Do you remember when ... ... politicians used to stand for something?
The headline is that a new political party appeared on the scene to mop up about a quarter of the votes. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) believes that the ills of the world exist because Britain is a member of the European Union. They seem to have a single issue, that Britain should leave the EU.
Global warming? Leave the EU. Drugs? Leave the EU.
Unemployment? Leave the EU. A cure for the common cold? Leave the EU. You get the picture.
The UKIP is led by a cheerful chap named Nigel Farage. He’s the sort that you meet in a pub and seems OK, but you realize is actually fixated on the 1932 Model Acme left-hand screw flange and expects everyone to be just as interested and hold the same views.
Nige may be opposed to the EU, but he is a $110,000-a-year member of the EU Parliament, where his main contribution seems to be to hurl xenophobic insults at members from other countries.
Anyhow, what was the body politic’s response to the rise of Nige and the UKIP? Like a stampeding herd of gerbils, they have rushed to ditch the policies that 48 hours before they saw as matters of principle and to adopt those which the Nigelistas espouse.
My only surprise is that it took them so long.
The British Parking Association recently hosted Parkex, its annual industry trade show, which went pretty well. This year’s show, in Birmingham, UK, was linked to Traffex, which deals with other highways- and traffic-related stuff, and alternates with InterTraffic Amsterdam.
The co-located shows ran for three days, and it seemed to me that, although Parkex pretty much held its own, Traffex was a fraction of its previous size. Attendance was good; I have seen reports of more than 8,000 visitors, and most of the exhibitors I spoke with got a good vibe from the event.
One thing that I find interesting is the number of people that exhibit at the show just once. They have a new product or are dipping their toes into the world of parking and turn up at the show for the first and only time.
For example, this year we had some guys that sell carpark deck washers – a natural contender for possibly the biggest parking show in the world, but I have never seen them before and I suspect they won’t be there next year.
Also of note were those who were absent. Only one parking service company, NSL, was present on what, for them, was a modest stand. All the others, including international names such as QPark, Apcoa, Euro Car Parks, National Car Parks and Vinci Park, were nowhere to be seen – interesting.
I suppose the big story here is the entry of the British multinational Serco Group into the UK parking business in a big way. They have had a role in parking ticket processing, but the move to active hands-on operation is a new direction for the company.
I know that Serco has been involved over there in places such as San Francisco, but here in the UK they have started with a bang, winning a contract to provide street parking enforcement services to three London boroughs.
The initial five-year contract is worth some $45m, but with an option to extend a further five years and to add more services, the total value could approach $150m. Not bad for a first step.
Obviously, for the three boroughs to take on a completely untested provider is a big risk; it will be interesting to see how it all works out.
JVH has written about Helen Dolphin, one of the more high-profile campaigners in the UK parking scene. Director of Policy and Campaigns at Disabled Motoring UK, she vigorously contends that disabled drivers often need more time to carry out tasks because of their disability. And so, if they are to be treated fairly (as required by law), they should be allowed more time for the same payment.
Helen has successfully argued against parking tickets on this basis, and I notice that my council, which manages to get just about everything else wrong, has now posted signs saying that users of a handicapped badge, or permit, are allowed 50% extra time when paying for parking.
Unfortunately, this has been implemented at the same time as the introduction of a complex, and probably illegal, system of differential charging for different “types” of handicapped people.
This is becoming more and more of an issue as more and more local authorities start to charge blue badge holders to use carparks. They have a statutory exemption for most on-street parking, but councils have started to introduce charges in their off-street parking.
To me, this is just daft. If the blue badge user can get to where they are going from the street, that’s what they will do, possibly adding to traffic congestion and alienating other drivers.
If they have to go into a carpark to get to where they are going, then charging them shows poor judgment and is arguably discriminatory, especially if the payment system is not set up for disabled use. (Many local authorities equate “disabled” with “wheelchair,” but that’s not what the law says.)
Just in Case ...
Don’t even think of parking there! Here in the UK, we mark streets where people can’t park with yellow lines. Note the picture nearby.
Over in Swindon in Wiltshire, the local striping contractor seems to have got carried away when they were hired to redo the streets.
The path is under 4 feet, and the space between the lines is just about 13 inches, so not really too much chance of anything larger than a leprechaun causing a parking problem!
Still, it gave the locals something to moan about.
Peter Guest, a consultant in the UK, is PT’s editor-at-large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Reach him at email@example.com.