Sunday 7 February 2010

Brighton's Hostile Parking Meters

In these days of crowded roads and heavy car use it is perfectly reasonable that motorists should be asked to pay for on-road parking. Indeed, they are not really in a position to criticise the charges made for this convenience. These charges are presumably arrived at  by the local authority taking into account  social, economic and environmental factors; whereas a motorist can only see it from one point of view, the effect on his pocket.

But, while accepting the need to pay for on-street parking, the motorist is surely entitled to have the means of handing over his money made as streamlined and fair as is possible. Not only do Brighton's parking meters not fit this description, they seem designed to be  positively hostile to the user.
  • The charges vary through the City, as do the times in which they are in operation. Unless one is very familiar with the area one has to find the relevant kerbside notice to check times, which often means walking in the road, and then locate and trek to nearest parking meter.
  • The charges displayed on the meter are in ridiculously small lettering and, at night, in tree-shaded, poorly-lit street are impossible to read with or without glasses.
  • Meters only accept one of the sums listed on the front, or a greater amount, but  do not give change. If you put in too much, you lose money. For example, if you want a half-hour's parking for 50p but only have a pound coin you do not get one hour, you lose 50p. If you go for the next level, £1.30 for 2 hours, you get 105 minutes you do not need. The meters do not accept credit cards. 
  • Many residents will be using the bus by day but resorting to their cars in the evening to avoid a long wait for a late bus home. Arriving at a parking meter shortly before 6pm or 8pm (depending on the area) they are faced with the dilemma of either taking a chance and not buying a ticket, or putting in too much money and being awarded time the next morning that there is no hope of their being able to use.
There is no need for it to be like this. The meters could be easily tweeked to issue a ticket with a parking duration simply proportional to the amount inserted. If, for example, the charge were to be set at 2p per minute and £1 were inserted a ticket timed for 50 minutes later would be issued. This would remove nearly all the problems listed above. There would be no need to decipher notices or scrabble for exact change or overpay.  Wherever parked  one would simply keep on inserting coins until the required time showed on the meter's illuminated display. The rate would of course be set by the council to ensure no loss of income. 

It would make life much easier for the motorist. But perhaps that is not the intention.

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