“Free” parking review meeting today

parking-charges-car-park-ticket-machine-149887544

The decision to allow free car parking at some City centre car parks has been called in for reconsideration. The meeting takes place later today (Monday) commencing at 5:00pm at West Offices.

The main area of concern relates to the proposal to have free parking between 8:00am and 9:00am – times when the highways network can be congested, and most City Centre shops are closed.

Those studying the reports, by officers of the Council, have been surprised that no modelling work appears to have been undertaken to assess the impact that the additional traffic would have on journey times.

Similarly the papers fail to provide any detailed assessment of the assumptions made regarding the reduction in income that the changes may have on the Council’s budget overall, although much of this will be offset, for a short time, by use of Section 106 contributions from the developers of Monks Cross.

All in all, there are a lot of questions still to be answered on a policy change which is supposed to be implemented on 26th May.

“Free” parking scheme – report published

parking-charges-car-park-ticket-machine-149887544

The York Council has sneaked an additional report onto the agenda of its “Cabinet” meeting which is taking place on 24th April.

It will discuss the plans for the free City centre parking scheme – which was originally scheduled to be considered on 6th May.

The change to the agenda has not been formally publicised, so many residents will be unaware that they have very little time – over Easter – to make their views known.

The report says that any continuation of “free” parking – after the Vanguard section S106 monies have run out – will be funded by City centre businesses that will be expected to participate in a “Business Improvement District” (BID).

The last attempt to form a BID in York floundered as most businesses did not wish to subscribe.

The Council has admitted that the scheme will cost it £275,000 in income plus any reduced income resulting from those drivers who switch to the free period from other times of the day (or from those car parks on which charges wills till apply like Bootham Row).

Our estimate of £500,000 a year in lost income seems about right.

The Council seems to have no idea what the impact on the viability of park and ride services will be.  No allocation for lost fare revenue is included in the costings.

No consultation with NCP and other private sector car park operators appears to have taken place.

The report is silent on how visitors will be reminded that, if they arrive during a “free” period, they may still need to purchase a pay and display ticket if they intend to continue their stay after 11:00am.

Some Council car parks will still charge £2 an hour during the “free” period. Quite why anyone would chose to pay when they can park for free nearby is not explained!

No assessment is made of the effect that the scheme will have on peak period traffic volumes. There is no acknowledgement of the impact that the change may have on deliveries which will be taking place in the Footstreets during these hours.

No attempt has been made to explain why the free period starts at 8:00am – before many businesses and most shops have opened.

We still believe that this scheme has not been fully thought through although the Council Leader James Al;exander asserts that he has spent 6 months working up the plan!

“Free” car parking in York

Since 2012 Labour has  increased car parking charges by as much as 80%.

It has been an open secret that businesses in the City centre hoped to extract major concessions on car parking charges when the new John Lewis development opened at Monks Cross.

Castle short stay car park

Castle short stay car park

Even so, today’s Council announcement that there would be “free” car parking at many  City centre car parks between 8:00am and 11:00am on  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays comes as a surprise.

Nothing is “free”.  The loss of income – which would eventually fall on taxpayers – could be as much as £500,000 pa.

Dumping more traffic onto the highways network at the busiest time of the week (between 8:00am and 9:30am) could have far reaching consequences for traffic congestion.

The selected times are also those when deliveries are being made in the footstreets area

Park and Ride passenger numbers are likely to suffer, while many shoppers and short term visitors may well choose to do their business in the 3 hour “free” period, leaving car parks empty at other times of the day.

The Council isn’t even in a position to make such an announcement.

No Councillor or officer has that delegated power (just as the “Labour Group” had no constitutional power to remove the restrictions on Lendal Bridge).

But the Councils constitution and delegation schemes have been thrown out of the window in the last few weeks.

A report indicating the consequences of the proposal must go to the “Cabinet” meeting which is taking place on 6th May

Taxpayers, bus users (who would be delayed by added congestion) and rival car park operators will look with interest at the assumptions being made. The private operators  in particular may regard the Councils plan as unfair trading given that the subsidy will apparently come from Section 106 monies derived for the Vanguard development.

With the Council heavily dependant on the £5 million that it receives from off street parking charges, the unanswered question is what happens when the Vanguard subsidy runs out?

A more flexible approach to charging levels is needed and new technologies make this possible.

However, like the Lendal Bridge trial, the plan has all the hallmarks of a badly thought through scheme.

Visitors who arrive back at their vehicles at 11:30am, and find that they have been fined for failing to “pay and display”, are unlikely to be very happy.

The safest option would have been to reduce the charges at off peak times and focus further discounts at identified “shopper’s car parks” such as Fossbank.

The Council should also get on with resurfacing the Castle car park (safety issue) and making sure that the “parking space availability” real time information is once again provided on both their web site and on the variable message boards located on arterial roads.

NB. The Council appear to have missed the irony of issuing, with their media announcement, a photograph of Councillors striding through an already full car park.