At present you can travel into Manchester city centre by car of an evening or on a Sunday, park in a designated roadside bay and have to pay absolutely nothing for the privilege.
But from September, this will no longer be the case as Manchester City Council have approved plans to extended the hours of city centre Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ), which will run from 8am to 8pm Monday to Sunday.
Great debate has surrounded both the act itself and also the motives behind the decision. Manchester City Council has suffered from a disastrous PR campaign, which has been sending out mixed messages generating anger in an already sceptical audience. The main problem centres on the primary reason that the council give for introducing the extended CPZ’s – Relieving congestion. Several groups picked up on this flimsy claim and have accused MCC of wheeling out a tired argument to conceal the true motive of eking out extra revenue; they’ve even gone to the lengths of photographing Manchester’s streets to disprove the congestion argument.
Yet in their outrage and determination to reveal the plans as the money making scheme that they are, they have missed one crucial point: The congestion referred to is not traffic congestion, but parking congestion. Of an evening and on Sunday’s the city streets might well be free of queuing traffic, but idle cars line the roadsides for unspecified periods of time. Despite the nuance of the motive, I’d argue that it’s more important to be attracting people into the city centre during these quieter hours, than generating a profit from roadside parking bays or freeing spaces.
Other debates have centred focused on parking for city centre residents, (personally I have little sympathy for this. Living in the city centre provides its own benefits but also potential issues which anyone moving there should be well aware of) competition from out-of town shopping centres, such as the Trafford centre, which provides free parking (again, I fail to see the logic in this argument – Trafford Centre is open every other day of the week when parking charges are operating in the city centre and yet people still travel in to shop, dine etc.)
The fundamental issue for me is that evenings and Sundays – the times that will be covered by the extended CPZ lacks the public transport service that is offered at other times. I would happily accept an extended CPZ if the council were to respond by increasing bus and tram services on Sundays and late evenings. Their reluctance to acknowledge that parking restrictions and accessibility will influence people’s behaviour is worrying for both the public and city centre businesses.