In the City Canberra calls for holistic approach to parking policy

The release of the ACT Government’s 2015/16 budget in June announced changes to parking in Canberra’s CBD, including a rise in parking charges and the introduction of late night parking and weekend charges.

Commencing on 1 September these changes will be imposed on the non-commuter car parks nearby the Canberra Theatre and the Convention Centre.

Jane Easthope, In the City Canberra Chief Executive Officer is extremely concerned about the ACT Government’s approach to parking policy within Canberra’s CBD.

“Parking policy requires a holistic approach taking into consideration all relevant factors and concerns,” Easthope said. “For effective parking changes to be made there needs to be an attractive and viable alternative for non-commuter visitors to Canberra’s CBD.

“Parking policy is a combination of raising revenue, reducing congestion and encouraging visitation. It has to be integrated with transport design and planning – Action buses, walking and cycling and the possibly light rail network.

“There are three types of parking – commuter, residential and non-commuter. Drivers making leisure, business and shopping trips have a far greater range of options available compared to commuters and residents. They can reduce frequency of visits, change destinations and alter how long and where they visit the CBD, if they still decide to go.”

Parking in the Canberra Centre on Sunday costs $2 all day, whereas the carpark opposite the Sydney Building on Sundays will be $2.10 for an hour and up to $13.30 for four hours. The City West Carpark closes at 9pm Monday to Thursday and around 11pm on Friday with no parking on the weekends. There are a couple of carparks that haven’t had their time and days altered including the one that the builders of the tram are eying off.

“It’s simply not fair,” says Easthope. “Who is this revenue raising exercise targeting? It affects the community wanting to swim, visit the gallery or library, casual staff wanting to working late and on Sundays, people who want to meet of a meal and a drink. From 1 September it’s free after 10:30 PM when most have finished dining and the night clubs are starting to warm up.  It used to be 5:30 PM.

If you’re a night clubber don’t leave the car and catch a cab like you used to because the charging starts again at 8:30 AM every day and you might have a yellow envelop.

 So what’s it to be? – dinner out in one of the many restaurants in City West and the older parts of the CBD from 7 PM to 10 PM at a cost of $8.50 or dinner at the many restaurants attached to the Canberra Centre and facing Bunda Street at a cost of $6.00. If you overstay there’s no fine and it’s comparatively safer – better lighting, no pre-loaders and tap and go exit with the card.  Sunday is worse – $2 all day at the Canberra Centre versus much more in the targeted carparks.

The recent Have Your Say Survey commissioned by In the City Canberra and undertaken by KREAB invited participants to share their thoughts about Canberra’s CBD and how it can be improved. Across the 500 entries and over 30 people participating in online forums, parking was a key concern and already a factor in many residents not visiting the CBD as often as they would like. Support for change such as increasing density was often tempered by comments such as ‘as long as they get the parking right’.

“Encouraging car parking can help regenerate urban areas and this area is certainly in need of some support,” Easthope said. “So, policy makers, why not make it more attractive to park rather that repel people to find other options in the CBD and elsewhere?

“Can someone explain the long term policy, please? And what else is in store because the trust meter is a little low after surprising us, with the prospect of the Capital Metro works compound going into the carpark where most of the restaurants are located. When the budget was announced, this carpark was spared from changes. We wondered why, but now we know.

“Is it really going to generate heaps of revenue after the cost of inspectors monitoring and imposing fines are deducted? Do we really want to see an exodus of traders from this part of town? Do we want to see buildings that are run down and the same value that they were decades ago? Apparently we should be concerned if street level vacancies are about 5% and we have over 15%. The people setting the parking policy and deciding where the works compounds appear to be ambivalent.

“Where’s the policy for the multistorey carparks on the City Hill side of the CBD? Let the private sector build and operate some carparks before tinkering with charges. One near the pool and works depot and one near the police station seem to be logical places, so let’s bring it forward.

I haven’t mentioned, Braddon because it’s in the really hard basket. So what is the policy and how does it change over time? ”