Over the past few months there have been many articles in the press about local councils’ imposing parking restrictions to help improve the flow of traffic and make parking more readily available. This includes Brighton Council’s attempt to make parking available for visitors to Preston Park, Nottingham and Leicester taking very different approaches to parking restrictions, and Westminster Council scrapping its parking charge after failing to alleviate congestion problems in the area. When I received a letter from my council telling me parking restrictions were now being considered in my area it prompted me to look long and hard at the different types of parking restrictions and their relative merits. Each type of restriction targets different types of road user to prevent certain types of parking behaviour, but which one is fairest?

In response the Council has suggested a number of possible solutions:

  • Double yellow lines on one side of the road
  • Waiting restrictions to prevent road users parking on the road at certain periods of the day
  • 24 hour controlled parking zone with permit parking for residents
  • 2 hour controlled parking zone with permit parking for residents

Each of these solutions has one or more benefits such as improving the traffic flow, eliminating parking on pavements, preventing all day parking (by commuters). However, before making a decision the impacts of the solutions on the different types of road user should be considered.

  • Local residents who do not commute by car and leave their car parked on the roads
  • Local residents who commute by car
  • Parents dropping their children off at the local school
  • Suppliers / customers of local businesses
  • Non-residents parking in the area to use the railway station
  • Non-residents commuting into the area to work in town

This blog does not attempt to present the argument for any one solution; rather it provides some initial analysis to demonstrate the challenges that councils face when making this type of decision. To avoid turning a simple blog into a full research paper only three options are considered here; do nothing, introduce parking on one side of the road, and a combination of parking on one side of the road and mid-day waiting restrictions. The options selected would seem to be minor changes that may solve the problems but what are the impacts?

The simulation above tracks individual road users of different types as they attempt to find available parking space within in the local area. By capturing where all the individuals end up parking, compared to where they would like to, aggregate results can be used to evaluate how successful different types of road user are at finding a place to park, and whether they parked on the road they would have liked to. The above simulation was run over a 4 week period to test this.

Simulation of the current parking situation (without any restrictions) shows people are always able to find somewhere each time they attempt to park, even if it is not quite where they want it to be. Residents do well at being able to park on their preferred road when compared to other road users. Benchmarking the results above against the equivalent figures for our possible solutions provides us with some insight into what the impacts of the possible solutions will be.

The proposed solution to eliminate one of the problems, parking on pavements, is to limit parking to one side of the road in the areas where this issue occurs. Imposing this restriction on Spencer Gate and Sandridge Road solves the problem but roughly halves the parking capacity on these roads.

In systems such as this where parking availability is finely balanced, even a relatively small reduction of 33 parking places from the original 450 leads to some major changes. Now the number of residents who are able to park on the road they live is down from nearly 80% to below 60%. The reduction in parking places also means that some road users, including local residents, will be unable to find any parking in the area at all.

Like many areas near city centres and close to stations, extra pressure is placed on my area by large numbers of commuters parking on the roads during the day while they take the train into work. Arguably the council should endeavour to ensure that parking is available to local residents so the introduction of additional parking restrictions may be required to restrict the number of non-residents parking in the area.

Implementing a two hour waiting restriction on Boundary Road increases the number of commuters and local business customers/suppliers that cannot find parking to nearly 10%, but it has little impact on making more parking available to residents. With or without this restriction in place local residents are likely to make approximately 50 failed attempts to park in the area every 4 weeks

The situation improves for residents who commute to work; their chance of being able to park on their own road increases from around 50% up to 70%. However, the situation becomes worse for residents who leave their car parked on the road most of the time and only make occasional journeys; their chances of being able to park on their own road are now below 50% and they have a 5% chance of being unable to find any parking.

The analysis of these few options does not present a clear answer, but what is clear is that small changes, even to a single road can have major impacts on the availability of parking. Eliminating one problem can easily create another, and if councils want to make parking available to both residents and local business then they will have to consider their options very carefully.

It may not be a popular solution but, if other charge- free solutions prove equally ineffective, residents may have to accept the prospect of paying for permits in order to ensure there will always be space available for them to park.