16 April 2013

How many lives has the removal of parking meters ruined?

A guest blog by a trader who would rather stay anonymous - it could be any of them, well any of the ones who are still there.

an empty car park one week after meters bagged over
I took the above picture in Moxon St car park in High Barnet one week after the council put bin bags over the meters ( 8 November 2011 ). 

As you can see, the car park is empty. Historically on a Wednesday at this time you were lucky to get a place.

The second picture is from when they actually took away the meters, the reverse of what’s happening this morning – ground has just been broken for the replacement meter 532 days later. From observation, I calculate lost revenue to the council coffers (at  £577 per day) to be over £307,000!

the hokey cokey meter dance
This debacle has cost our towns MILLIONS of pounds. Our business alone has lost tens of thousands of pounds. Many jobs have been lost, partnerships have reached impossible levels of stress and children left in broken marriages. It’s not just the businesses that have closed: those that survived have let go cleaners, laid off full and part-time staff, they have cut back on advertising and charity sponsorships and they themselves cut back in spending amongst their peers in the high street. They have been forced, like us, to work impossible hours. Forget the Working Time Directive, I now work over 78 hours a week and have little time to spend with my children. The knock-on costs have been immense.

Have the council apologised? No
Have they made any attempt at recompense? No
Have they held out a hand and offered to help stimulate the high streets? No

It all leaves you feeling a little sick and disillusioned with those that pretend to be civilised but are simply masquerading as ‘humanity’.

and now back with Mr Mustard. You can feel the personal pain from the above heartfelt words that traders are suffering.

The cash option was removed as it cost about £500,000 a year to employ a team of people who collected the cash from 400 meters. This is about £1,500 a day and when compared to the possible lost revenue from one car park alone it seems that a proper cost benefit analysis was not done. The problem is that the solution was thought to be a simple choice between two options, 400 cash meters or none at all. That was the thinking of closed minds.

The first thing that should have been done was a cull of 25% of the meters that collected the least amount of money and make those bays free with a time limit for parking to balance supply and demand. Then a review of those meters that remained to see if some could be converted to free bays or to stay the same, and those in car parks retained as cash payment machines with pay-by-phone offered as an option for those that wanted to pay by card using an app on their smartphone. In a car park with multiple meters some could have been cash and some for credit card only making them less liable to be vandalised. Cash only machines could be put under cctv and enclosed in a protective metal cage so they are harder to attack.

This could have left an estate of 100 or so machines and a much reduced cash collection cost along with the flexibility that the public wants and needs.

In Barnet the baby was thrown out with the bathwater.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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