a greenwash. (I own a Hybrid by the way). Charges in council car parks are generally reasonable, the extortionate fees from private companies which doesnt benefit the area at all should be banned. But the idea of ‘rationing roadspace’ limits the traffic you can accomodate which affects the economy, surely we should invest in ways to get more people to park, more people to use the town at once and more people spending money.

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Jonny

The ultimate aim must be to get cars out of our city centres – they poison the air we breath, congest our roads and clutter up our kerbsides, making cities much less pleasant places to be, particularly for pedestrians.

However, high parking charges can only be justified if a good alternative is in place. Perhaps the law needs to be a bit cleverer – councils can put parking charges up as much as they like – on the condition that there is a specified level of alternatives in place.

Also, in order to create a more level playing field, I think out of town developments should be charged a parking levy.

City centres can be lively, vibrant, beautiful places – we need to protect them.

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James

“The ultimate aim must be to get cars out of our city centres – they poison the air we breath, congest our roads and clutter up our kerbsides, making cities much less pleasant places to be, particularly for pedestrians”

Incorrect. Buses pollute city centres far more than cars, the particulates chucked out by the stoneage style diesel engines are far more dangerous than todays modern, very clean cars (and some Hybrids dont use their engine at slow city speeds at all, causing zero pollution) and a bus puts out up to 60 times more nox gases than an average car. Cars are not to blame for this sort of thing at all. Policies which ban cars and increase bus use only increases pollution and is not founded on science but rather anti-car political correctness. ‘Clutter up our kerbsides’ thats where cars park, what else would you be doing with the kerbside? Football tournament? People who say ‘cars make cities bad for pedestrians’ are talking nonsense, all pedestrians have to do is look both ways before crossing the road and they’ll be fine. Thats what i was brought up to do. You only seem interested in making it ‘pleasant’ for one group of people (pedestrians) but unpleasant for anyone who dares to travel there by (cleaner than buses) cars. Surely you need to incorperate everybody. As for ‘congesting our roads’ thats what roads are for, for cars to travel on. Traffic is the lifeblood of every economy. The day when roads are empty you’ll have FAR bigger problems than a cluttered kerbside. Such as no economy, no shops, no jobs, no work, no money, no city, no point.

If you want cleaner city air, campaign for a blanket ban on all buses from entering the city and encourage people to use cars instead. My mother is disabled and has no alternative to a car, and people like you are curtailing her freedom to use her car to go where she wants, due to a hate of the motorcar which is not based on science or logic, but on a hatrid of ‘clutter’ which i find very odd.

James

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Snaggletooth

I accept that parking charges in towns and cities are probably necessary, and am prepared to pay for the privilege, so long as the charges are fair and reasonable. I am beginning to get very angry about having to pay for parking “by the hour”. Many car parks issue tickets on entry and one pays before leaving, but how often one finds that having stayed for 2hours 5 minutes one is charged for 3 hours! Reason – more income. When I was on holiday in Murcia, Spain I noted that the car parks in the city centre charged by the minute. Stay as long as you wish and pay accordingly, and furthermore no parking fines for overrunning the time limit! I seem to remember similar issues with mobile phone charging a few years ago.

Some things that councils need to be aware of:
As Jonny reported City centres are vibrant, beautiful places and wealth generating hubs of our regions and we need to encourage people to visit as tourists and as locals alike. Parking charging policies should reflect this. There are so many out of town shopping centres where parking is free and within easy reach of the amenities Our city centres are losing out as a result.
Parking policies need to reflect the specific needs of the town or city, but all too often the policy is biased towards a commercially driven income stream. I live in Newcastle one of the few places to charge for parking on Sunday.Why? More income! Comparatively speaking we do not have significant congestion problems and apart from very occasional times at Christmas parking is generally easy to obtain.
There is a hard fact of life that the majority of people want to come to our cities by car, either as residents or visitors. We should never underestimate the the commercial benefits as a result. There needs to be a radical improvement in public transport policy (eg free to city centres) before I can see any change to this. Although come to think about it, being over 60 and possessing a free bus pass I still prefer to go by car – why do think that is?

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