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THE ROAD TO SOMEWHERE

02-10-2006

The Stirrer recently reported that Birmingham City Council are reviewing their parking charges, upwards. [see link]. Why? Andy Goff offers a truly radical alternative that would free us from the tyranny of the traffic warden.

Last weekend I was involved in a conversation on this very subject. The question was “Why do we pay to park?”

There are several reasons.

We pay people like NCP because they have the cost of buying land, building multi-story car parks, painting lines on concrete, paying local business rates, paying for electric lighting, paying the salaries of those employed to guard the site and the cost of those ever present CCTV systems, oh yes, and the cost of maintaining the automatic barriers. So, fair enough. They maximise the revenue per square foot of land they bought and we pay to use it on a time share basis.

Then there are the rough and ready sites.

A bit of land awaiting redevelopment can earn quite a bit for its owners if they turn it over to parking pending building permissions.

Then there is The Road!

We, Tommy Taxpayer, have paid for the roads, their upkeep, the white lines, the yellow lines, the sign posts, the lamp-posts, the little placards that say “No parking between 7am and 7pm”, the machines that produce paper, the land that is council owned (which means Tommy Taxpayer again) and still we are charged to use the road we have already paid for.

We pay for The Road over and over again. Council tax, business rates, road fund licence, vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT and parking. The Road must be the most paid for piece of real estate in the world. If it hadn't evolved it would have had to be invented as the perfect money maker.

So why do we pay to park on The Road?

Of course there are places we shouldn't park.

On dangerous bends, outside schools, on busy stretches of road where parking would cause chaos, over peoples drives; you get the drift. But it seems nonsensical to have to pay to park where we are already allowed to park - on The Road.

If it's so that parking places are shared by many people in a kind of forced altruism that might make sense. In a “Ooh! My turn next, hurray!” kind of way. But we know it isn't like that.

We might as well have all the spaces on The Road available on a first come first served basis, stay as long as you want and no fee. Some people will find that inconvenient but I can't see it would be anymore inconvenient than it is now. Try parking round the Corporation Street area during the working day. It's always a problem.

My suggestion is that we sack all traffic wardens, make safe parking on The Road free, treble the fines for illegal parking and take our chances on finding a space outside the shop we want to visit. We would save money on servicing the ticket machines, issuing parking tickets, closing down a section of the Council administering parking spaces, chasing up parking fines and taking non-payers to court.

I don't see it would make traffic congestion worse and it might, if people thought they would have to run the lottery of finding a parking space, push people to use public transport more.

Who knows? It might lead to an increase in visitors who spend more in the shops generating greater wealth in Birmingham. It sure would put us on the “Cities of Innovation” map. If such a thing exists!

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