Free parking sounds nice.
No more scrambling for coins for that quick milk and bread run to the shops. No more need to cut lunch short to rush back to the car to avoid a parking ticket when the time paid for expires.
But a lengthy list of questions need to be considered by Greater Shepparton City councillors before a looming decision is made on pushing ahead with any options for changing CBD parking cost structures.
The biggest question is around what making parking free actually serves to address?
If the performance of CBD shops is the issue, the question then should be, how do we know parking is the problem?
If customers aren’t parking in the CBD, then that may be a concern. But are people not parking in the CBD?
Are the city’s paid car parks empty?
Let’s look at the cost: $1.50 per hour — less than half the price of a cup of coffee — on weekdays, and free on weekends. Is this fairly benign cost dissuading people from using paid parking spots?
Is the cost dissuading out-of-town visitors from travelling to the city to shop?
Or, is the broader concern the availability of parking? Needless to say, but changing the cost of parking won’t change the number of parking spots available.
Is the cost the problem, or the fact that coins are the only payment option accepted by the council’s parking meters?
In which case, would making the meters free be the best course of action, or rather making them more convenient to use?
Yes, this would mean an investment in technology geared to accept card or even phone payment, but could present a longer-term solution.
What of the fact that there is already a wealth of free parking options available skirting the fringes of the CBD, sitting just a block or two walk away from most places?
What of the $900000 the council estimated it would put into its coffers from paid parking this financial year? Where should efficiencies be made to cover this?
A question that seems to be frequently asked in relation to this is, why is parking free at outlying shopping centres, but not the CBD?
Is it free at these centres, or is it just not the customer who pays for it?
It just so happens that in the case of the CBD at the moment, it’s the users that pay for it.
Part of this covers the cost associated with enforcing timed and paid parking.
If parking is free, presumably it will remain timed.
Meaning the costs of enforcement remains, and the possibility of receiving a ticket, too.
And in the event of a trial free parking, what are the parameters for it working? How do you know if it is a success?
Surely this goes back to the question of what the problem is to begin with? Is it retail performance? How do you link any change in parking cost measures to retail trending upward or downward? The questions continue.