One of my photos

Pay and display

August 19th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 1 Comment · Life

There used to be a saying about people who would not pay for shareware (back in ancient times when the honour system was in place, before shareware had expiry times on it) it went something like “If you can afford a computer you can afford to pay for software”. True it was a saying most often quoted by programmers who had written shareware and nor received a penny.

Anyway, it is a saying that often springs to mind when I hear complaints about parking charges and speeding fines, especially from drivers of cars which cost more than I paid for my first flat. When I moved down from London, where you could pay £12 (even then) to park in the West End while going to see a film and have a meal I was mildly amused to hear complaints about paying 50p or whatever it was to park in Crawley.

Maybe I am in a minority, but I always look at parking as just one more of the costs of running a car. This is probably just as well since I find myself almost pathologically incapable of parking illegally, even if I am only going to spent 2 minutes taking cash from an ATM so at least I don’t get myself stressed out over the costs of parking.

But I have found one exception to this – pay and display. It has always annoyed me somewhere in the back of my mind, but during last week’s holiday in Dorset it became a bit of an obsession and I found myself enjoying many a Jeremy Clarkson-style rant about persecuting the motorist.

The problem is that Dorset is full of tourists in cars and the various councils have done a great job of providing plenty of parking where it is needed. Also, to make life a bit bearable for the beseiged locals there are draconian restrictions on street parking anywhere near a tourist attraction – but thats OK because the car parking provision is perfectly adequate except that its all pay and bloody display.

There are obvious advantages to the parking providers in this system. They do not need to staff the car parks for a start. Instead of an attendant at each car park they just need one bloke in a van to go around them all emptying the machines.

So what is my problem with them?

When you turn up at a car park you do not necessarily know how long you are going to want to stay, but you are expected to pay in advance. You can either pay for the minimum period of time and keep going back to top up or you can pay for a bit longer just to be on the safe side. Or you can stay a bit longer than the ticket says and hope it doesn’t get checked.

I’m sure a lot of people take that last option, but I just can’t do it. Quite apart from anything else, if I paid for an hour and stayed 90 minutes I know I would just spend 30 minutes being stressed out and a holiday is supposed to be relaxing.

The options are usually something like 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and all day. When you visit a new place you don’t know if it will be somewhere you will find fascinating and decide to stop for lunch or not. If it is you will be there longer than 2 hours. Sod’s Law determines that you will then pay for 4 hours, discover the place to be not that exciting and be ready to go half an hour later.

I just know that every time I use a pay & display car park I am going to be over-paying.

I think the worst one was Lulworth Cove. We were in the area and I wanted to show it to Jayne and Charlie as they had never been there. We did not have beach things packed so were never going to spend a long time there. On arrival I found that the minimum stay in the car park was 2 hours at a cost of £2.50 and I knew we would be going within the hour.

I much prefer the system where you take a ticket at a barrier going in and then pay on the way out according to how long you were there, which can also be automated. I wonder what impact that would have on the revenues though?

Would the loss of all my over-charging be offset by not letting other drivers get away with buying a one-hour ticket and staying longer?

All I can say is that if you are planning to visit Dorset either budget for plenty of car-parking charges (even in the middle of nowhere) or leave your conscience at home for the duration.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Jane Skudder

    But without Pay & Display you wouldn’t get those lovely moments when you can give the ticket with some time left on it to the next guy stood at the machine trying to decide how long they can profitably spend at Lulworth Cove….