A quiz for you: how many cars do you think drive into Cambridge most weekdays? What proportion are looking to park on the streets for free? If we incentivised people not to do this, would it make a difference?
We now have data, in the County’s 2015 Transport Report, and in the ‘Cambridge On-Street Residential Parking Study’ just published. It turns out that 87,000 cars drive into the city most weekdays. In the three ‘zones’ chosen for the survey, 4% of this total (3,612) were found parking for free on neighbourhood streets in the morning hours. If that’s lower than your guess, well, the percentage would be significantly higher when adjusted for morning-only incoming totals, and for all streets (not just the three zones chosen). And consider: 3,612 on-street parked cars exceeds the capacity of our 5 multi-storey car parks (3,040) and is higher than the no. of cars parked at P&Rs in May 2015 (2,615).
These non-resident parked cars are a sizeable addition to the city’s congestion and pollution, and the danger and inconvenience to the people who live on these streets.
Now, a study of traffic on Milton and Huntingdon Roads in October-November 2014 showed a drop of between 1.3% and 8.3% during the half-term week – again, that may not sound like much, but everyone who knows that area knows what a difference this makes to congestion.
Effective solutions to intractable problems are often not the result of big, expensive and complicated projects, but can be achieved through a series of smaller, easier-to-achieve actions.
Think for a moment: if we were able to take 5% of traffic off the roads in the morning it would ease congestion, cut pollution and allow buses to move more freely. And there is a way we can do this: Smarter Cambridge Transport has proposed an experiment in which free parking on neighbourhood streets would be controlled for a period of time. Note the word ‘experiment’.
This would let us see what might happen on our own streets. If we liked what we saw, we could keep it; if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have to. It’s the scientific method: the systematic observation, measurement and experiment, and the formulation, testing and modification of hypotheses. This is Cambridge, after all.
If you support this approach, let your Councillors know, and go to: bit.ly/act-on-parking
A joint City/County report on parking is due out this week; the Committee producing it (CJAC) will meet at Shire Hall on 24 January at 16:30. You might want to be there.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 18 January 2017.