Westminster City Council has announced that it is trialling a budget parking scheme in its Queensway car park. Using a pricing structure based on that of Easyjet, the hourly rate will vary depending on how full the car park is when the driver enters. When it is nearly empty customers will be charged as little as 20p per hour for the duration of their stay, a price which will rise on a scale to £2 per hour when the car park is nearing capacity. If deemed successful, the scheme will be rolled out across all 14 of the borough’s car parks, including those in the West End.
Having dusted off the large envelope we reserve for such calculations, Londonist concludes that they will need to roughly double the number of customers to prevent this scheme making a loss, which seems a tad optimistic. So what’s the motive behind all this? The council themselves make it perfectly clear:
Since the introduction of the congestion charge five years ago retailers in Westminster have complained that customers have been deterred by the £8 daily congestion charge. It is hoped that variable pricing will help local business by attracting 30 per cent more drivers to central London car parks.
Clearly, for many Londoners, offering motorists the chance to effectively recoup the congestion charge is going to go down like a cup of cold sick. Central London is already very congested, and this move is against the grain of the green policies that have been implemented in London over recent years.
And why now? Is this just another symptom of the credit crunch and slump in consumer confidence, or is the timing related to the recent ousting of Ken Livingstone? This promises to be the first real test of Boris Johnson’s famous green credentials since he has been in power, so Londonist has asked the Mayor’s press office for comment and will post back if and when we get a response. Darren Johnson, one of the Green Party’s members in the London Assembly will shortly be issuing a statement, which we will also post here.
Update 16.08: Johnson will not now be making a statement.
By Andy Fell