Re-Think! Parking on High Street (1)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

by: Qurius

Guidance on Parking Provision in Town and City Centres

There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence, opinion and speculation over the relationship between car parking provision and town centre prosperity. This confusion has been problematic for policy-makers at numerous levels.

The problem is most acute for local authorities who have to balance the sometimes conflicting needs of multiple stakeholders and develop accessibility and transport strategies, choosing between sometimes conflicting objectives.

The costs borne of maintaining and servicing a car park and the opportunity cost of what other uses that space could have been dedicated to, pitched against the needs of the car user, provide a difficult dilemma for local government, especially in light of a continuing devolution of fiscal responsibility.

An almost perfect storm

A number of factors have come together to create an almost perfect storm which prohibits access to traditional urban centres for car users. The majority of these urban centres pre-date the existence of cars and common car ownership. They are not purpose-built to accommodate the car and their density and high concentration of land use along with multiple land ownership make them difficult and expensive to adapt.

Parking tariffs - a necessity in many locations

This is why tariffs became a necessity in many locations, to ease congestion as well as to cover costs. However, there are concerns that fees are being introduced in areas where congestion is not an issue, or being raised to levels which stifle local trade. Concerns also surround the diversion of funds away from car parks, not allowing for the necessary reinvestment to take place.

This has worked in parallel with other societal and economic changes that have seen the town centre fall out of favour with many consumers who now have the choice to spend their time and money elsewhere.

Key findings

Primarily based off-street parking tariffs with incorporated car parking data on footfall, spend and offer (centre quality) - which are indicative of town centre health and prosperity - to examine whether it is possible to establish the extent of the relationship between car parking and town centre performance. And assessing their relationship to the quantity of spaces and the cost of parking for the first two hours.

This analysis produced the following findings:

  • Parking operators are providing parking provision which equates to the footfall levels achieved by their location.
  • There is no clear relationship between car parking charges (set by parking owners/operators) and the amenities on offer in a location with some mid-range and smaller centres charging more than what is consistent with the national average.
  • The mid-range and smaller groupings of centres that charge more than the national average in accordance with their offer, suffered a higher than average decline in footfall.

No simple formula

There is no simple formula that can be given on determining the right kind of tariff to be introduced nationally because every location is exposed to an individual set of dynamics and factors.

The only universal answer is that local authorities and other operators must develop a plan for parking provision that faces up to the question, “What and who is our parking for?” and compliments a wider strategy for accessibility that again, fits with a strategy for the town centre or local authority area.

A liberal extract from 'Re-Think! Parking on the High Street', an exploration and collation of evidence and learnings regarding the relationship between car parking provision and town centre prosperity - by the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM), the British Parking Association (BPA), Springboard Research Ltd and Parking Data & Research International (PDRI).