Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Folly of 'half-price' car parking in Tooting

Whilst an understandable response to local businesses petition, unfortunately this is likely to be £35,000 of public money which could have been much better spent.

See this article:

Back in the Autumn a petition went forward from local businesses regarding car parking charges. A significant number of them are of the opinion that low cost car parking provision is essential for the well-being of the high street, and that empty car parking bays on neighbouring streets is a sign that the pricing is too high, thus deterring shoppers from their stores.

In spite of the evidence of a local report* commissioned on their behalf only a few years ago which shows over 80% of their customers, walk, use public transport and walk, or cycle and then walk into their businesses.

Less than 1 in 5 shoppers drives a car, or is a passenger in a car or van to Tooting to shop, and then, yes they walk into local businesses.

*See the report on the link below 'Tooting Town Centre Gap Analysis study 2009'


Granted not everyone walks, some people are not able to, and use mobility scooters, but the principle remains. 

I fully understand that the council needs to listen to the demands of it's residents and businesses. However I also believe, that they have a duty to evaluate the evidence, and make decisions which reflect that evidence base.

The only outcome which will be clearly measurable by the drop in car parking charges will be the number of bays which are available. Given that a minority of shoppers choose to visit Tooting in this way the difference to businesses will be negligible at best.

One result may well be an increase in the numbers of people encouraged to drive to Tooting, instead of using the excellent public transport links, and indeed walking or cycling. This will result in a less pleasant shopping experience for all as the roads become more congested, noisy and more polluted.

I want our town centre to thrive, and really want to support local businesses, as I believe the council does too. However, I do think when beliefs fly in the face of the evidence that we have a duty to challenge them and if we go ahead with trials have robust ways of measuring the outcomes. I don't know how this trial will be measured, and I'm not convinced there is a way that it can be effectively measured.

If you know how it could be, do post a comment below.

Also if you have 30mins it's well worth listening to this podcast on Freakonomics Radio 'Parking is Hell':