It seems a long time ago now, but I had the week off work recently. Nothing particular planned, just a much needed break from work: very good it was too.
In a bid to improve on the neon tan that I am developing from too much time in front of the computer, my good wife decided that we should have a day out and suggested a trip to Cardiff. An excellent idea: it is ages since I have been and there was also the hope that we might see some Torchwood weirdness.
Unfortunately we didn’t see any welsh-speaking aliens or shady agency operatives in long coats (unless you count a visit to the Doctor Who exhibition, a result of which I am now the proud owner of a mini-Dalek) and frankly, given the price of parking in Cardiff, that was the least that I expected.
Arriving at the city, which was bigger and busier than I expected, we followed signs for parking and ended up between the castle and the Millennium Stadium. Perhaps this location should have sounded warning bells, but we were just glad to see a car park so we pulled in. It wasn’t until we were past the point of no return that we saw the charges: 80p for 15 minutes.
As we were planning to stay for the whole day that seemed a tad steep, so we paid up and left immediately: just parking and paying took 11 minutes! Eventually we found somewhere else to park, but it still wasn’t exactly cheap. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great day, but this didn’t get us off to a good start.
Compare and contrast with last weekend when we went to Bath to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The friend in question is younger than she looks, and certainly older than she claims to be on her Facebook page, so I’ll gallantly draw a veil over which birthday we were celebrating, suffice to say that she had gathered quite a group of friends together and arranged for us all to travel to Bath by train.
What a difference! We all got to meet up on the train and have a natter on the way, no-one had to abstain from drinking the copious amount of alcohol forced on us during the day (although some odd people did choose to go shopping instead anyway!) and we didn’t have half an eye on the clock the whole time wondering if we would need a second mortgage to pay for the car park. Best of all, because we travelled off-peak and bought the tickets well in advance, it only cost just over a fiver each: probably cheaper than the petrol to drive there. It was, all in all, a great day out.
I admit that my default option is normally to drive rather than take public transport, especially if I am going further than Gloucester or Cheltenham. Even then I only use the bus for purposes of drinking. This is because driving is generally by far the more convenient and cheaper option.
I further admit that I frequently moan about the cost of parking. Gloucester is a good example – parking costs so much that if you go into town you make it as brief a stay as possible and get out, denying shops and restaurants the trade they would get if you felt able to linger. Even worse, if you can, you go to an out of town retail centre where parking is free. As a consequence the city centre withers and dies.
But, at risk of being stoned for being needlessly controversial, if we want to make transport more green perhaps it is right that parking should be expensive: not just in the centre, but everywhere. Only if parking is expensive enough will people take public transport. If enough people did this, perhaps the cost would then come down to a more reasonable level. If it was just as expensive to park out of town as it was in town then there would be no advantage to out of town retail parks and perhaps the centre would flourish again – especially as the public transport links would be better to the centre.
I’m sure there must be a huge flaw in this argument, but at the moment I don’t see it…
Anyway, there will be less need to travel to far flung cities and towns from Thursday as the long awaited £400 million shopping centre opens at Gloucester Quays – and yes, they seem to have worked hard at the public transport links, but parking costs aren’t too prohibitive either. I look forward to paying a visit at the weekend and hope it will be the huge success that Gloucester needs.