According to the RAC, based on council returns to the Department for Communities, English councils made a record £819 million (after deducting costs) from their parking operations in 2016-17, up 10% from 2015-16 and 40% from 2012-13.
This surplus is available to be spent on transport locally and residents might see this as a ‘good thing’ – until they collect a parking fine when they were unprepared for local restrictions or available payment options.
This survey set out to see how far councils are being clear about the availability of parking spaces it manages, and the rules around them. Technology has made it much easier for councils to provide a really good service, including provision of information online as well as electronic payment options and alerts that parking time is up.
Drivers with disabilities are the group mostly likely to make use of parking information online information ahead of a journey and can also benefit from special parking arrangements provided by local authorities.
December 2017 and January 2018
English and Northern Ireland district councils
There is a mixed economy when it comes to management of parking within district council footprints. Some councils may feel hard done by in the results of this survey where parking in their area is managed by the county, or where the area is so rural that paying for parking is the exception rather than the rule.
To those making the former point, we would say that the public does not really care which tier of council provides the service, and they should be linked through to the right information and a quality service wherever the start point. The same applies where reliance is placed in a third party supplier.
On the second, even where charges are rarely levied, parking is not just about fees and fines: this is an important service for residents and visitors and people should be able to find key information about the location of car parks and arrangements for drivers with disabled badges (2.38 million individuals in England).
Overall the survey result was disappointing, with only 31% offering a good or very good service. However, there are some good examples to follow among our four star recommended councils listed at the end of the report.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2016-17 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
As with all Better Connected surveys done from a mobile device, councils that fail to present pages that are mobile responsive rule themselves out of the survey and cannot achieve more than one star.
9% of sites (18) fell into this category, some of them because although the main site was responsive, parking pages or provider sites were not. Of the rest, 34% of sites, just over a third, provide a good or very good service for people looking for information about local parking.
In developing this survey we were thinking about the needs particularly of someone new to an area and needing to park.
Just over half of all sites provided information on the most basic of requirements, location, by map or postcode look up. Maps of individual car parks were sometimes linked to a list of car parks named for local towns or areas.
This is not very helpful if you are new to an area and unfamiliar with its landmarks and geographies. Even if you have some local knowledge, this misses the point of being able to see a selection of car parks and chose the most convenient given the place you are trying to visit.
What is needed is a map of the area with car parks indicated and links to further information. Ideally the map will use a modern interactive map tool that work well on a mobile interface rather than the rather clunky, layered GIS systems that some councils still use for this purpose. Some councils link to Parkopedia which provides the map facility and the information required for our ‘essential question’ about the cost of parking and the hours that apply for individual car parks.
Just over half of all sites provided both bits of information, although some opted to do so in a pdf document, not an ideal solution for someone using a mobile phone, as someone ‘out and about’ and seeking parking is likely be. Sometimes presentation of information on web pages was marred by poor implementation of tables that were hard to use on a mobile device.
It is good to see many councils using third party pay by phone services, handy for those of us that tend not to carry cash these days. Because of the ubiquity of such schemes, telling motorists the such a service does not exist is as important as telling them it does, as is information about all other forms of payment including coins only, cards, and other schemes. We found 44% of sites tell visitors whether or not they can pay by phone in any/all car parks.
The most disappointing aspect of this survey’s results was lack of information about parking for drivers with disabilities. This is a group that always needs to plan in advance of travel, and the best sites provide what they need. This should certainly include details about availability of spaces in car parks and who can use them as well as more general information – or links to it - about parking rules for holders of ‘blue badges’.
While the issuing of blue badges is not a district council function, it does seem odd to refer to blue badges being required for users of parking bays for disabled people without providing links to further information about how to get one. Unfortunately only 48% of sites do so.
This is especially so given that districts do manage applications for parking bays for disabled people on the street outside their property. Some councils provide almost no information:
In exceptional circumstances, we can allocate a parking space to a registered disabled driver. You would need to apply in writing to your Housing Services Officer, making a request.
Others provide a clear set of criteria that must apply, detail how applications are judged, and provide an online form so that people may self-serve. Only 23% of sites provide an online form for applications, and just 14% one that is responsive and interactive, and therefore fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Parking is not a top service for many districts, and we did not expect to find 'Parking' as a main heading on the home page. However we found an obvious home page link - maybe under travel, transport or similar, in only 61% of cases. Disappointing then, that 22% of site searches did not find the task. This compares with a 100% success rate when searching via Google.
A concluding thought is that some of the surplus on council parking activity that is available for improving transport locally (see the 'Why important' section above) could usefully be deployed improving parking pages on council websites.
Simple landing page with icons for the major aspects of the service: car park locations, permits, PCNs etc Detailed information of charges and facilities at each site.
The Layout works well with the key information clearly marked in boxes with further links provided, including to Worcestershire CC's blue badge application process. The site renders well on a mobile device.
Very clear and concise information
Lots of clear and concise information. The interactive map works particularly well with 'more information' on an individual car park.
The service landing page is very well organised with click through boxes for the top tasks, fines, disabled parking etc. All information is clearly explained but the site would benefit from more information about ways to pay.
Dorset districts: Christchurch, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland
Filtering the car parks by location and subcriteria works well. Lots of useful information about an individual car park and links from there to for example disabled parking.
Landing onto a very easy to use map was a great start. Thereafter I was not disappointed. A very well designed mobile site. Just right for this task.
Intuitive design including 10 section links coupled with an interactive map.
The site is easy to navigate and has concise information for each car park. One improvement would be to add whether cashless payment options are available.
Very intuitive, particularly liked the links to applying for permits from the summary information for an individual car park. The only minor negative is that the interactive map took a little while to load.