Two quick notices today from London as I navigate inside the congestion charging zone (which today, ironically, was overwhelmed with traffic due to street closures caused by the visit of George Bush). I passed this lovely little blue service station (open since 1926) today in Bloomsbury, which was said to have recently closed, a victim of declining business due to the onset of congestion charging. The word is that demolition is imminent, though it seems a natural for adaptive reuse as a lounge or cafe (special “high-octane drinks”, etc.).
Another bit of news comes from The Times. Apparently, in a sign of “unintended consequences,” parking garages in central London are finding it harder to maintain high capacities of vehicles, so in a novel scheme, variable pricing (based on demand) is being introduced. Prices, the article notes, could go as low as 20 p per hour (roughly 38 cents or so). I’m not quite sure why is this presented as being so unexpected, as wouldn’t one expect lower demand for parking as traffic levels decrease? Of course, if low parking prices merely offset congestion charges, traffic levels may accordingly creep back up. Such is the sticky wicket of supply and demand that traffic planners must negotiate. But it’s not hard to imagine a retraction in the parking garage business.
Still, gas stations and parking garages are hardly beloved icons of urban life, and, much as urban horse stables were slowly converted to residential housing as the automobile eclipsed the horse as the city transport system of choice, so too may these and other auto-based structures begin to decline in cities as they aim to curtail car traffic (one imagines some future tourist quizzically peering at a blue English heritage plaque on the side of a former parking garage).