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I've been trying to get all this straight in my head since watching the Scrutiny Comittee meeting. ISTM the following approach might be a way of thinking about it.

There are three factors in this whole game
1) Goals. a) revenue generation b) demand management
2) Side effects. Dissent. Congestion. Pollution. Impact on business.
3) Justifications. Cost. Security. Fairness

The problem is that when discussing this whether as individuals or formally, the three areas get mixed up. So "Car drivers pay so why shouldn't M/C" is used as a goal. Reduction in environmental impact is used as a goal.

This whole exercise is an "Experiment" regardless of the experimental status of the scheme. Westminster are breaking new ground by being the first authority ever to try and charge motorcycles for general parking. So the experiment has to be judged on it's ability to meet the goals and avoid unwanted side effects. Any discussion of the justifications is really just noise and spin.

So let's dig a bit deeper.

Revenue Generation
Westminster has an ideological and practical issue with generating revenue. They are committed to keeping down revenue from rates while maintainig services. But practically they've hemoraged money over the last year with the Iceland, CCTV debacles and so on. A potential £3-5M new revenue a year for a 3-500k investment is really hard to ignore. This is a potential new source that nobody else has yet tapped.

Demand Management
Car Parking charges and the Congestion charge were both originally designed as demand management techniques. In practice, neither has actually managed demand though it has limited it somewhat. Council's do have a problem with limited curb space that is under competition from all road users and pedestrians. They do have a problem with demand for M/C parking outstripping supply. This is at least partly their own doing by reducing spaces, temporary cancellations and preventing alleyway, private pavement parking. It's also been exacerbated by the congestion charge encouraging a movement from single person car use to single person scooter use. One possible solution is to ease the demand-supply gap by converting more yellow line and car bays to M/C bays. They've shown they can do this with their claimed 50% increase. Gut feel is that this could easily be done again and perhaps even more extreme with say 10,000 spaces rather than 4000 or 6000

Side Effects

The original papers and memos predicted dissent and recommended a robust marketing campaign to counter it. In the event, the dissent has been much bigger than expected and the marketing campaign completely ineffectual. This is a WCC own goal. They new what would happen and their failing to deal with it.

It's self evident that the number of PTWs on the street could be doubled at least before congestion became a problem. And every single use car that becomes a single use scooter eases overall congestion.

It's really not clear what the impact is of increased PTW use vs Car use or Public Transport use. In town, PTWs travel faster, journey times are shorter, fuel usage is less per mile and per hour and raw material usage is less. But despite the ratchet of EU emission controls, PTW emissions are still more lenient than cars individually. But this must be viewed from two standpoints. Carbon Cost and Pollution cost. The first is a global issue. The second is a local city issue. It would be easier to take the pollution issue more seriously if there was real evidence of an attempt to clean up badly maintained Buses, Taxis and diesel vehicles.

Impact on business
WCC has a duty to support the businesses that pay it's rates. It's getting increasing complaints that it's aggressive parking controls are impacting business in the borough (See St Johns Wood, Maida Vale, Moscow Road). And it's attempting to support some aspects of business by things like the cheap car parks for Theatre tickets scheme. The introduction of M/C parking charges is a direct atttack on a small proportion of business employees and customers. Small but just another one.

Impact on public transport
For those that can't avoid Westminster discouraging PTW use is encouraging increased use of and already over stretched public transport system.

Negative Publicity
Westminster's (Verrus') Pay By Phone system is refreshingly high tech but also seriously flawed. It's generating wide spread national bad publicity from Top Gear to BBC Watchdog to Broadsheet newspapers. It's beginning to rival private clamping firms in hatred by the public.


There are costs involved in providing PTW parking from bureaucracy to implementation to enforcement. But as we've seen from WCC's own figures these are miniscule compared with the revenue from the scheme or the overall budget. The biggest cost is a side effect of the scheme itself but this is also small once pay-by-phone for cars has been brought in.

There is an undeniable problem with theft and damage to PTWs in London. But the problem is endemic and added security is ineffective. The security devices don't work and PTW owners don't use them. So spending on security devices is wasted money. The only possible security that might work is within car parks and coincidentally this is an environment where charging for use of that security is relatively easy.

Arguing that some other section of road users have to pay and therefore all road users have to pay is spurious, specious and has no end. Continue down that line and you have to argue that cycles, pedicabs, electric vehicles, even pedestrians and people who chew gum or smoke cigarrettes, should have to pay. And delivery vehicles (dispatch riders); Why should they be allowed to load and unload for free when they are part of commercial enterprises. Each case *has* to be argued on it's merits.

So really we get back to the start. There is only Revenue Generation as a means of Demand Management weighed up against Side Effects. Eveything else is incidental and just adds confusion.

Their position is that Demand Management is a necessary evil and that the Increased Revenue benefits Westminster as a whole more than the Side Effects hurt it.

Our position is that there is no need for Demand Management of PTWs and PTW parking. And that Westminster has no right to tax yet another section of their customers for no benefit of that section[1]. And that the harm from the Side Effects far outweighs the benefits.

[1]Particularly when that section has so little representation as non-residents

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[ 04-Apr-09 1:00pm ] [ , ]