After Journal columnist Dave Wilson questioned how progressive the council’s new parking system is, the authority’s leader has hit back.
by Simon Cook
Another Monday, another moan from Dave Wilson. Pretty standard…
But last week’s was slightly different. He described the new ANPR ticketless parking system as “just car parks…an administrative system…with no positive impact on the lives of residents at all”.
I don’t think Dave could be any more wrong about that. Maybe he just doesn’t have the open mind and imagination he needs to think outside the box.
Firstly, of course it has an enormous positive impact on the users of the car parks – mostly local residents – from the get go.
You don’t have to guess in advance how much parking you’re going to need. You pay for what you use. It allows you to spend as much (or as little) time as you want, shopping, going for lunch or whatever tickles your fancy.
There’s no more paying for three hours when you only needed two – or having to panic to get back to the car park as the ticket’s going to run out. It’s good for users and it’s good for our businesses, too.
Having an online account also makes it a more seamless service. You don’t need to queue at a machine to pay – just drive up to the barrier and it’s all done automatically. In today’s hectic times, anything that reduces hassle is a good thing.
But that’s just the start of it. We’ll finally have a proper idea of how and when everyone uses our car parks. Maybe Thursday afternoons are particularly quiet – cheaper parking then might work to get more people into town, which would clearly be good for our shops and restaurants.
In Whitstable, we’ve previously introduced free parking in the morning to try and reduce parking problems outside town centre schools, and to encourage those on the school run to nip to the shops afterwards. With extra data we can look at how this can be done elsewhere – and also understand how this might affect our revenue.
And there’s more. This system makes it much easier for businesses to sell parking as part of their product. Maybe the Marlowe will look at bundling parking with their theatre tickets? Certainly some of our hotels and guest houses do this already and I’m sure more will follow.
Finally, there’s one big win that will help everyone, whether they drive a car or not. People looking for a parking space is a significant cause of congestion. One anecdotal figure that’s often used is that 30% of vehicles in major cities are simply looking for somewhere to park.
Now that may not be the case in Canterbury (although perhaps it is on a Saturday morning) but it’s still a sizeable fraction of cars. That will be causing a lot of congestion and, yes, air pollution.
Real-time data on parking spaces, which the new system allows, means that for the first time we’ll be able to tell drivers where the spaces are. They won’t need to go from car park to car park – we’ll be able to put it on the signs around the cities – or even into satnavs in the newest cars.
So, Dave – can you see now why I trumpeted this? Yes, it’s car parks but with the potential to bring all kinds of positive benefits to residents and businesses alike.
Simon Cook has been leader of Canterbury City Council since May 2015 and represents the Nailbourne ward for the Conservative Party
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