CAR COMMUTERS will brave jams and even road tolls if they have a free parking space provided by their employers waiting for them at the end of their journey, according to early findings from the Leicester Environmental Road Tolling Study.
'We are finding that car commuters who have to pay £6 a day to park in Leicester City Centre think twice about paying a toll on top and are more likely to switch to the cheaper park and ride bus alternative,' said TRL project leader for the LERTS study Jonathan Smith.
'But those with free parking at the end of the journey are quite prepared to pay a toll.'
The results may give government more encouragement to tax company car parking spaces in the next Budget as part of its plans to cut car use.
TRL is one of the partners in the LERTS study along with Leicester City Council and Howard Humphreys. The scheme involves 100 volunteers who are being asked to pay a variety of tolls for the privilege of driving into the Leicester down the A47 at peak time (NCE 27 November). The trial began in August last year and finishes in May.
Toll levels have been steadily rising to the latest £6 level charged in December. Early signs are that £6 is the sort of sum that encourages people to hop on the bus. 'There have certainly been indications that toll transactions were a lot lower up to 19 December when the toll period ended,' Smith said. 'But we have yet to see the volunteers' journey logs so we do not know if it is to do with the level of toll or if people have been going in late after the Christmas party.'
LERTS has also discovered that there is a limit to the distance people are prepared to walk from the park and ride bus stop to their place of work. 'Half the volunteers who work within 500m of the bus stop are now on the park and ride,' Smith said. 'But anything over that and people are continuing to drive.'
Transport Minister Gavin Strang hinted strongly that government will be promoting road pricing in the integrated transport White Paper due in the spring. He said that people want to see money raised from transport going to transport projects, and local revenue spent locally.