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Policies gridlock - Transport - PlanningResource

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Policies gridlock
Planning, 17 July 2009

Conflicting objectives and priorities make parking provision a problem area for policy-makers and a source of deep frustration for the motoring public, John Siraut discovers. There are around 27 million cars in this country and they spend the vast majority of their time parked somewhere. The total area dedicated to parking is larger than the city of Southampton. Parking is a political minefield and it remains one of the most overlooked aspects of transport and planning policy. A recent DfT report on public experiences and attitudes towards parking finds that more than a third of those surveyed believe "local parking restrictions in their area are mostly there to make money". Yet 80 per cent also agree that restrictions "are there for a good reason". Disjointed policies add up to angry motorists. The recent draft of PPS4 (Planning, 8 May, p1) proposes to cancel national parking standards for non-residential uses and devolve them to councils in consultation with local communities. Its approach is similar to that for residential parking under PPS3, which advises authorities to take account of the conflicting demands of expected levels of car ownership, promotion of good design and efficient use of land. PPS4 suggests that locally-based parking standards must have regard to a number of factors, some of which are conflicting. On one hand, councils must take account of the need to provide adequate levels of parking to ensure town centre vitality and viability. At the same time, they have to tackle congestion and reduce carbon emissions. The government recognises that this change in policy could lead to councils allowing the maximum possible amount of car parking to give them a competitive advantage. It is a classic case of guidance that provides no guidance. At present, limiting parking provision for residential developments has led to greater pressure for on-street parking and disputes between neighbours. In some authorities, failure to provide enough parking space for commercial developments leads to schemes being rejected because of concerns about their impact on parking elsewhere. Yet if no car parking is provided, fewer people drive to work. We can infer from the government's annual national travel survey (NTS) that most parking is related to commuting, shopping and leisure trips (see panel). Each year, cars are parked 2.6 billion times in the vicinity of workplaces. Just over three-quarters of cars used for work are parked in a private car park, usually connected to an individual's workplace. But every working day around 1.6 million cars are parked on the street and a further 500,000 in public car parks. In some places, this brings commuters into direct conflict with residents, shoppers and visitors to town centres. The NTS found that three per cent of commuters - 300,000 24/07/2009

Policies gridlock - Transport - PlanningResource

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motorists - complained of a lack of parking places near their workplace. Around 12 per cent of commuters who do not have access to private car parks and are therefore most likely to be in conflict with shoppers and residents. Making heroic assumptions about the destination and time distribution of shopping, leisure and personal business trips, around ten million car parking spaces are required to meet demand for these journeys. Many of these spaces are in private car parks. Others are in public car parks and on residential streets. The NTS found that four per cent of shoppers complain about a lack of parking. Assuming that all motorists are shoppers, that equates to a million people who are probably taking their money to out-of-town shopping centres. Management attempts to resolve conflict When those 27 million cars go home, where do they park? This depends on where you live. In London only half are parked off-street, while in rural areas the figure is 80 per cent. The majority of households have garages but only around 40 per cent actually park their vehicles in them. Across the country, nearly seven million cars are parked on-street. The RAC Foundation forecasts that a further 2.8 million cars will be parked on-street by 2030. So pressure on spaces will continue to grow. It is apparent that parking supply has not kept up with demand - hence motorists' increasing frustration. To manage the conflicts between commuters, residents and shoppers, councils have become more proactive at managing parking spaces. Residential parking permits are one popular tool. The aim is to prevent all-day parking by non-residents in residential areas. The DfT parking survey found that 56 per cent of households have access to on-street parking and nine per cent of these - around 1.2 million - need a parking permit. Almost a fifth of households living in areas requiring a permit do not own a car. Local authorities have certainly used parking permits as a way of changing household behaviour. It is increasingly common for them to apply differential pricing for permits based on engine size, type and number of vehicles. As the number of streets covered by parking permits increases, so does the demand for exemptions. Local authorities provide reduced rate permits for a whole range of individuals, from health visitors to tradespeople, ministers of religion and members of the local bowling club. Not surprisingly, this leads to confusion among motorists about where they can and cannot park. In urban residential areas, it will become increasingly rare to be able to park on-street without a permit, which might persuade more people to use their garages for their designed purpose. Even so, in some areas more permits are issued than there are parking spaces available. Research reveals the added problem that workers are prepared to park up to 20 minutes away from their workplace, so an on-street parking problem can become displaced from one locality to another as people continue to leave their cars in residential areas further out from town centres. As another way of resolving tensions caused by different road users, councils have traditionally distinguished between long-stay and short-stay car parks. But the fact that 500,000 places in public car pars are taken up by workers suggests possible displacement of shoppers from many town centres. Many councils say they are working to discourage commuters from using their car parks but still sell annual season tickets at 30 per cent 24/07/2009

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discounts. About 100 councils lose money on their parking operations, effectively subsidising motorists to park in their towns. Market understanding key to strategy Pressure for parking continues to grow and councils need to balance conflicting interests. In some localities, all-day parking will be available only to "blue badge" holders as spaces are reallocated to short-stay shoppers and leisure users. This in turn will feed demand for park-and-ride services. These generally require a subsidy and are often on greenfield sites - another example of a lack of joined-up policies in planning and transport. How can local authorities deal with increasing parking demand and the political consequences of implementing further control over parking while at the same time trying to promote sustainability? The first step is to fully understand the parking market in their area, the reasons why people are parking in particular locations and the ways they respond to policy interventions. The demand for and supply of parking spaces, pricing policies and the appropriateness of restrictions all need to be taken into account. Yet we have come across situations where restrictions have not been reviewed for 30 years and the reason for them is no longer valid. On-street parking charges should always be higher than off-street, yet they rarely are. Enforcement is also a planning matter. A recent study revealed that ten per cent of parking spaces on one retail street were filled by cars parked all day in defiance of a twohour waiting limit. A fifth of motorists find their local parking restrictions confusing. Perhaps as a result, a similar proportion received a parking ticket last year. Two-fifths of the recipients did not believe that they had parked illegally. Do parking policies tie in with other transport policies? Why do parking restrictions apply on weekdays but not at weekends, when there is often higher road congestion and surplus public transport capacity? How can surplus private parking spaces be better used at weekends by the public to reduce on-street parking pressure? How are parking prices set? And how do restrictions affect different groups in society? The majority of tickets are issued to lower-income groups. There are many questions but few politicians either know or want to know the answers. As a result, policy decisions are made in an evidence vacuum. Parking is a key service provided by councils. It affects their revenues and the performance of their town centres. But it generally lacks any notion of customer service. How many councils aspire to implement a parking system that aims never to issue a parking ticket? With the use of the right technology and policies, better parking provision and management could reduce the motorist's mistrust of councils and offer a significant competitive advantage to town centres. It is time for a more coherent approach to parking that reflects wider transport and planning policies at local and regional level. - John Siraut is an associate director at Colin Buchanan. JOURNEY PURPOSE - DAILY ESTIMATE OF CARS PARKED Commuting 10.3m 24/07/2009

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Education 2.4m Shopping 5.7m Other escort 3.5m Personal 3.2m Leisure 6.1m Source: Derived from National Travel Survey 2006 WORKPLACE PARKING - LOCATION OF DAILY PARKING SPACES Private car park 7.8m On-street 1.6m Public car park 0.5m Elsewhere 0.4m Source: National Travel Survey 2007. 24/07/2009