Parking meters

I\’ve said this before recently but it bears repeating.

Fifty years ago this summer, Britain’s first parking meter was installed in London’s Grosvenor Square, outside the American Embassy, appropriately enough since it was the invention in 1935 of Carl C Magee of Oklahoma City.

As head of the city’s chamber of commerce, Magee hoped the meters would free up parking spaces for local businesses that were being affected by town-centre congestion. Parking restrictions were, therefore, from the very outset, about traffic management and congestion relief, not about raising money, or anything else for that matter.

The Government would have you believe that this remains the case; but the mask slipped last week when John Healy, the local government minister, suggested councils could set their charges to “reduce congestion, improve levels of health and exercise and encourage the use of local shops”.

If the aim were indeed to increase the use of local shops then you wouldn\’t raise the price of parking meters. You would in fact lower the price, to zero, for short term parking: and perhaps raise it for longer term.

If the aim is, as said, to get  people using local shops then you\’d actually want parking to be free for the first 20-30 minutes. But expensive for longer than that. So people could come in, park, pop into the shops and go away.

This wouldn\’t do much for congestion and the other things, this is true, but then that\’s the problem with claiming that one solution will solve all problems.

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