Sunday, 22 May 2011

Residents Parking - pilot period approaching

The Kingsdown Residents Parking Zone (RPZ) became operational on the 4th January, so we are now approaching the end of the six month pilot period.

As part of the six month review, the Council is writing to both (a) people living within the RPZ - this letter was sent last week, and (b) people living nearby, broadly including the area in Cotham south of the railway line - this letter is being sent next week. Both letters invite feedback about how parking and other road issues have developed since the RPZ was installed, with a view to informing the review as to whether there are things that can be done to improve how the RPZ works.

Anthony and I have been collecting feedback from Cotham residents throughout the last five months and the general pattern (with exceptions) is that those living inside the RPZ are very happy with it, with parking easier and the streets being safer and more pleasant. There also appears to be growing enthusiasm for the RPZ for those living outside it, where residents have been able to see the difference that it has made to their neighbours on the other side of Cotham Road/Brow.

However, we are also aware that the RPZ has, as we predicted, had a negative knock-on effect on the surrounding areas. We know that parking there has become more difficult and that there are problems both with illegal parking and 'circling', where drivers meander around looking for spaces. The problems have been particularly bad for people who are at home during the daytime, including young parents and older people. We also know that a proportion of people living inside the RPZ have been parking outside of it either because they can't get a permit or to avoid the cost.

Anecdotally, things seem to have improved somewhat in recent weeks. This could be the onset of summer, commuters finally getting around to finding alternative routes into work or people being deterred by better enforcement from the Police and the Council wardens. The Council will be better able to assess this when the feedback from residents comes in.

Based on the informal feedback that we've had so far and on our own assessment, Anthony and I are going to be pushing for a number of changes:
  • An increase in the number of permits that each house can get, to cut the phenomenon of people parking outside the RPZ and/or driving to work where they didn't previously.
  • Add a scheme whereby commuting key workers (e.g. nurses) are able to get permits if they are working shifts that overlap with the RPZ hours and into the night.
  • Reduce the operational hours, to allow more of the day to be free for incoming visitors - or, at least, to resist any extension in the hours, which some residents are asking for.
  • To make more visitor permits available to each household, especially for those people who organise community activities (e.g. mothers groups, book clubs) in their own homes.
  • For the Council to have another round of discussions with the major employers around Kingsdown (e.g. the BRI, the BBC and the University) to see what can be done to encourage their employees not to drive and not to park in residential streets.
  • To identify a number of unnecessary yellow lines that could be removed in order to create more parking space.
Any other ideas are most welcome and we'll happily put them into the mix. Alternatively, you can e-mail the Council directly on


Steve L said...

-increasing resident vehicle permits will encourage vehicle ownership and devalue the scheme. You can't be sure that people in the RPZ won't still park their cars outside the zone, due to the increasing cost of ownership anyway.

-do you have any statistics on the take-up of permits anyway? How many homes opted for 0 vehicles, how many for just one.

-letting people have more free day permits is doesn't return something that was ever missing, because during working days you could never park in kingsdown on a weekday before 4pm anyway. the RPZ hasn't taken anything away except the opportunity for friends & family to leave their vehicles out overnight without using up one of the free or discounted day passes.

-It'd be interesting to collect data on how people who used to park in the zone have adapted their commute. If they now park in Cotham below the railway line, it's just displaced the kingsdown problems: circling cars, blocked junctions, which could be blamed on the Kingsdown residents, but could equally well be blamed on the city centre and university not offering enough free parking for the demand -and as that demand could never be met, recognising that driving to work in the city isn't sustainable for the number of people who want to do it.

The current RPZ setup benefits residents, visiting friends and family (who can park if they turn up mid-day), delivery drivers (ask them, they love it), disabled drivers (more space to park). The short stay parking on Cotham Road South may also help the shops -certainly there is less on-zebra parking in the out of town direction. It also helps school run parents at the Montessori Kindergarten (dropoff and pickup spaces), the Cotham School buses (no Kindergarten parents blocking their area), through traffic (less delivery and builders vans blocking roads), and people on foot and bicycle. It can also help the area as it destroys all justifications for turning gardens into driveways. No longer needed, and a £30 license is cheaper than a conversion anyway. Furthermore any "sustainable" housing plans in the area can have their permits frozen at one per household, to reduce the impact of more housing.

Who has lost then? Residents to the north -they are free revisit their vote to join in -and the choke points like Archfield Road could have yellow lines on one side.

Students who have 3+ cars/household: they don't need them.

And commuters. But the external cost of commuting by car (congestion, pollution, etc), don't make driving to work a good option for the city anyway.

As a resident, then, I feel slightly sorry for these people, but not enough to question the viability of the zone. Certainly compared to the tales of doom coming from the Keeping Parking Free campaigners who would drive over in the weekends (when there was space) and knock on our to tell us that we needed to vote against the plans for the sake of Clifton, it's not as bad as they threatened. For those of us in the zone, life is better, no matter how you get around.

Neil Harrison said...

Steve - thanks for this... helpful and wise as always! A few replies to your questions/suggestions:

- There are statistics about take-up that I have seen, but I can't remember them off the top of my head. I remember being surprised by the low number of houses with two (~100) and none currently have three.

- The officers have been asked (by me) to look for evidence of modal shift. It's not straightforward (e.g. First Bus quote commercial confidentiality), but they're seeing what's possible. It would be useful background evidence. My own sense is that this is slowly happening, but it's hard to say for sure.

- On the number of permits per house issue, we are picking up from multiple sources a 'law of unintended consequences' outcome. Young professionals in houses with more than two people are now using their cars where they previously cycled or walked to work. The people I've spoken to are not petrolheads - they need cars sometimes, but they resent having to drive their cars daily to avoid being in the zone. Given the small numbers of houses who have even second permits, it would be a very minor adjustment to allow people in this situation a third one.

Alison said...

It's true, the kindergarten parents who previously blocked the school bus bay on Cotham Road are no longer doing so, instead they are parking in the resident only spaces opposite and taking all availible spaces at drop off and pick up times. This would be o.k if they were there briefly, but often are parked there for at least 30 mins.
I recently had to knock on a car window and ask one parent to move their car as I had plumber arriving and there was nowhere for them to park. As they had a visitor permit, and the kindergarten parent didn't, this seemed reasonable to me but not to the parent, who was in no hurry to move on!
I think that the pay and display spaces allow 15 mins free parking, plenty of time for collecting children if you don't stop to chat. There are always lots of these spaces availible, and with the new zebra crossing no problem to cross the road to get to them.
Apart from this one problem, and as someone who was opposed to the zone, I can say it has greatly improved this road and the zebra crossing is much used and appreciated.

Neil Harrison said...

Alison - glad to hear that the crossing is well used. It certainly was when I was down there 'opening' it a few weeks back. I'll ask the parking enforcement officer to pop along Cotham Road at nursery time and see whether they can persuade parents to use the pay and display.

Alsion said...

As a young professional in a 4-person, 3-car, 6-bike household, the current scheme doesn't work for us. We have one permit (max allowed) and one garage space.

We're outdoors nuts - we road cycle, mountain bike, windsurf, paraglide and hike at weekends, hence the cars to do these things. Around town and commuting we (used to) ONLY walk, cycle or take the bus - we consider this a real perk of living in Bristol at all and in living so centrally, and justifies paying higher rent and council tax to do so.

However, since the RPZ we (a) drive to work and (b) park in Cotham. The garage space tends to get kept free for emergencies as parking is still a nightmare in the evenings, thanks to the Sports Centre users.

We could move into flats but then we'd not have bike etc storage. The scheme penalises people who'd prefer to cycle. Living in a shared house is an efficient way of living. I would rather not see every shared house in the area change to be full of students (if Steve L is right in saying they have no outdoors interests so no need for cars) or party townie folk who have no need to ever get out of Bristol city centre.

We would perfectly understand needing to compromise on cars if there was not enough space for everyone to park. However, our street was approx 50% empty at night before the RPZ and 70% empty since the RPZ. There's enough room, why can't we buy more permits?

Neil Harrison said...

Alison II - I was convinced when we talked about this a few weeks back, and I've since spoken to other people in the same boat. I am hoping that the Council can find some flexibility around this.

SteveL said...

@Alison II

-You can MTB straight out of town, just head over the bridge, you can get all the way to the mendips and back off road if you try hard.

-You can road bike straight out of town too, cheddar and wells are good destinations, or take the Railway Path to Bath or Pucklechurch to work the cotswolds.

If you do a bit of bike+train, you can have some real fun: take the train to taunton, salisbury reading or oxford and cycle back, on road or off. Tried taking the ridgeway from Reading to Bath, XC all the way? Or pushing out from taunton on road to Dunster, then working the exmoor coast on a road bike? Fun and hard. It just needs forward planning to keep the ticket costs low, and it's better to book the outbound ticket and cycle all the way home, as it stops you having to sprint back to taunton for the early evening stopping train.

-You don't need cars to do rock climbing in town too. Indeed, days when the portway is closed are the best days, as then you can hear what the leader is shouting down to you.

Bristol is great for going outdoors -I'm just not convinced everyone in the house needs a car to do it. Driving to work is just going to make you less fit too, which will make those weekends harder. Commute by bike through winter, and you reach spring fit, and ready to cope with rain. Which reminds me, time to cycle up to filton to collect a laptop from the office...

Derrick C said...

Interesting to hear how the scheme is working, as although I live outside the area, it has been threatened for some years.

My worry is the proliferation of dropped-kerbs. Everytime one is created this effectively privatises a stretch of road. The owner of course can use the road, effectively giving them an extra space at no cost. In fact some dropped kerbs are multiple car lengths long: wouldn't be in in everyones interest to limit domestic dropped-kerb and drive widths to 2.5M or 3M maximum.

Is control of dropped-kerbs part of the RPZ? Presumably if you have off-road parking, you are denied a road perrmit, and if not, why not?

For what it's worth, I own a small car which of necessity is parked on the street. After years of cycling to work (5 miles north out of the city), I now walk and bus, so was
intrigued to hear Neil's comment that First Bus consider journey information 'commercially confidential'. I remember buses before privatisation, and wonder how on earth any meaningful policy can evolve when information on 'public' transport use is not openly available.

My experience is that bus fares need to be significantly cheaper than car use for there to be any real change in commuting, and this can't happen when bus ownership is effectively outside a of local residents control.

If the problem is commuter travel by car into city centres, perhaps out of town car spaces should be taxed to subsidise public transport.

Neil Harrison said...

Derrick - I share your concern about personal dropped kerbs (as opposed to the ones which are about pedestrian access and safety).

It's part of a wider issue with the conversion of front gardens to parking spaces. Anthony and I routinely oppose these and we win some and lose some. He's looking into whether there might be a legally-defensible scope for a tougher line in the future. I believe that there may be good news on the horizon.

Within the RPZ, if you have off-road parking, you lose the ability to have one permit - i.e. you can still get one (but only one) if you have a second car. This should limit new conversions as no-one is going to spend thousands on reworking their garden to avoid a £30 annual permit, especially when parking on the road has got much easier.

One of the things that the Council is starting looking into is what's called the Workplace Parking Levy. This is a charge that councils are allowed to make on companies and organisations that have commuter parking in the city centre. The money is then rerouted directly back into public transport. Nottingham have been the first city to do this since the facility came into being a couple of years back.

However, even this is not a panacea as the Council still can't legally subsidise bus fares except for non-economic 'community' routes - only London has this power. The other part of the solution is to try to attract other companies into the city to break First's private monopoly - the very worst market situation from the customer's perspective.