If you’re thinking about visiting the Town of Victoria Park to enjoy one of it’s many excellent coffee shops or eating houses, think again. Why? Because as of a bit over a month ago the local council imposed on local businesses and their customers one of the most draconian, absurd and regressive parking policies ever seen in the metropolitan area.
Their policy is to place parking meters along the full length of the Albany Highway strip and in most of the side streets. Parking will cost you $1.50 per hour with the first 15 minutes free. Unlike pretty much anywhere else in Perth, paid parking starts at 8am and ends at midnight–yes, that’s right, midnight!–seven days per week.
Now, if you’re thinking that I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, you’re right. Here’s why.
I’m the President of the newly formed Victoria Park Soccer Club. As a new club we’re struggling for resources, struggling for sponsors (if you’re keen, let me know) and struggling to get the support of established local clubs with whom we’re required to share resource. So today I dropped in to ask the Perth Royals if we could use their club rooms at JA Lee Reserve to store our bag of training balls. It didn’t seem like a big request but I soon got the impression they were less than keen to assist. Darren, the guy serving in the canteen and a club stalwart, explained why.
“Look, Peter, we’d love to help you but the local council aren’t giving us any reason to do that. Let me explain. Eight years ago we installed the pitch lights. They weren’t cheap. Now the Council have taken them back so they can sell the use of the grounds to other clubs so they can train at night. We still pay for the electricity but they get the ground rental fee. Tell me how that’s fair!”
I nodded in agreement. “It doesn’t sound fair at all,” I said.
“We pay $7500 a year to rent these facilities but we still have to beg the council to spend money on re-turfing the pitch in front of the goals. The want the money but they’re just not willing to do anything for it,” he explained.
“So, Peter, until we get some co-operation from the local council, we can’t help you. I hope you understand.”
I told him I did and wished him well.
After I left it got me thinking about the issue of paid parking and how the local council has lost it’s way. For who really benefits from paid parking? Local businesses? Hardly. If the council were serious about people overstaying their allocated time limit they’d tell the parking attendants to get off their arse and go write some tickets. Selling tickets does nothing more than glosses over a lack of productivity on the part of ticket writers. Consumers? Not at all! Now, if you want to drop into a local cafe for a coffee you’ll pay 4 bucks for the brew and another 2 for parking. Anyone up for that? Nope, didn’t think so. And who wants to–or thinks its fair to be forced to–go and buy a ticket when you go out for dinner when there are dozens of empty bays available? Once again, no-one’s raising their hand.
No, the only beneficiaries of paid parking is the local council through increased revenue. If that revenue flowed directly through to the community I might be a fan. But I’m not because that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the extra revenue is creating more jobs at Council house, more rules and regulations, and a place that’s decidedly less easy to live in.
So, just what’s happening here? My belief is that the local council–and particularly the Councillors because they’re the ones that should be calling the shots–have lost touch with the real needs of the local community. They’ve lost touch with needs of local volunteer organisations who want to create places where people can play and have fun without their members being forced to spend a fortune. They’ve lost touch with local shoppers who want to go to the pub on Sunday afternoon and not have to worry about their parking ticket running out. And they’ve lost touch with what it really takes to run a local small business.
It’s time for the local council to pull their heads out of their collective you know wheres and start paying attention. Because I for one have had enough. And I know I’m not alone.