17 May 2013

Guest post from Dave Holladay- What can Harpenden learn from St Albans

Hertsad's story on an additional deck for Harpenden station sparked this comment from Dave Holladay. Dave is a cycle and rail transport consultant, his bio is at the bottom of this post.

Over to Dave:

"Two most contrasting stories in this week's paper.  St Albans City Station has beaten even Cambridge to be the first UK station with over 1000 cycle parking spaces, many fitted in to space that cannot be used for car parking.  Demand has been driven up by the basic fact that the time taken to cycle to the station remains pretty consistent, with a freedom to stop off for a newspaper or special item for supper en route without having to find a place to park a car, and the congested roads in the morning rush hour, and hunt for a parking space make the drive-to-train journey times less predictable.

Some commuters actually find that they can do without that car which sits for around 90% of the time parked at home or the station, and the savings on a car park season ticket, plus running costs for a car, add up to several thousand pounds per year.  That buys a lot of taxi trips and car hires for the once or twice per week you actually need that second car.

At Harpenden it is reported that people are walking up to a mile - under 5 minutes on a bike, but at least 15 minutes brisk walking, from where they park their cars to get to the train, and it isn't that building a bigger car park with the same access will make a great difference to their actual journey times or 'level of service'.

A 2-level car park 'conversion' as a minimum costs around £12,000 per space, for the vary basic prefabricated units that some locals have already said is a visual disaster.  Someone has to pay for this, and ultimately the landlord, Network Rail pays, to amortise the costs over a longer period than the FCC franchise, of this 'asset' on the station site.  FCC pays a higher rent and charges for use of the parking spaces to cover this and the running costs for the car park.  £12,000 is relatively cheap - I once had the Heathrow Central Short Stay Car Park listed as the most expensive per space at £32,000 (naturally making the parking rates equally eye watering to repay this commercial investment).  Now the most expensive I've seen is one stations where £2.5m delivered just 30 additional parking spaces - effectively £83,000 per space, but with a daily parking charge no higher than £4 - effectively all the other passengers are subsidising car parking for the few who use it.

There remains a further problem rarely highlighted when a car park is expanded. If each car takes around 15 seconds to get clear of the exit (an optimistic figure where exit is on to a busy road) than say 60 passengers get off an incoming train, and go to collect cars, the last car could easily be waiting 15 minutes to get to the exit... by which time another peak-hour train has discharged another 60 drivers to their cars.

Dispersal of passengers on foot or on bikes is substantially less intrusive and can use a far greater range of routes using less road-space.  I just wonder of measures to make use of the car park less attractive to those travelling distances which can easily be walked or cycled, and thus making space available for those travelling from further away might be a cheaper and simpler solution than building a bigger capacity, which, if it was assessed as an asset being used effectively would only be filled for 9-10 hours per day - less than 45% utilisation - few businesses would be happy with an asset so under-used.

The solution can be delivered - at Surbiton in SW London, the steady growth of cycle use has resulted in up to 25% of the car park spaces being available at 09.30, providing spaces for groups travelling on off-peak services, even with some car parking being taken away to park even more bikes. Time perhaps for some courageous decisions to manage the car parking demand rather than just accept a build-build-build policy.

Harpenden's solution might be to have pricing for cars registered at addresses within 3 miles of the station weighted with surcharge, or a ride-share discount for cars used for bringing more than 2 people to catch a train."

Dave Holladay has been working as an independent integrated transport specialist for the past 17 years, considering transport as a resoource which can be purchased and consumed far more efficiently if we move to modelling Travel Resource management in the way we now model Energy and Telecom Management.  He tracks this back to his first job in logistics - aged 12 - delivering printed media to 50 or more drops in under an hour.  By 14 he was managing a small team and co-ordinating the incoming material from the London News Wholesalers at the shop he worked for.  His serious interest in transport was engaged when he began working with British Rail, in a variety of engineering jobs, and later he moved to work for Sustrans for 10 years, surveying and building cycle routes, around the UK but mainly in Scotland.  He has not owned a car full time since 1976, but by hiring and belonging to a car sharing club, can enjoy using a near new vehicle of whatever type needed for the job.  A long term user of folding bikes (since 1980) he has worked with Brompton, to develop their Brompton Dock hire system, and also has experience with schemes using conventional bikes for public bike sharing and hire schemes.  He reckons that with the average private car standing idle for around 95% of the time, households could typically be between £2000 and £3000/year better off by ditching car ownership in favour of the pay as you go options. Some people may even find it cheaper to commute daily by taxi than run a car for this purpose. One commuter (Stansted Montfitchet-London) estimates that he is £8500/yr better off through his commuting regime - that buys a much bigger mortgage or pension if you so desire.

He advises CTC on cycling with public transport, and various organisations on travel plans, and has lead pioneering work on home bike parking (Edinburgh 1998, and Hackney in 2003)

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