Bristol City council's plan to introduce Residents Parking Schemes (RPS) this year is proving predictably controversial. Following the council's initial consultations last summer it became clear that there was a fair measure of support for RPS in some inner city areas abutting the existing Central CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone), particularly Kingsdown, Cliftonwood and parts of Clifton.
These areas suffer from high levels of parking by commuters displaced from the city centre by the cost of parking in the Central CPZ. Residents and visitors alike find it extremely difficult to find parking spaces in those areas and illegal, obstructive and arguably dangerous parking is rife. In addition the levels of car ownership within some of these areas, where most houses have been converted into flats, may well exceed what is available even without commuters. So it is not surprising that there is a support for RPS.
However there remain a substantial minority in the proposed RPS areas who are opposed to the idea and many outside the proposed RPS areas who also oppose the idea because of the knock-on effects on their areas as parking is displaced outwards. At the same time there is also a substantial minority outside these areas who support the idea and want to be included, for much the same reason, including this blogger.
There is evidence of building resentment between the pro RPS and anti RPS camps with rival web sites and rival leafleting taking place. The divisions have been amusingly characterised on Bristol Traffic in sectarian terms. The next big confrontation will be on Monday 5th January when the RPS is reconsidered by a Council committee following a call-in decision by the Conservatives last month. Both camps are expected to turn out in force to bolster their positions, so it should be good for entertainment value.
All of which led me to wonder if there was a less divisive, more democratic option whereby people could opt in or out of the RPS on an individual household basis rather than the currently planned collective area basis which is bound to cause resentment. Of course individual households will be able to choose whether to sign up to the RPS and thereby have access to the controlled parking spaces within the area under the present proposals, but the provision of controlled parking spaces will be all-or-nothing, within or without the defined zones.
But what if the provision of controlled parking spaces was made proportional to demand? Suppose 50% of households in a particular area want to opt in to RPS, why couldn't an equal number of controlled parking spaces be provided, only available to those household who have chosen to pay to join the RPS? Those households who choose to remain out of the RPS will continue to compete for the remaining uncontrolled spaces as at present.
Some or all of the controlled parking spaces could double up as Pay-and-Display spaces as in the existing Central CPZ to make better use of any spaces unused during the day. That would help address the visitor parking issue. Pay-and-Display charges would have to remain high (£1 per hour?) through the evenings and week-ends (unlike in the existing CPZ) to ensure that spaces remain available to RPS residents at these times.
Signing of the RPS may be more complicated than with an all-or-nothing approach, but if so that is something that could be resolved in due course with appropriate changes to the regulations. Other than that I can't think of any significant objection, other than it being an innovative approach (shock, horror). Of course there's no chance of the Council giving this option serious consideration unless pressured to do so by the public, so it's up to you lot. Is it worth a look, to avoid a lot of resentment and unpleasantness creating rifts in our communities?
Illegally parked cars pictured - P939MLX, VD05CTE, LD54ZPY, WU54NXW