Council sizes up for parking war

PERTH City Council has won the battle to secure the prized 1500-bay car park beneath the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. But will it win the parking war?

On April 9, councillors agreed to pay Multiplex $45 million for the 1500 bays under the PCEC and another 300 at the soccer stadium proposed for Northbridge.

The deal gives council a 99-year lease on the parking and helps pave the way for the PCEC to go ahead.

But the PCEC’s survival did not hinge on council accepting the car parking. Council only had first right of refusal on the parking.

While it was revealed that both Secure and Wilson had put in five-year lease bids for the PCEC parking, Secure Parking director Alf Wilson told Business News he was prepared to pay up to $50 million for a 99-year lease on the parking.

Council controls about 60 per cent of the car parking within its area – about 15,000 bays. Of those, 6000 are on-street parking spots.

Parking is worth about $28 million to council, making up more than 40 per cent of the revenue it collects. But last year council’s parking revenues fell by about $2 million.

Its latest forays into car parking – the newly constructed Royal Street car park and its refurbished Lake Street car park have not been overly success-ful.

Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said the Royal Street car park cost council $22,000 a bay.

“Last Thursday it had just one car in it,” Dr Nattrass said.

He said the refurbishment of the Lake Street car park had been expensive but cars parking in it were not as high as expected.

Council is receiving stiff competition from Wilson Park-ing and Secure Parking. Between them the two operators control about 10,000 public parking spaces in the city.

At a recent council meeting, a staff note to council complained of a Wilson’s car park in Northbridge, undercutting a council car park that was next door.

The Wilson’s park enjoys 90 per cent occupancy while council’s operation is only 10 per cent full.

According to Transport WA figures there are more than 62,000 parking bays within the city and 19,000 of those are allocated to public, off-street parking.

Transport director metropolitan transport, Emmerson Richardson, said parking bays within the centre of the city were nearly always full during the week.

However, the city’s short-term parking spaces – designed for use by city shoppers – are not well used.

“Our policy is to make provision for shopping parking and to ration long-term parking because we can’t continue to cater for the growing demand,” Mr Richardson said.

City retailers are watching the growing battle with anticipation. They fear any threat to lift parking fees but welcome anything that will bring them down.

Retail Traders Association manager Brian Reynolds said even a moderate increase to short-term parking fees within the city would further disadvantage retailers.

“Unless someone has to come to the city for a specific reason, the price of parking influences their decision,” Mr Reynolds said.

“The suburban centres have free, convenient parking and the city can’t compete with that.”

There has been some controversy over whether council can make the PCEC car park viable.

Mr Wilson believes the PCEC’s car park will be a pro-fitable venture and that people will pay a premium of up to $12 a day for secure, undercover parking.

Mr Richardson said in most of Perth’s office towers tenants were paying up to $12 a day for parking.

“Companies that pay for their staff’s parking are paying up to $25 a day per car bay due to Fringe Benefits Tax,” he said.

“The council doesn’t charge market rates for its car parking,” Mr Wilson said.

“We run the Kings Park car park and charge $2.30 an hour and we’re full every day. The council has a car park next door and their charging $1.10 an hour.

“The council sets all of its multi-storey car parks at one tariff. It should be location, location, location. We have a pricing policy based on the whole of the city. Is $10 a day too high for all day parking? No. At Westralia Square, people are paying $36 a day.”

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