Saturday, 8 November 2008

Driving and Parking in London

If you want to keep your sanity, don't own a car in London. Occasionally however, you need one. For those occasions, I'm very much in favour of car-club schemes like CityCarClub, ZipCar and StreetCar, but none of them has a depot anywhere near my house yet. So I still own a car, but I don't use it very much. At certain times of day, I have found that it actually took me longer to drive somewhere than it would have taken to walk. And you don't have to pay a congestion charge for walking.

However, I'm currently on a project that involves flying to a customer site in Europe several times a month, leaving London City Airport very early in the morning - so early in fact that I would miss the flight if I tried to go by public transport. In the past, I have used a minicab instead, but fares have recently gone up so much that I resorted to driving to the airport myself. If you stay at least two days, you can book a space at the airport car park on the Internet and save a fair bit of money, but not for a single day - and the parking costs almost as much as the minicab.

To the rescue came a new service called ParkAtMyHouse. Such a simple yet elegant idea - anyone with a garage or a bit of parking space can advertise it on-line and you simply haggle about the price. The web site handles the reservation and communication between owner and renter of the space. There's a feedback mechanism similar to eBay. The service levies a fee of 10% of the rent paid for its services, which seems reasonable as you would not have any other way of discovering these cheap parking spaces. You can rent by the hour, day, week, month or longer. I didn't find anything very close to the airport, but only two stops away on the DLR was someone willing to rent me a space for only £5 a day - job done!

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