Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pay & Display v. Drop & Go

There’s something strange going on around here. I have no empirical data on this, although I suspect it does exist, but it seems to me that the amount of traffic on our roads has been rising exponentially for as long as I can remember, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. However, there is another trend working in precisely the opposite direction. Car Parks are being closed due to “lack of use”. So where are all these extra cars parking, or is the increased traffic partly due to cars perpetually going round in circles trying to find somewhere to park?

The latest example comes from our neighbours in Waltham Forest where the council have approved the building of houses on a “redundant” car park in Palmerston Road. This got me thinking. I started using the mutli-storey car park in Bramley Crescent by Gants Hill Station as a commuter parker in 1984. In those days the barrier was operated by placing a 10p coin in a slot machine and, being a later traveller, I usually parked up on the 6th floor, one down from the roof. By the time it closed in about 1994 we had graduated to a swipe card operation which cost £25 per month and I was parking on the third floor, by choice, next to the manned office missing out the sparsely occupied lower floors.

When that car park closed I moved to the surface car park by the Library in Cranbrook Road for a couple of years before I retired. That was cheaper at £13 per month and the car park was well used, probably about 85% full when I got there between 9:00-9:30am. I have no idea how much a monthly ticket for that car park costs today, some 16 years later. I passed that car park last Tuesday (a work day, at about 1pm) on the bus, seated upstairs, and was surprised to see that it was somewhere between 30-40% full or 60-70 empty. There was another multi-storey car park that I used in Ilford Town centre, approximately behind Fairheads, and very close to Ilford Station which is now sheltered housing. As you all know the Bramley Crescent car park is now a block of flats.

Moving closer to home I recall a time when the Craven Gardens car park was very well used. It was of course free back then but even so this did not offset the extra cost of another Zone on the Tube as Fairlop station was in Zone 5 at the time. This car park is rarely even a third full now and this despite the removal of free commuter parking in Forest Road between the station and the entrance to Fairlop Waters. Where have they all gone? At the other end of the High Street there have been plans to build housing on the underused Court Way car park, while there is free commuter parking in Station Road and Baron Gardens which appear to be the subject of the proposed new Pay & Display schemes which aren’t, or are they? Meanwhile the High Street itself never seems to be short of parkers, especially late at night in bus stop clearways. And the Exchange Car Park in Ilford was full up today which rather belies the doom forecasts about the impact of Stratfield.

Shifting over to Wanstead there is the amusing story of Spratt Hall Road. The residents complained about the commuter parking and lo parking restrictions were introduced, meaning that there is now no obstruction to through traffic stamping on the accelerator pedal. The residents are now complaining about speeding – see Wanstedium.

Further afield there are plans in Wembley to REDUCE car parking fees but don’t expect anything that radical around here. There was an occasion some years ago when our Council Leader said he would look at such a scheme but nothing came of it.

So, getting back to the point. There is an increase in traffic but a decrease in car park usage, especially near railway stations. What can this mean? I think it may mean that more people are getting a lift to and from the station – equating to twice the mileage, twice the petrol consumption, twice the air pollution and twice the carbon emissions. Who said “beware of unintended consequences”?

And while we are on the subject here’s a photograph that caught my eye on Twitter. I'm surprised it didn't get a parking ticket ...


  1. I can tell you why the car park at end of Craven Gdns is half empty, most of the parkers use the lower end of Tomswood Hill and have a tendency to park across entrances with total disregard for the residents. One of the houses usually blocked is my own so when MY friends come to visit there's nowhere for them to park unless they block someone else's driveway. These people should be given parking tickets. If they had to pay a fine they'd soon use the car parks as it would be cheaper.

    1. If they obstruct a drivewhay where the kerb has been dropped then they can be given a ticket. Telephone the council's parking enforcement on 020-8708 5211 giving them details of the car (make, model, colour, registration). When they arrive they will ask you to sign a paper and will then ticket the offending vehicle.