Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sadly, car parking matters

Yesterday I headed off to the Gauge O Guild spring event at Kettering. According to the programme, it was going to be a cracking event. I had a couple of things to do there so I was looking forward to it.

Although the venue is close to Kettering station, a quick check showed that this would cost a fortune and involve 3 changes of train as well as taking 4 hours. With three shoebox sized items to deliver I didn't think this was (sadly) much of a plan.

So, I set off in the car. The route planner showed about 45 miles and by ignoring the sat-nav until the last 8 of them I could eshew the motorway system in favour of A roads which saved me the awkward M6/A14 junction too.

Arriving at the venue, I caught the back of a traffic jam. A big one.

It seems that the "Leisure village" the show is held in has perfectly adequate car parking for a normal Saturday morning. What it doesn't have is sufficient when the sports hall has been let to a model railway show and several hundred modellers have chosen to attend. The parking was full. Cars were "creatively" parked on flowerbeds and corners. A nearby housing estate, which like most modern estates is designed to discourage on-street parking, was also full of cars.

After 5 minutes I turned around and headed home. Getting a bit lost meant 110 miles worth of petrol used for no reason. I mean, I don't like driving. If I just wanted to listen to the radio for a couple of hours I could stay at home with a cup of tea and do it without peering through a rainy windscreen.

Sadly, this is a problem all exhibition manager have to face. If you want to hold a big show you need a big car park. A very few modellers will use public transport. Most screw their faces up if you say that's the best option. For years I used to stand behind the layout talking about the Leamington show and being told that the person wouldn't be coming as it was an in-town show and so there would be no parking. There was, but they wouldn't believe it.

The problem is the numbers. You need spaces for all the exhibitors and traders. The club members and then the visiting public. For most shows that means well in excess of 1000. For the larger events 2000+ is more like it. A leisure centre simply doens' have this sort of parking spare on a Saturday morning. Even some exhibition centres struggle. Don't think the punters will car share to help either. 1.25 persons by car is the best you hope for. Most of them will arrive on Saturday morning too so while a few hundred spaces might be OK in the afternoon, you will be stuffed if that's all you have in the morning.

Those are big and scary numbers which most managers deal with by pretending that they don't exist or hoping that some magic will happen on the day. The alternative is to get a venue with enough space and accept that this will be several thousand pounds a day to hire. Which the punters will moan about when they see the price to get in.


Andy Callaway said...

So this will probably amuse you:

Andy in Germany said...

I think the problem is wider: this is a symptom.

Unfortunately when we set out to make cars the #1 form of transport, everyone suffers in the end: sooner or later you end up with exactly this situation because people were taught to think cars were the future, and this was backed up by policies which make it very hard to travel any other way differently, as you found out when you tried to take the train.

Imagine if public transport had been easy: lots of people could have taken the train to a venue which wouldn't have had to spend on parking, and the people who needed to drive because they were carrying a layout or three would have had less trouble getting there and could have used what parking there was. The venue would have been cheaper and people could have come from a long way way and not been dissapointed.

The answer to this isn't 'we need more parking': that will lead to more people driving which makes a vicious cycle of exhibition managers trying to find venues with ever larger car parks. The answer is that the UK needs a better transport infrastructure.

Phil Parker said...

Very true Andy. Out of town events work as long as the parking is copious. The monent you run out, the system falls apart.

The problem is that there is presure to have less parking - land costs money and people want to drive to car car park but not live next to one. Many offices are built on business parks with insufficient parking but no public transport access. The assumption is that "magic" will happen. What really occurs is that the poorest are lumbered with the costs of running a car as there is no other option.

Sadly there never will be an improvement in public transport in the UK. One party destoryed the buses through deregulation as well as the trailway through a bothed privatisation (John Major picked the joke option when presented with plans). The next group decided to put John Prescott in charge. Sadly his IS the joke option and cares nothing for anything other than driving.

Just to compound the problem, no politician cares about anywhere other than London most of the time and there they have loads of public transport. Thus, our lord & masters think everywhere has the same level of provision so do nothing for anywhere outside the M25.

(Dismounts from hobbyhorse)

Andy in Germany said...

I agree with you for the most part, certainly the scandalous way that people with a lower income are forced into a cycle of working to pay for a car to get to work, but I'd suggest that the problem isn't an artificially created lack of parking space (Look on Google Earth images of medium sized UK towns and eseimate how much of the surface is goven over to parking.) but simply too many cars, caiused by too long tencouraging and subsidising car use and removing alternatives.

I think that chnge can come, although I agree with you that the government seems to think that the UK is London: I have no hope of politicians doing anything until people realise that there has to be a change. The is already starting with grass roots groups like the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, and the Transition Network, who are both working for change and having some success.

Phil Parker said...

You are more optimistic than me. No matter how much good work these organisations do, the moment a car driver is even slightly inconvienienced you see the Daily Mail using the phrase "War on the Motorist" and politicians run for cover.

Of course I might be cynical and suggest that as the Chacellor gets loads of money from fuel tax, there is no incentive to fix the problem. Quite the opposite in fact...