Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Things that Seem Obvious - Car Parks

In Britain, a large number of smaller shops have been shutting for many years now. The most frequently blamed culprits are big supermarkets. I, however, think the blame largely lies elsewhere.

It seems obvious that if faced with three options:
1) walk half a mile to the local shops, then half a mile back with heavy bags
2) drive half a mile to the local shops, pay £2 for parking
3) drive two miles to a big supermarket, parking is free
Most people will take option 3). And yet in lots of places, the local shops continue to close, and people blame the supermarkets. There have even been utterly mad suggestions to force supermarkets to charge for parking.

The real solution seems simple. The availability of free or very cheap parking near to shops increases their attractiveness (as does good public transport). It is therefore in the shopkeepers' interests to make sure that such parking is available. And if the council want to keep the local shops open, it is in their interests as well.

Parking in towns should therefore be controlled either by federations of local shopkeepers or by the council running it at a loss (which may pay for itself indirectly via increased land values or tax paid by the shopkeepers). Subcontracting running car parks out to profit-making firms damages local shops when there is viable competition which does not charge for the use of its car parks.

This just seems obvious...

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