OK, not quite hysteria, but it’s close.
The snappily-named Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra newspaper, and specifically one of their writers Gillian Loney, have been getting very excited about the quadrupling (!) of the parking charges on Shawlands high street, which came into effect today. She points out that a 300% (!!) raise is definitely a big increase. Gillian quotes Kathryn Hamilton (owner of Eat Café) as saying ‘This illustrates the complete lack of dialogue the council has with local businesses and residents’, going on to ponder ‘are they completely oblivious to the impact such initiative have on the high street?’ (!!!) The Extra is leading the charge to hit back on this price hike, with Dave on Twitter proclaiming ‘We have a voice and it should be heard’ (!!!!). Gillian has taken the opportunity to launch a petition (the ‘Parking Mad Campaign) to funnel the angst.
What is this crippling charge?, I hear you asking. Do I have to remortgage, or will the increase just require the sale of a minor (yet fondly loved) organ like a kidney?
Probably not. It’s only an increase of sixty pence.
Let’s just say that again. Sixty pence an hour, or an increase from 20p up to 80p, is causing this slightly middle-class uproar. No wonder the council spokesman, when vigorously questioned by the aforementioned Gillian, replied with bemusement: ‘Parking charges…have not increased [since 2004]. These controls exist to support the city’s transport network. They balance the need to protect residents and businesses from all-day commuter parking and availability of short-term parking’.
Since I mentioned 2004, weirdly enough the average price of an 800g standard sliced white loaf of bread has also risen by almost exactly 60p over the same period (from the Office of National Statistics’ bread price index. No, really). Through, you know, natural inflation of costs. If something doesn’t change year on year, it’s effectively getting cheaper.
For those who’ve got this far, I’m afraid the rest of this article honestly is about parking charges. Either grab a strong drink, or abandon me here. I won’t hold it against you.
Still with me? Well, you’ve only yourselves to blame…
The key grumbles
There seem to be two. Firstly, that this will drive away customers from establishments like Eat; and secondly that discouraging car parking will somehow make the area less pleasant. Cathcart MSP James Dornan indeed went so far as to say ‘We need to make Shawlands a more attractive and vibrant area. Making car parking more expensive will not help’.
Let’s take that second grumble first.
Actually James, reducing the volume of parked cars littering the road in question (Pollockshaws Road) will absolutely make Shawlands a more attractive and vibrant area.
Here’s a picture of the high street in light traffic:
Note the wide pavements, easy pedestrian access, green spaces and general niceness that makes Pollockshaws Road such a pleasant place to shop. You can’t see those things? Oddly enough, neither can I.
This is also taken in relatively light traffic – when it’s busy the entire place is gridlocked. Most cyclists avoid the place entirely as it’s far too easy to get smacked by an opening car door or vehicle spearing across the carriageway to get into a space. Note the five lanes dedicated to the combustion engine, including three lanes of parking.
High street shop profits increase drastically when space given to pedestrians (and cyclists, as it happens) increases. There’s a study for this which I can’t be bothered to dig out, but it’s hopefully trivially obvious. I occasionally visit Eat Café for a Stornoway Stack (highly recommended, by the way) despite the awful pedestrian and driving environment, not because I love being in a place where the fug of exhaust hangs on your clothes.
Shawlands high street is one of the most unpleasant places to walk in Glasgow. Encouraging more people to abandon their cars there by making the parking criminally cheap will only make it worse.
Second grumble; that increasing the charges for parking will cause financial ruin to the independent shops.
I’m sorry to pick on Eat, but since they’ve been so vocal about this… Here’s a photo of their shop frontage:
Let’s do some back-of-envelope stuff:
- The shop is almost exactly one parking space long. Lots of shops on the street have no spaces in front due to junctions and street furniture, but let’s pretend that every shop gets a space.
- Let’s assume that every car that parks to go into Eat has five people inside (hah!).
- Again, let’s guess Eat can seat 30 folk. It’s always busy (again, good food!).
- So, with an admittedly mighty leap of faith, we can guess that about 5/30 (or 17%) of Eat’s peak time customers came by car.
Just to deal with the obvious counters:
- Yeah, maybe people park slightly further along and walk to Eat. In which case I’ll just switch the logic to whatever shop Eat has stolen the space from.
- The streets behind are residential and absolutely rammed with cars. People don’t park there and walk through (besides, that’s out of the parking charge zone anyway).
- Maybe that white bonnet is actually the front of a 30 seat minibus and you’re five-per-vehicle logic is nonsense.
My final thoughts on Eat: it’s a pretty upmarket place and on my previous visits lunch for two hasn’t left me any change from £20. An extra 60p represents a 3% rise in my bill, which is unlikely to make me go elsewhere (the fact that there is only parking for eight cycle down the entire length of the high street does that). There is no way on earth that Eat will lose customers as a result of this price increase.
What should the cost be?
Conveniently, a 4,316 square foot commercial property on Pollockshaws Road is currently for sale at £575,000, or £133 per square foot (although they probably wouldn’t sell you it in chunks…). The suggested minimum dimensions of a car parking space are 2.4m by 4.8m, which is 124 square feet.
So the real estate value of a car parking space on Pollockshaws Road is roughly £16,519. Which is bought by your taxes, although we rely on the council to use that space effectively.
Let’s assume I personally buy a space, and we stick with the old 20 pence an hour routine. Shawlands has parking fees in place for 5 hours a day, Monday to Saturday. If my space is permanently occupied, I’ll earn £6 a week (20p * 5 hours a day * 6 days a week). As long as everyone pays up. That’s £312 a year.
It’ll take me 53 years before I start earning a profit on my initial investment, which is equivalent to a 1.8% interest rate. As we mentioned in a roundabout way with the bread earlier, that’s below the rate of inflation (2.2% in October). To provide the businesses in Shawlands with cheap parking for their customers, the council is pouring away our taxes.
Even at 80 pence per hour, it still takes 13 years to earn back anything.
Yeah, your 4,316 property includes some walls and a door, but I’ve not including any of the costs of actually running my parking space either, like metres, signs, regular painting, resurfacing, parking attendants, lighting, etc.
A rambling conclusion
So, my thoughts above suggest that:
- Parking, even at 80p per hour, is still ridiculously good value, and is still being heavily subsidised by our taxes (which could otherwise go on more useful things)
- Only about 20% of a standard Shawland’s shop’s customers could have come from cars at peak times (and that was assuming that every car carried at least five folk).
- Pollockshaws Road is fundamentally unpleasant (and companies are losing money and customers), partly because of the sheer amount of traffic and parked cars.
Sadly, none of that makes for good newspaper articles.
In the spirit of the thing then, let me suggest the following headline (and with my final apologies to Eat Café):
Posh Café Demands Taxpayers’ Money To Support Their Business (Instead Of, You Know, Spending It On The Kiddies)
It probably needs some work…