onsdag 26 juli 2006

Brighton City car parking changes are a big mistake

SUMMARY
Brighton and Hove Council proposes to amalgamate the city centre parking zones into two large zones. The proposal is unsound on economic grounds as the Council is foregoing very substantial potential revenue. This loss of revenue renders the proposal unsound on grounds of economic justice and equity, since it is at the expense of the poorest members of the society.

The proposal is not based on sound economic principles of resource allocation.
The proposal will generate additional traffic in the city centre.
The proposal will cause hardship to residents.
The scheme needs to be re-thought. Any scheme should:
1) Recognise the differential demand in different locations within the city centre from one area to another in as fine-grained a way as reasonably practicable.
2) Avoid queueing as a means of allocation. There should normally be places available, if at a price, since, amongst other benefits, this enables the true economic value of the parking spaces to be manifest.
3) Optimise revenue through some form of market price mechanism. This is in the interest of all citizens, especially those least well-off
There are numerous well-known ways of achieving this, which, as a town planner, I could enumerate, but as I am not a consultant employed by Brighton and Hove Council, I must refrain from doing so.

DETAILED OBJECTIONS TO PROPOSED CITY CENTRE PARKING SCHEME
The allocation of parking spaces in Brighton city centre could be a textbook exercise in resource allocation. Parking space, in economic theory, is “land”. All land is ultimately a “public good” - it is space that is there for everyone to use, and everything humanity does takes place in space and time. Space on the ground is a prerequisite, and as such, it takes on monetary value. Moreover, its value varies according to location and time; identical properties in different locations change hands for different amounts. Likewise, space on the highway, used for parking.

When land is developed, part of the site is given up for use as highway, whose primary use is for passing and re-passing, to allow people and vehicles to move from one place to another, to give access to properties, such as to people’s own homes, and to accommodate vehicles belonging to tradesmen and enable delivery of goods. The use of highway land for, in effect, the long term storage of vehicles, always detracts from that primary function of the highway which is integral to social and economic life. It follows that vehicles not actively in use should normally be kept off the highway, within the curtilage of individual sites.
For political reasons, local authorities have moved away from this position and allow the highway to be used for the long-term storage of vehicles. In effect, this has created a set of sites for occupation. The value of these sites, as with any other land, varies enormously from one part of the city to another, as the Council tacitly recognises through its differential zonal parking charges. On the other hand, it entirely fails to acknowledge the value of these sites when it makes them available to residents at what could well be little more than the cost of administration. And as always happens when goods are priced at well below their market value, demand exceeds supply, leading to a waiting list and rationing by queue.

The Council’s attempt to address the problem by amalgamating the zones demonstrates the profoundest economic ignorance, to everyone’s loss. People in the most contended areas, in the city centre, will find that they will have difficulty in parking near their own homes, whilst the Council is forgoing the opportunity cost through sub-market pricing, losing substantial revenues in the process. The larger zones will also encourage people to drive within the zones.

The scheme needs to be re-thought. Any scheme should
1) Recognise the differential demand in different locations within the city centre from one area to another in as fine-grained a way as reasonably practicable.

2) Avoid the use of queueing; there should normally be places available, if at a price, since, amongst other benefits, this enables the true economic value of the parking spaces to be manifest.

3) Optimise revenue through some form of market price mechanism. This is in the interest of all citizens, especially those least well-off.

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