Sustainability is important – except when carparks are involved, it’s my right to park for free

There have been a couple of pieces of news that have been floating around in the past few days that really do highlight the backward attitude of South Australians (Adelaideans in particular) to driving and parking; the reactions to both Rod Hook’s view that parking prices in Adelaide’s city centre should be increased and the proposed introduction of parking fees at Westfield Marion.

In some aspects, Adelaide is getting better over time at being sustainable. We outlawed plastic bags at major retailers, we are increasingly capturing and making better use of our water supply and we’re amongst the leaders in recycling in Australia.

But we still think it’s our right to be able to drive everywhere and park wherever we like for free. We complain about petrol prices, we complain about having to pay for parking and we complain about not having enough parking spaces. We think road transport should be free. Hold on, doesn’t excessive driving go against the argument of sustainability?

And this is a problem we face, but continue to ignore or deny. When it comes to transport, one of the biggest contributors to global warming, Adelaideans are terrible in terms of how much they drive compared to other major cities. A big part of it comes down to our attitude. Another part of it comes from the fact that most Adelaideans don’t know anything better, and I don’t blame them since the substandard public transport system has never been taken seriously.

If Rod Hook thinks that decreasing the number of car parks or increasing parking prices in the city is the holy grail to dealing with peak hour congestion, then I think we need to consider a replacement for the chief executive of the Department for Energy, Transport and Infrastructure.

Adelaide City Council design guidelines in new developments plays a big contribution to the excessive number of car parks we have now. There are minimum requirements for car parks in residential developments instead of maximums and there have been numerous car park towers approved left, right and centre.

One only needs to look along Franklin Street to see how many car parks are being built, there are almost as many buildings for car parks being constructed as there are buildings for offices. The number of people who visit central Adelaide per day may be less than one-third of those in central Melbourne or Sydney, but there are more car parks than in either of these cities. Not car parks per capita, but total car parks. There are some 41000 car parks in central Adelaide versus 35000 and 30000 in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. Many of these are completely empty on weekends as they serve working commuters on weekdays.

Early bird all day parking in Adelaide typically costs anywhere between $11 and $15 in most places. Even if prices were jacked up to over $20 a day, most people would still drive because it’s easy to drive along Adelaide’s wide and straight streets and because the alternative – public transport – is still not good enough to make people consider it.

Hopefully the investment in public transport continues to pick up and Adelaide City Council eventually comes to its senses on the issue of the appropriate provision of car parks in the city. It may be challenging to get the two coordinated as one is a state government responsibility while the other is a local government responsibility.

On the issue of Westfield Marion charging for parking – the proposed system appears to be the same as what is currently in place in several car parks at Norwood. That is, two hours of parking for free and pay for anything more than this. And it works brilliantly, particularly in stopping the free-loaders who don’t actually go into the shopping centre or cinema that owns the car parks. We should be encouraging people to use buses and trains to get there, there’s plenty of routes that go to Marion. That is, if the government ever improves the system to the point where people consider public transport to Marion as a serious option.

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