If we really want to get people out of cars and into public transport we need to think about where they park those cars.

There seems to be a view held by Government, and in particular in Local Government, that ALL car use is bad and should be made as difficult as possible. So, if you live in the country you should walk to a bus stop and then take two different buses to get to a station so you can get a commuter train to the mainline station so you can get the intercity to the town you want to go to, and so on.

This is counter productive because frankly most people just say “sod it”, jump in the car, and drive all the way.

And you have a colleague making the same journey, but you don’t meet on the M6 and switch to one car because the price of parking the other car at the services for the day is greater than the cost of just driving both cars to the meeting.

Milton Keynes is a good example. Until just before lock-down there was nowhere near enough parking at the station. If you wanted to go to London after about 9:30am you either couldn’t park at all, or had to pay the premium parking rate which frankly was more than the petrol you needed to drive all the way (even before you bought the train ticket). The council said they had planned this to avoid “local traffic”, but you try getting a bus to the station from where I live, or many rural towns and villages, etc.

If we’re serious about cutting pollution, local and global, then we need to get over this nonsense and start thinking about how we interface between cars and public transport. Drive to the station, drive to a point from where you can car share, drive to the edge of your local town, and then park somewhere sensible and cheap and transition to public transport for the rest of the journey.

Oxford is very tough on private cars, but I always think to myself that they are doing a good job, because they have really sorted out the park and ride. It’s sensible, not too expensive, and you can be right in the city centre in just ten minutes from parking. It’s less good that the bus you make that final leg of the journey in pollutes more than dozens of cars, but many local authorities are switching to electric buses or trams now, so even that is getting sorted. However, that is one city, other towns and cities seem to be far behind, just making it harder to drive without thinking about the interfaces.

We need a national strategy on parking, and on cleaning up public transport, if we really are trying to make things better and not just treat car owners as scapegoats. It may seem counter intuitive but planning for some car use may be key to cutting overall levels of car use.