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What price will we pay for night time parking?

Catherine Carter

Canberra’s economy doesn’t grind to a halt when the sun goes down. And yet, new parking fees, outlined in the ACT Budget, may deter people from enjoying the nightlife in Civic.

At a time when we need more activity in our city centre, this decision makes no sense.

From July, drivers parking on London Circuit, at the Civic Pool, next to Commonwealth Avenue or at the Canberra Institute of Technology must pay until 10.30pm each day, according to the ACT Budget announced last week.

Parking hours for all-day tickets on weekdays will rise to $15. By 2018, this fee will rise to $18 a day. Ouch!

The move is expected to raise around $5 million over the next four years. But what price will we pay in our city centre? And what impact is this likely to have on the viability and vibrancy of Canberra’s night time economy?

The property industry has been generally supportive of government increasing car parking charges – particularly around the Parliamentary Triangle – for a range of reasons, including the desire to see car parking treated equitably across the Territory. We need cars to be part of a broad suite of transport options – not the only option.

But introducing paid parking into Civic throughout the evening does nothing to enliven our city’s heart, or to ensure the long-term economic redevelopment in the city. And it is bad news for businesses that are already hurting from public service cuts and office relocations.

Around Australia, cities are looking for ways to increase the value of their night time economies. Research from the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, released in February, found that the national night time economy is booming – increasing 13 per cent to $102 billion in just four years. More than one million Australians are employed in the night time economy too.

If we want to expand our piece of this pie – and to encourage restaurants, bars and entertainment that only gets going when the sun goes down – we can’t do it by selectively increasing fees and charges in one part of our city, that hurt people’s hip pockets.

Canberrans are crying out for a city centre that hums with life. We need to make our city centre an appealing place to live. We need to reduce the 15.9 per cent office vacancy rate by encouraging more jobs in the city. And we need to fill empty shops by providing attractive business conditions.

Expecting people to fork out more money to park in Civic, particularly when there has been no increase in paid parking during the evening in any of our other town centres or suburban shops or indeed at locations such the Kingston Foreshore or Dickson, won’t help us achieve any of these objectives.

Catherine Carter is ACT Executive Director of the Property Council of Australia

Catherine Carter

A lover of books and beauty, a seasoned traveller and creative thinker, Catherine is passionate about Canberra. Head of the Property Council of Australia’s Canberra office for more than a decade, Catherine now heads up a boutique consulting firm, Indigo Consulting Australia, where she provides a range of specialist business and communication advisory services with a focus on urban environments, new forms of collaboration, community building and diversity. Catherine was the recipient of the Telstra Business Women’s ACT Community and Government Award in 2010. More about the Author

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