Brit Hits Spain, U.S.A., Netherlands, Scotland and “McDonalds’


Brit Hits Spain, U.S.A., Netherlands, Scotland and “McDonalds’

It’s been a busy few weeks. My day job has taken me to Madrid, where I am working with a client on a pretty important bid; back to the UK, change my socks; and then off to the Parking Industry Exhibition 2014 in Chicago. (Wasn’t PIE great this year, and thanks to all those who turned up for my presentation.)
Just a few days back in the home country, then off to Intertraffic Amsterdam; and now, as I write this, back home for a week, then up to Scotland and “The Athens of the North,” where my client, in a fit of madness, has decided that I should front their bid offer to the city’s burghers.
(Oh, translation alert: The Athens of the North is Edinburgh, possibly the capital of the free and independent state of Scotland in a few years and that’s burghers as in city rulers, not burgers as in Happy Meal.)
The Scotland secession vote is getting quite close. For a very long time, the pro-independence vote was well under 30%, but with just about six months to go, there’s only about 6% difference between Yes and No.
It seems that as more and more questions come out about the viability of an independent Scotland, so do more and more people sign up to the Yes camp. (I can’t help but think that this could all go terribly wrong.)
Oh, just touching on Intertraffic, I think that probably the most
bizarre product on display this year was from ATB (Automaten Technik Baumann GmbH), an independent company within the Germany-based Dr. Baumann corporate group, and represented on your side of the pond by Energy International.
Dr. Wolfgang Baumann is a long-term friend who runs his business empire from somewhere in the middle of a forest in Germany. He is very far from the evil mastermind that this phrase implies – a more genial chap you couldn’t hope to meet. His business interests range from cutting-edge technology, through a hotel to a stone quarry.
Well, one day our genial business genius decided to combine two of his business interests and produced, wait for it, a granite pay-and-display parking meter. Yes, in a fit of whimsy, Dr. B. decided to bring two of his meters to Intertraffic, complete with granite- and marble-front panels! (See the picture below that shows Dr. B. and me with the two machines.)
Now, on the face of it, this is just a gimmick, an attention-getter for the show. But wait a minute: How cool would it be to have a pay-and-display machine outside your notable civic building, with the machine’s
case in the same stone as the building? Cunning, very cunning.
The British Parking Association (BPA) is in the process of restructuring its governance, moving from a largish council elected by universal vote to a representative body elected by segments of the industry voting for representatives, and this body then electing a smaller board to run the organization.
My view has always been that I want the best people, not the best person, in each of a given sub-set, so I am not too sure that this will work; but I will reserve judgment.
One problem that I do see is that the new Board Chairman would be an unsalaried position for three years, and with a smaller board, it will be more demanding than the previous lead role of President. There won’t be a long list of applicants, I suspect, but perhaps someone who is semi-retired with time to spare might see this as a role worth taking on. However, that is hardly an ideal profile for someone who should be looking forward, rather than back.
Yarm is a small town in the north of England, which I have visited occasionally. It’s a nice place with a very wide “high street,” with fairly upmarket shops. The high street is up to 150 feet wide and has a traffic route running through the middle and effectively a carpark either side.
It’s the sort of place where, 200 years ago, the stage coach would have stopped outside the local coaching inn and a local market would have been held selling everything from combs to sheep.
Come the 20th century and car-parking has taken over the high street, but most days it’s not busy, and all-day parking is stopped by using a parking disc; that is, a simple cardboard clock face that you can get free in the local shop and set for the time you arrive. You then get free, limited-stay parking, which is enough for just about anything that you might want to do in Yarm.
It works fine, meets the local need, and is low-tech, low cost. All-day parkers are few and discouraged by the disc scheme.
The local council – having not heard of the phrase “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – is introducing paid parking, using pay-and-display meters as part of an “upgrade” that will remove the ancient cobble stones and replace them with modern paving.
After having to fight a case in the courts to get this through, they are introducing free parking for the first hour, $1.50 for the next two hours, and $1.50 per hour thereafter.
So, the current scheme pretty much runs OK and costs very little. The new scheme will need new signs and machines with the attendant maintenance costs. Enforcement will be harder, with one hour free, and cost more; most drivers will still come and go in the free period, so income is likely to be minimal.
I am betting that after a year, the free period will go, since the scheme will not be financially viable and the price will rise.
Because this is “highway” and there’s nothing in highway law that allows the council to charge the structure of tariff that is being applied, I am not sure how they won the legal case. I cannot see a good outcome from this.
 Oh, and someone in a local council not too far away from me put in 18 inches of yellow “No Parking” lines to stop people parking in a place where they might cause an obstruction. The council did not say, “Oops, we “boobed”; instead, they trotted out some verbal garbage about ensuring that the road was not obstructed.
So, let me get this right: Two cars parked with 18 inches of clear curb space between them, that’s OK. But if either of those cars moves forward an inch, the road is blocked. Doing this is dumb; defending it with platitudes is worse.
Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at
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