Multi-storey car parks solve the problem of on-street parking, but they create their own problems encouraging congestion and air pollution. While active travel or public transport are good alternatives, sometimes you just need a car. Jake Holyoak explores potential solutions…
If there’s one area where parking has historically been difficult, it’s congested city centres. As our towns and cities became more urbanised, parking has become more difficult and more expensive.
As parking has been harder to come by in a busy city centre, capacity has increased by the addition of new multi-storey car parks, but it has also become more expensive. In 2021, the average cost of parking in London was £11 per hour, meanwhile, the national average still stands at a whopping £2.25 per hour.
As city centres become more crowded than ever, it’s clear that more multi-storeys are not the answer.
Congestion doesn’t just mean longer waiting times; it also means more polluted air and less space for pedestrians.
These are problems that the multi-storey has only contributed to, rather than solving. Here, we explore some ways to avoid congested city-centre parking.
For people living close to their local city centre who are reconsidering whether they need a car, alternative travel might be the answer. In the UK, we’re being encouraged to use public transport more than ever, with the Campaign for Better Transport recently launching ‘The Way Forward’. This campaign calls on the government to launch a renewed push for people to use public transport.
If, like many people, you’re more nervous about using public transport as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this might be a great opportunity to take up cycling.
More cycle lanes have been implemented in city centres than ever before, with a further £2 billion announced in 2020 to push cycling and walking as travel options.
We know that sometimes, walking or cycling isn’t feasible – whether it’s because it’s too long-distance or you’re taking an evening journey. This brings us nicely to our next option…
For people who don’t have their own car but can drive, car clubs are a great way to access the most convenient form of transport only when you need it. What’s more, using a car club gives you access to designated city centre parking zones, meaning you’re guaranteed a parking space at no extra cost.
These options have become more popular due to the growing climate change crisis, as they will help the UK to reach its target of net-zero emissions by 2050. This is a great way to reduce your personal carbon footprint if you can drive but don’t own or don’t need your own car.
Sometimes, public transport isn’t enough, so renting a car with a guaranteed space to get to your favourite event or go shopping is the next-best eco-friendly option.
One provider is the Co Wheels Car Club and Managing Director Richard Falconer says: “It should come as no surprise that motorists are looking to new alternatives in a bid to drive down the cost of their vehicle related bills, particularly when we look at the costs associated with parking across the UK.
“We’re seeing a considerable increase in the interest of services like ours – not only does a solution like car club help minimise the usually associated driving expenses, you also get free access to a parking space too”
Renting parking spaces
As urban parking spaces have become more in-demand, homeowners with their own parking spaces are offering a solution.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has seen some ditch city or town centre living locations for more rural countryside homes thanks to remote working, the number of people living in city centres has risen in the past 20 years.
If you’re heading to your local city centre on a day you know is going to be extra busy, you can rent someone’s drive or personally owned parking space. Some even offer their spaces out to regular commuters on a monthly basis, meaning you can snap up a parking space at a more reasonable price if your employer doesn’t offer on-site parking.
For many of us, city centre parking is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be. As more accommodation and offices are built in city centres, there are ways we can avoid congested and expensive central parking, from car clubs to alternative forms of transport.