Free parking/travel – putting transport in a climate change context

I often feel that this highly emotional subject actually hides a much bigger travel issue which involves us all and needs to be tackled if we are serious about climate change.

The bottom line is that use of petrol and diesel powered vehicles has to come to an end and the sooner the better. More of us need to walk or cycle shorter distances. Public transport, when it becomes OK to use it again, needs to be significantly extended as motor vehicles start to be used less often.

Parking of vehicles is a big issue, whether that be at hospitals (staff and visitors) or indeed anywhere else. Our streets are becoming choked with abandoned (I use that word deliberately) cars when they are not in use. We expect somewhere to park our cars wherever we go and when we can’t park legally/in a car park we abandon our cars on pavements, grass verges, in cycle lanes, across private/business accesses/driveways.

In short privately owned motor vehicles are our problem, not the solution to our travel difficulties.

Of course public transport has been run down over many years via cuts in subsidies and by people not using it. You can track it back to prior to the Beeching era as Beeching was in itself a reaction to the rise in road transport. Ironically the buses which were, with cars, seen to be the solution when railway lines closed have in themselves been pushed further and further to the sidelines as cars have taken over our roads.

We’ve designed/planned a society that has become reliant on the ownership of the private car with those who don’t have one being left to fend for themselves. We’ve invested countless Billions of £’s in a transport system which has. however inadvertently. encouraged the continual growth of the private car. We now face the prospect of trying to put all that into some form of what will most likely be a disorderly and unpopular reverse to try to save our planet. Imagine what the Daily Mail will say!

My view has long been that local public transport should either be free or with just a one-off daily charge for it’s use such as a £1 a day. But that in itself is only part of the solution as we need to significantly improve the bus network so that it’s clean, frequent, reliable, easily accessible and it works in harmony with our local rail networks. Bus, rail & trams are not rivals, they need to be integrated, efficient and cheap to use. We need to arrive at a point where car users say to themselves that running a car is too expensive and they’d rather read a book travelling to work on a train/bus than sit in traffic jams. And don’t scoff, this is all possible should be want it to be.

And yes I’m a car driver a pedestrian and a cyclist. I try to use my car as little as I can and I feel we need to find a way to make the use of cars more expensive the greater the mileage that is done. If you choose to work many miles away from where you live that journey has consequences for our environment. So surely that should mean you paying more per mile into public coffers than someone who has chosen to live much closer to their place of work and does much less mileage. Of course if you live close to your place of work there should be rewards in the system especially if you use public transport, walk or cycle. Putting it simply the taxation system should reward walkers, cyclists and public transport users.

One thought on “Free parking/travel – putting transport in a climate change context

  1. Bob Jungels says:

    Great post, Tony. You need to be sending these into The Champion!
    People need to be made aware of the mess the government has created through a mixture of poor Planning, privatisation of public transport, and by aiding and abetting the growth of the car and oil industries, backed by a super-powerful motor and oil lobby, which of course spreads its slimy tentacles all over the world and therefore is very much a geopolitical issue, which has, is and will continue to be the causes of many a war and/or illegal regime change.

    So without a public appetite to reduce car usage, changing this culture can only come from the very top. Cars have becomes what dummies are for babies, thus as you soon as you dare tinker with the present road system status quo, all hell will break loose, and we’ve seen this in action recently, both in Liverpool and Ormskirk, although it has been a nationwide issue too.

    Regarding the issue of nationalisation. Well, Tony, economic ideas don’t get much more Marxist than that, so I think it’s high time you started to ease off your constant barracking of socialism and Jeremy Corbyn, and start to appreciate the importance of a society that is ran by the people, *for* the people. You’ve as much as admitted privatisation has been a complete disaster, both for buses and rail, so unless Layla Moran is in favour of renationalisation, how can you seriously convince people to vote Lib Dem, when on the other hand, your economic policies align fully with the Workers Party of Britain?

    Anyway, back to the article, I thought you were going to talk more about how parking charges should be *increased* and how parking should be made *more* difficult for motorists. As I’ve already touched on, to dare to increase parking charges only serves to poke the hornest’s nest of the Average Angry Daily Mail reader who believe climate change is a load of bollocks, that public health isn’t an issue for them so long as they’re okay, that air quality is only an issue in London and Shanghai, that road traffic accidents are pedestrians’/cyclists’ fault (“they should look where they’re going!”) and that public transport is for poor people, old people, disabled people, and young students.

    As most people can’t see past the above points, to increase parking charges and/or taking parking space away is viewed as a personal assault on their freedoms. But this is also a psychological side-effect of consumerist “me-me-me” culture fostered by 1950s American Capitalism (the suburban dream), and then the ramping up of neoliberal economics in the UK under Thatcher, Major, Blair, Cameron and May.

    People have grown to *expect* certain standards, and as standards are so low for bus/rail/cycling/walking, the only mode of transport that’s received constant investment and attention since the 1950s is the private car. Parking right outside a house or shop/wherever is like a minimum standard. Kids grow up with parents who ferry them round everywhere by car and then Bang, as soon as they hit 18, they get a car. And then their siblings. The net result is that more and more households now have 3/4 cars outside them.

    This isn’t how it works in many countries in Europe. I’ve rode and drove around many European countries over the past 15 years and its striking how unwelcome cars in many town and city centres. Cars are guests, people are the hosts. Want to park? Go and find a car park and pay up. Don’t like it? Don’t come. Stay at home. But you know what? You also have a perfectly good/cheap bus/rail/tram system, so actually, you won’t want to use your car!

    Why is that concept so difficult to grasp? Well, without an adequate public transport system, how can a Planner say to the public: “But you have cheap, reliable buses every 15 mins, with dedicated bus lanes and bus stops with shelters and seats! You have a cheap, fast, reliable rail network that extends to every corner of the country so when going on holiday, why would you drive?! You have a cycle network that is safe, coherent, attractive, direct and built to a high standard, so why would you choose to drive for a journey under 5km?!”

    Perhaps its about time we started to ramp up the pressure on our local Councillors. They all need educating on this subject, clearly. Starting with Bill Esterson!

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