Magazine

Notes from Big Ben

The Brit Takes on the Editor Ė And the Irish

Peter Guest

In a recent Parking Today blog entry, JVH criticized UK authorities for ticketing vehicles that were loading and unloading. ďThis is patently absurd,Ē says our leader, and issuing a citation because the law says you canít park there is ďhorsefeathers.Ē Well, no, John, itís not.
Most of our towns and cities pre-date the car; buildings donít have loading bays; and our street pattern was old when the Romans got here. Result: In many places a narrow street has to be shared by pedestrians, buses, cyclists, moving traffic and people making deliveries.
It doesnít all fit in, and so we to share the space, usually by time-based restrictions. Parking may be banned all day (use the car park) and loading is banned during the peak to maximize traffic flow. Loading is allowed in the middle of the day, but the length of time is limited so that a van isnít left all day by a shopkeeper too lazy to walk a few yards. Believe it or not this happens.
Yes, we do have a problem, and that is just how to tell when someoneís loading the truck. Taking pallets off the tailgate is easy, but what about the courier? The guy takes a small high-value item and locks the vehicle while he goes up to the 10th floor to try to get a signature.
When he comes back 20 minutes later, he has a ticket. The ticket is void if he challenges it, of course, but there is no way the warden can tell whatís happening at the time. He could assume that any van is loading, but on one visit in London, a warden got 30 BT (telephone service) vans in one hit. This wasnít at a major failure of the phone network; it was at a coffee shop.
I was recently invited to speak at the Irish Parking Associationís annual conference in Dublin. This is a one-day event with a small exhibition. I was scheduled to talk over lunch about my work in Abu Dhabi. That was the plan, but the dining room was not set up for a speech, so I was added to the conferenceís afternoon session.
Itís interesting to see how another country does things, and I couldnít help but think things would be a lot easier in Ireland without the politicians.
The first speaker was Owen Keegan, who used to be Director of Traffic in Dublin, where he introduced effective street enforcement and helped to advance LUAS, their new light-rail system. He now works at Dun Laoghaire a suburb of Dublin just down the coast.
The Irish legal system has the same roots as the British, with one important difference. Their law has not really kept up with the rapid motorization of the country, and so the system of dealing with offenders is no longer up to the job.
The city employs wardens and they write tickets, but Ė and itís a big but Ė if the ticket is not paid voluntarily, the city has to take the driver to court. The city can prosecute only a few tickets each month, after completing a nine-step process that includes serving of solicitorís letters and serving a summons on the driver. As a result, there is a steadily growing list of persistent offenders, with some drivers now owing more than 100 unpaid tickets.
The obvious solution is to clamp, but after a campaign orchestrated by the local business association, the Councillors (those pesky politicians) kicked this idea out. Itís strange that the local traders feel it is more important to protect a few hundred persistent law breakers rather than protect the valuable parking spaces for their law-abiding customers. Keegan is rather certain that the Councillors will eventually see the light, but until then, the bad guys will continue to ignore the rules.
Another problem in Ireland that they share with the UK is the use and abuse of disabled parking facilities. In the UK, badges are issued by the local council using an agreed set of criteria, and each badge has an expiry date and photo of the user to stop abuse. The disabled driver gets a windscreen sticker and can park in specially designed and reserved spaces.
In Ireland, permits are issued by local doctors using their own judgment. The permits last forever, so too many badges are issued and too many are misused. The solution of issuing the permits centrally and putting a sell-by date on them seems a step too far for the Irish legislators, and so badges will continue to be handed down as a treasured family heirloom and widely abused.
The Irish economy is booming, and Dublin Airport has seen phenomenal growth in traffic, with demand increasing from 14 million to 23 million passengers since 2000. The airport is now over capacity, and problems will continue until a second terminal opens in 2010, which will double capacity to 30 million.
The airport has about 29,000 public parking spaces, of which 2,600 are short stay at the terminal and a little over 26,000 are longer stay for fliers. To maximize use of the spaces, the airport has just implemented a new control system, provided by Designa, that has improved the efficiency and quality of the parking service by measures such as providing a single access point to serve all the short-stay terminal car parks; replacing pay-at-exit by pay-on-foot; improving taxi queue management; and encouraging better use of the more remote car parks.
The guys at Dublin Airport Authority and Designa have done a great job in squeezing every last drop of capacity out of what they have. However, for the future, those little leprechauns Ė ďthe plannersĒ Ė decided to set aside the real world in favor of some theoretical la la land.
The airport has no rail links and is doubling in size in 2010. The planners have insisted that public parking can increase by only about 10%. Further staff parking is not allowed to increase at all, although there will be twice as many workers after 2010. I guess there will be a lot of people walking to work in 2010.
Finally, at the British Parking Association, we have just had our annual Presidentís dinner in the sumptuous surroundings of Draperís Hall in the London. This is a glitzy black-tie affair in one of the ancient City Livery company buildings. The City Livery companies are the successors of the medieval trade guilds, where 400 years ago one would have had to be a member of the drapers company to sell cloth within the city of London.
My main memory from my year as BPA President was the requirement to shake hands with all 210 guests and then make a speech in front of some of the most senior people in the business.

See PTís Parking Blog at www.parkingtoday.com for my response to Peterís challenge. JVH

Peter Guest is PTís Correspondent for Europe and the Middle East. He can be reached at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

Article Abstract from January, 2008




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