|Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
I'm a day behind with this post and the leading national news stories today are really too depressing to comment on, when I've had a bad enough week myself. I thought instead I'd comment in the leading story on our local newspaper, the Bristol Post.
Residents' Parking Zones seem to be taking up the front page. This is due to our recently elected Mayor deciding that Residents' Parking Zones should be rolled out across central Bristol and surrounding areas in an attempt to cut down on congestion. The aim is to introduce these schemes in a phased rolling programme by September 2014. The affected area would be vast, as you can see on the map here. This would mean that to park on previously uncontrolled streets in these areas during the working day, you would need a permit, or pay and display if such facilities are available.
I live outside the area to be targeted, but there were attempts to introduce a Residents' Parking Zone on our estate a couple of years ago. All residents were invited to vote for or against the scheme, with the idea that it would be implemented only in roads where the majority of residents voted in favour. As it turned out only one road met the criteria, so in an estate of around 600 houses, only one road of fifteen houses has a permit scheme. It goes to show that it's not necessarily a popular move.
The proposed scheme would allow up to three permits per house, the suggested annual costs are £48 for the first car, £96 for the second and £192 for the third, with higher costs for businesses. It's clear to see why the council is keen on this idea. In areas where commuters grab every available on street space and residents are unable to park outside their homes during the day, I can see the appeal. However, there are already murmurs coming from areas which don't have a problem with commuter parking, where residents will see no benefit from the additional cost. Households would also be given fifty visitors permits a year to allow friends or tradesmen to park in their zone, but there are rumours that these permits are being sold in areas where the scheme has already been rolled out, or residents are unwilling to give visitors' permits to workmen. It's hardly practical for your plumber to turn up on the bus with the equipment he needs to do whatever work you've asked him to do.
That brings me to my greatest concern with this scheme. We don't live in London, this is Bristol. Our public transport provision is expensive and unreliable. That is exactly why people commute using their cars. I think in this area the Mayor is running before he can walk. The first step should be to improve the public transport system into the city centre from outlying areas, then attempts can be made to dissuade people from driving into the city centre. Until then, my concern is that these anti-car schemes will do no more than stopping people from wanting to work in the city centre as it becomes more expensive and less convenient to do so. Whether this would then drive businesses out of the centre and into industrial or business estates on the outskirts, only time will tell.