Covid, Fees, and of course, Brexit
At the time of writing, it’s still lockdown in England’s green and pleasant land. To put this in context, your lockdown of a year ago was about half of what happened here. Total lockdown was applied just after Christmas, with a timetable for “getting out”. BOJO seems to be following the science with a series of explicit steps to reopen, but only if the data supports it. Thus, schools and shops are open, and I can finally get a haircut. Public places are also being reopened; first just those that are outside, so I can drink in the pub garden, but not in the pub. But soon the buildings will also reopen.
I volunteer in a transport museum, and visitors can look at the historic buildings and structures and see the various aircraft, cars, motorcycles, and buses that can be moved outside. However, the buildings won’t open for another week or two, and only if the infection numbers keep falling. Taken across the country this all means, of course, that traffic levels, and hence parking demand, is still far below what it was two years ago. This has had impacts on the economy and on the parking industry that supports it. See last month and my comments on the dire straits of former industry giant NCP.
I think that the big question now is how we, as a service industry, react as things get back to normal? Everyone is hurting financially; people have short wages, or no wages; businesses have seen revenues shrink and disappear, although the bills keep rolling in every month. What I don’t think makes any sense is to hike prices. I told you recently about Gatwick airport where they have introduced a drop off fee for passengers arriving by car.
How does making using the airport expensive encourage customers? Parking shouldn’t be free, it’s a service and users should pay, but perhaps start with a discount while getting going again? No one will thank us, of course, but perhaps, just perhaps, it will get us all back to normal just a bit quicker.
I see that in Texas two of your former citizens have demonstrated Darwinism in action by going for a short and fatal drive in their Tesla, without, it seems, anyone in the driver’s seat! It crashed, they died, but what happened next is scary. The car burnt and the fire service couldn’t put it out. Each time they extinguished the flames the energy in the batteries (according to Tesla) reignited it.
In the end, they had to use 32,000 gallons of water before they were done. In Spain, the authorities have just banned electric vehicles from underground parking structures. They also banned CNG-powered cars for the same reason. The gas leaks and pools at the bottom of the car park then one cigarette, one spark, and KABOOM! As electric vehicles become more common, we, as an industry, need to give this issue serious consideration. Such a fire could seriously compromise the structural integrity of a garage.
I suspect that those promoting EVs as the future have spent zero time considering such things, but as EV numbers grow it is the increasingly dangerous elephant in the room.
When I worked in municipal parking, probity was engraved on my soul. Anything and everything had to be right and proper; close enough most definitely was not good enough. If we put restrictions in a street, everything, and I do mean everything, had to be inch perfect. Once we were done, the police came round, with the regulation and a tape measure and measured everything again. If it wasn’t completely right, it was wrong, and they wouldn’t enforce it. Times change.
A local butcher had a waiting restriction put outside his shop by the municipality. “You can’t do that, "he said," you don’t have the power!” They ignored him, and he ran up a bill of thousands of pounds in citations before he got them to court. The butcher had told the council that the street was private property, not a public road. The council wouldn’t listen to him. The judge did. It would have taken the council about an hour to check. Standards are not what they used to be.
Brexit: the world goes on and it seems that, in the short term, the steady state will be about a 10 percent drop in trade and difficulty in doing such simple things as posting a toy to the granddaughter. The immediate political fallout seems to be worst in Northern Ireland, our only EU land border, where a bodged, fudged non-solution has led to empty shops, riots, and the resignation of the First Minister who ardently supported Brexit, even though Ulster voted remain.
Over here, more reduced choice than shortages, but specific European items like Normandy butter have simply disappeared. The butter, which has salt crystals, is a loss.