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Notes from Big Ben ...

Let's Bite the Hand That Feeds

By Peter Guest

So JVH doesn't like parking taxes because "it's a tax on people using their cars" (PT's Parking Blog). Where I come from, we call that a "transport policy instrument." You don't want people to use their cars so much so you tax them to make car-use less attractive. If you're sensible, you put the money raised into improving the alternative that you do want them to use: e.g., buses or bikes. That's exactly what Ken Livingstone has done in London with the "congestion charge," where the bus fleet has been massively expanded.
Two points: First, the people who pay the taxes voted for the people who impose the taxes and, second, if you don't pay the parking tax, the city will simply get the money from somewhere else. So, one way or another, you're going to have to pay, John.

Democracy
Democracy is a wonderful thing, but it can be a pain in the butt when you're trying to get something changed. It took about 10 years from when we first started to talk about changing our parking laws in the UK to the new system first hitting the streets.
In Abu Dhabi, UAE, things are a little simpler; we aim to introduce paid parking in the next few weeks, but have discovered that the municipality has no powers to either charge for street parking or write tickets. How long to change the law? "Anything up to two weeks, but we can probably do it in a day." Who said monarchies are a bad thing?
And that reminds me ...
The UK's "new" 1991 civil parking laws were a straight rip-off of the Washington, DC, Parking Enforcement Program of the 1980s, with two important differences: We did not have a scofflaw provision, and the police were totally excluded from parking enforcement
Fifteen years later, the government has just published a consultation paper in which it is proposing among other things two significant changes:
1. We should have a scofflaw measure where booting is targeted against persistent offenders.
2. Police officers should again have the right to deal with illegally parked vehicles alongside the municipal enforcement staff.
Didn't someone once say that those who don't learn from history will repeat its mistakes?

Call me Mr. President
It's always good when other people think you're doing a good job. On July 11, yours truly was elected President of the British Parking Association. We operate a system whereby you actually get elected as the Junior Vice President and then rise (like cream or scum, depending on your point of view) to the No. 1 job. It's quite a big deal over here. The actual inauguration was at our annual general meeting, but the big shenanigans were later at a formal reception in the Houses of Parliament, where a real, live government minister turned up.
I am particularly pleased, since a few years ago I led a campaign to change from a system where the president was appointed to one where he or she was elected. I am the first president to be elected in a competitive ballot.
I am not quite sure what I have let myself in for, but I know that one of the major tasks that faces me is to modernize the governance of the association, which has outgrown its present structure. Whatever happens, it should be an interesting year.

Parking for the disabled
In a recent PT's Parking Blog, JVH commented on proposals by a city to adapt all its parking meters so that they could be used by a person in a wheelchair. Here in the UK we had the same debate with a slightly different result If disabled drivers have to pay, then the equipment has to be fully accessible. If they don't, then it doesn't. The result? At most places parking for the disabled is free.
Incidentally, when did "disabled" come to equal "wheelchair?" A 6-footer with a back problem will have just as many problems using a parking meter at a wheelchair-accessible height as a person in a wheelchair has with a higher mounting.
Aren't our police wonderful? (1)
I live in a small town about 35 miles outside London. Farnborough's main claim to fame is that every two years, we have a major international air show, which some of you may have visited. The show can attract up to 100,000 visitors a day, and traffic conditions are inevitably chaotic. The police introduced various traffic management schemes to try to reduce problems.
One particularly sensitive route is the airfield perimeter road. The local Council has made this a permanent urban clearway, which means that cars can't stop on the road. However, two weeks before the show, the police erected additional signs to warn off drivers who might think of stopping to watch the flying. Sadly, the police always erect the wrong signs, which not only confuses drivers, but also makes the urban clearway unenforceable. Do you think I should tell them?
Aren't our police wonderful? (2)
Finally, back to Abu Dhabi, where the city is implementing paid street parking for the first time. Before doing this, it is reviewing the street geometry to improve parking and to ease traffic and pedestrian flow. In the middle of the trial area is a virtually empty car park, where a day's parking costs about 30% of what will be charged on the street.
Option 1: Allow the local drivers to get used to the concept of paying for parking at a low charge. Option 2: Abolish charges during the street work so drivers are not inconvenienced by it.
The local police have to license any street work, and as a condition, they imposed ...well, I don't really have to say any more, do I?

Peter Guest can be reached at peterguest@parking1.freeserve.co.uk.

Article Abstract from September, 2006




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