24/07/2013 - 07:09

Parking move undermines transport plan

24/07/2013 - 07:09

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The planned demolition of a popular commuter parking area in the western suburbs is a relatively small issue that sheds light on much bigger questions regarding whole-of-government planning.

The planned demolition of a popular commuter parking area in the western suburbs is a relatively small issue that sheds light on much bigger questions regarding whole-of-government planning.

The greater use of public transport is one of many changes that have redefined Perth over the past decade.

As the city’s population has grown and the road network becomes increasingly congested, more and more Perth residents, including city workers, are choosing to catch buses and trains.

It’s a big change from the days when such modes of movement were the chariots of choice, or necessity, for children, pensioners and the poor.

The big focus on public transport during this year’s state election campaign showed how important the issue has become.

Labor had its MetroNet plan and the Liberals countered with the MAX light rail proposal and airport rail link.

The Liberals’ projects, budgeted to cost $3.8 billion together, come on top of many other expensive road and rail projects around Perth.

One of the consequences of growing patronage of public transport has been the pressure on parking bays at the major train stations.

Many people battle to use public transport because they simply can’t get a parking bay at their local train station.

The state government is on the case. At the 2008 state election it promised to spend $50 million building 3,000 additional parking bays.

So far, it has over-delivered with nearly 4,000 extra bays provided.

But like the Mitchell Freeway, which seems to get busier as it gets wider, the demand for parking bays at train stations continues to grow as the number expands.

That prompted Transport Minister Troy Buswell to promise during the state election that a Liberal government would spend $47 million on a secure, multi-storey car park for Edgewater train station.

A user price of just $2 a day was touted, which implies a substantial subsidy for this facility.

This brings me to the subject of another commuter parking area that is about to be ripped up.

The parking area at Claremont train station is unpaved, and often riddled with potholes and puddles, but it’s free and commuters (and local workers) love it.

It hosts between 350 and 500 cars a day - depending on whose estimate you believe - and even more when events like the Royal Show are held at the nearby showgrounds.

It is being pulled up to make way for LandCorp’s Claremont on the Park project, which will turn the space around Claremont football ground into apartments.

Georgiou Capital got the nod this week to proceed with the first apartment project.

The infill project has many attributes, using underutilised space for medium-density housing close to shops, public transport and other community infrastructure.

The one big drawback is that the roadway is being realigned to run next to the train line, creating more space next to the football ground for apartment developments.

That’s great news for a property developer, but if we look at the holistic impact on the neighbourhood and the effect on public transport patronage, it seems misguided.

The development will include up to 200 paid parking bays for commuters – this is a long way short of the numbers using the current car park, and at a cost that is yet to be determined.

The result of this reduction in parking bays will either be more congestion in the streets around Claremont and other train stations, or less patronage of public transport, which of course means more congestion on the city’s crowded roads.

Perhaps the local municipality, which was involved in drafting the original structure plan, realises there is a looming problem.

The Town of Claremont has recently been pushing for 200 extra public parking bays in the area, but was blocked by the WA Planning Commission.

Its chairman Eric Lumsden told Business News the council's proposal was "unjustified, unwarranted, excessive and not in line with current state planning principles of encouraging transit oriented development and discouraging car dependency".

 

That seems a curious logic since the whole point of Park and Ride facilities is to make it easier for commuters to use public transport; i.e. to reduce car dependency.

The Council's fallback is to establish an expert working group, which will include LandCorp, the Public Transport Authority, the Police Service and the Department of Planning, to look at traffic issues.

The working group should start with one simple question: why destroy a heavily used car park when elsewhere in Perth millions of dollars are being spent building new car parks?

Disclaimer: the author is a resident of Claremont and welcomes infill development.


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