Re-Think! Parking on High Street (3)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

by: Qurius

Once upon a time, the adaptation of our traditional urban centres to allow for a finite number of car users may have been adequate to accommodate everyone who wanted to drive into the centre, but two important developments now prevent this.

  • High Levels of Car Ownership – The cost of the family car today is the equivalent of just 20 months average annual salary compared to four years average annual salary in 1952. Consequently, the number of vehicles has increased exponentially. Even though some commentators are suggesting that car ownership as a proportion of the population has peaked, the population is still growing which means the number of cars are likely to continue increasing.
  • Cars are Nearly Always Parked – Parking is performed at the beginning and end of nearly every journey. In fact, cars are estimated to spend an average of only 3 to 4% of its time in transit, spending about 80% of the duration parked at home and the remaining 16% parked at a destination.

Accommodating all car users is simply impossible in the modern day for our town centres. Parking management and enforcement has become a necessity in many busy locations. However, the nature of management and enforcement has caused conflict between the car user and the town centre.

There is popular concern that there is little correlation between the dynamics of the location and the cost of car parking. This has been compounded by competition from new shopping centres which have offered a safe haven for the car.

Implementation of Parking Management and Enforcement

There are at least two reasons why parking management and enforcement were initially introduced.

  • Recovery of Costs – Car parks are not free to provide regardless of whether the operator is public or private.
    • Town centres have high density of use and a short supply of available land. This makes space in the town centre relatively expensive. Land owners who decide to provide car parking have to calculate the opportunity costs of not having an alternative use.
    • Car parks have a limited lifespan meaning the costs of depreciation must be recovered to enable reinvestment.
    • The general costs of management, maintenance and enforcement must be taken into account.
      • For private owners, the recovery of costs will only be achieved directly through parking charges.
      • Public operators in a region in which revenue from business rates can be spent locally are afforded more flexibility on how costs can be recovered.
  • Changing Motorist Behaviour – Today’s levels of car ownership are extremely problematic for town centres. Unrestricted parking will lead to congestion, obstructions, pollution and spaces being occupied by the wrong users at inappropriate times. Well thought out parking management can be used to moderate demand, targeting specific types of users at different times of the day. For example;
    • Parking management has been used to ensure disabled car users benefit from convenient and cost effective access to the town centre.
    • Parking management has been used to supress demand during peak-time and encourage demand during off-peak.
    • Interventions have also been used to entice shoppers into the town centre but encourage commuters to park edge-of-town to ensure town centres are able to capture spend.
    • Finally, a very important motive behind parking management has been to influence a model shift in the transport choices of people from private transport to public transport, or from high emission vehicles to low emissions vehicles.

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).