On March 22, Wollongong City Council introduced on-street ‘pay and display’ machines throughout the city centre. Motorists are charged a $2 flat fee to park in half-hour, one-hour, or two-hour zones, no matter how long they stay in the parking space. “Topping up” the meters is illegal and motorists who overstay the time limit, whether or not they have a valid ticket, will be fined.
Over the course of the past week, PCI has followed reaction to the introduction of the meters with interest. On first day of metered parking, some CBD streets were virtually deserted, and most had only a handful of parked cars scattered along them.
There were significantly fewer cars queuing at traffic lights or adding to congestion along the CBD streets, supporting Wollongong City Council’s research, estimating that at least 30 per cent of traffic in the city centre was circulating in search of a parking space, while one third of timed on-street spaces were occupied by all-day parkers.
Most small businesses within the area seemed to feel that the introduction would have a negative impact on their customers. However, when paid parking was first introduced in Canberra, a similar downturn was only short-lived.
One interesting approach adopted by the City Diggers Club has been the deployment of Gold Coast-style ‘Meter Maids’, to help dampen the negative impact of paid parking around the club. The maids operated during the first three days of the meters’ introduction, to help customers avoiding getting booked, and dispel confusion over the new parking rules.
According to The Illawarra Mercury the solution lies in a new commuter car park which is under construction at the Wollongong train station; it will offer free shuttles to the Wollongong CBD when it opens by the end of the year.
PCI is fully supporting of the introduction of paid parking in the Wollongong area; the greater availability of parking spaces and reduction in traffic and congestion as a result are proof of this. However, the ‘flat rate’ parking prices should perhaps be reviewed in the future in order to provide a greater relation between cost and length of stay.