Business driving the belief that inner-city parking pays

PERTH’S reliance on automobiles is obvious from the number of car parks in the city. And, with an increasing number of vehicles coming into town on a daily basis, city car parks represent a major land use across the CBD and beyond.

There are 60,000 non-residential car-parking bays in the city, based on figures compiled by the Department of Transport in 1999.

During the peak traffic periods in the morning and the afternoon, 65 per cent of workers in the CBD drive to work, compared with about 35 per cent who use ‘green’ modes – public transport, walking or bicycle.

Public parking in the City of Perth is controlled by a number of operators, including the City of Perth, which operates 35 off-street car parks.

This amounts to 10,000 off-street car bays.

City of Perth chief executive officer Frank Edwards said the total figure comprised about 60 per cent of the overall market.

“Generally speaking we are the lowest cost provider,” he said.

The current strategy for the City of Perth is to keep the inner-city parking available for short-stay users.

These are people who are shopping or doing business in the city.

“We’re trying to work in conjunction with the transport facilities,” Mr Edwards said.

“We have to look at the entire issue of people movement.

“At the moment the City of Perth provides 450,000 uses a month of car bays in the city.”

The City of Perth provides cheaper, longer-stay parking on the outskirts of the city for people working in the CBD.

Commuters who utilise these bays can take the Central Area Transit (CAT) bus into the city centre. Of most concern to transport analysts is the amount of all-day parking available in the city.

There was a bias towards long-stay parking in the city, one industry analyst said.

“Bad parks are the ones that get filled up in the morning and empty out in the afternoon,” he said.

“Long-stay areas sterilise areas of the city.”

Across the metropolitan area, for every vehicle there is between one and two off-street parks.

That’s 1.5 million to two million car parks at a space of 25.2sq m each.

“That’s a huge amount of land and the value of that land is a huge investment,” the source said.

Car parks needed to be looked at as an element of the transport system, rather than a land use. Perth has a private car-public transport split very similar to cities in the US.

Across the metropolitan area about 80 per cent of people travel to work by private car.

If car use continues to grow the city won’t be able to support the volume of cars or parking, the source said.

“In 1995, 104,000 people were working in the CBD and West Perth,” he said.

“In 30 years our work population is estimated to be 145,000; if we still have the same split there will be a requirement for 75,000 long-term bays.”

Sinclair Knight Merz transport planning senior executive Emerson Richardson said Perth had one of the highest ratios of parking in the world.

“When cities get to be over the one million mark, in my view the amount of parking required is seriously important,” he said.

“When the railway comes into the city there’s a big opportunity to rationalise parking in the city and not increase it.”

Mr Richardson said a lot of the parking in town was under-utilised. The fact that properties with ample parking sold for more than those without was a key piece of the puzzle, he said.

“The thing to drive the amount of parking is the mindset [of developers] who believe they must maximise [parking] approvals,” Mr Richardson said.

“It’s because in the business world you can lease a property better if it has got parking.

“This comes from many executives who have packages with car parks given to them.”

Parking in the city had doubled between 1970 and 1990, Mr Richardson said.

“There’s very little work I’ve seen that shows the economic benefit of parking in the city,” he said. “From an environmental aspect the good cites, like Copenhagen and Munich, are the ones that have managed the amount of cars in the city.”

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