Are High Parking Charges Impacting Journeys Taken In East Lindsey?
April 23rd 2014
Today's poll is also a lesson in bias. I believe all poll questions reflect unspoken assumptions, so it's hard to eliminate partiality, even in the most innocuous-seeming questions. If you can't pinpoint the source of bias, it's more likely that you're not looking hard enough than that it isn't there.
With that in mind, I wanted to tackle the question of car parking charges, which East Lindsey District Council increased in 2013, and later modified in the light of criticism. I've heard a great deal of complaints about the hike in fees, and about how people are more inclined to park on side streets. However, I didn't want to ask the obvious question: "Are car parking charges too high?" A question like that might get a lot of "yes" votes, but it doesn't tell us much. If you're the one paying, any rise in the rate might seem like too much.
Far more interesting is working out how parking charges have affected people's behaviour, particularly in an area that relies on retail and tourism for a lot of its economic activity. Are the charges actually high enough to turn people away from this area?
The pollDo high car parking charges in East Lindsey prevent you making journeys within the district?
On Wednesday, April 23rd I put this question to 100 people in Louth town centre. 28% said "yes", 70% said "no", 1% said "maybe", and 1% said "don't know".
Some people told me they thought ELDC's charges were reasonable and compared well with other councils'. Others expressed their dismay at the high prices and the disruption the changes have caused.
Edit 24th April:
Something I forgot to mention when I first posted was the high number of non-drivers I spoke to. I don't drive, but I was quite surprised at how widespread this is, particularly in an area where public transport is scarce. Nearly all of the people who told me they don't drive responded "no" to this poll.
Residents compared with non-residentsIn this poll I asked respondents to tell me whether they were residents of East Lindsey. 59% were from within the East Lindsey area, leaving 41% from outside. In previous polls I've asked whether people are Lincolnshire residents, but in this instance I also wanted to get a better idea of how many people visit Louth from outside the district. In some polls I didn't press people from outside the area for a response, because the issue was mainly of local interest. For instance, most of the responses to the poll on plans for 240 homes near Grimsby Road were from local people.
However, in this poll on parking charges, I wanted the views of visitors as well as locals. So that 41% doesn't just represent how many people took part in this poll, it's also a reflection of how many people from outside East Lindsey were in Louth on what was a fairly typical market day.
Now, back to that bias I was talking about earlier. With a high percentage of non-residents responding, this survey has an inherent flaw: many people who would have replied "yes" are clearly less likely to be making trips to Louth from outside the area if they can't afford the parking charges. That's one of the drawbacks of taking a poll in a particular location. But in the absence of a Census-like budget for doing these things, polls are always going to be imperfect.
By the same token, local people who can't afford to travel may be more likely to remain in Louth. So is there any difference in the results for people from different areas? The table below shows the differences, with the actual number of respondents in brackets.
On the face of it, it looks like this poll is telling us most people aren't concerned enough about parking charges to alter their plans. But look at it another way: if the numbers of people who are travelling less as a result of the charges is anything like the 28% this data suggests, that could represent a lot of lost trade. (A random sample of 100 people gives you about a 10% margin of error).
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