Most of us accept the need to pay to park in the CBD. If city-centre parking was free, drivers would take up all the parking spots and stay all day. That would not be a good outcome.
But we also expect parking charges to be fair and sensible. And we want to know that the money collected from parking is well used.
From 1 July 2021, City of Hobart made some changes to parking fees. I’d like to explain how the changes are fair and sensible and how the money raised is being used.
Let’s start with how Hobart’s parking fees are fair and sensible.
First of all, not all parking charges increased on 1 July. Yes, some fees went up. But in other cases there was no increase, or only a minimal price rise. And in some spots there were decreases.
The price of parking at 153 on-street bays is the same this year as it was last year. A further 105 bays have had a price drop. Around 1500 parking bays have incurred a price increase. The average cost for on-street parking in paid bays in the CBD is $3.74 per hour, and there are also many free bays available in the city, with various time restrictions.
There were no price increases for any city parking during the previous financial year.
Hobart remains highly affordable among capital cities for CBD parking. A four-hour stay in one of the City’s central CBD car park is just $8. In Melbourne this would cost $55 in some council-owned CBD car parks.
To appreciate how our parking fees are fair and sensible, it is helpful to understand the difference between off-street parking and on-street parking.
On-street premium spaces are designed to be short-stay because they are in high demand. The higher prices for these spaces encourage people to stay for less time so others can find a parking spot when and where they need one.
People wanting to stay for longer can use our off-street multi-storey carparks. The City provides more than 2500 off-street parking spaces. This is not only cheaper but includes free parking for the first 60 minutes.
Some have expressed concerns that we only offer 60 minutes free parking in our multi-storey carparks.
The “first hour free” offer was introduced in the 1990s. It was then increased to 90 minutes in 2009 as a temporary response to the unique challenges presented by the Myer fire in 2007 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. So we’re going back to the system we operated previously.
Hobart is the only capital city council in Australia to offer an hour of free, off-street CBD parking during business hours.
Some have objected to changes to parking in North Hobart. Those changes were implemented at the request of North Hobart locals, and there was significant consultation with residents and retailers. No change could perfectly suit every stakeholder, but we’re confident these changes are fair.
Since the changes, both precinct occupancy and compliance in North Hobart have increased, meaning more access for more people and fewer infringements. So we’re also confident they are sensible.
The City of Hobart provides also more than 1.3 million hours of free parking in off-street car parks per year. And we make available more than $1 million of free parking vouchers to pensioners every year.
So what about the question of how the money is used?
Parking fees are used to fund ongoing parking infrastructure maintenance. Large buildings like Argyle Street, Centrepoint and Hobart Central are expensive assets to run. They have served the City well over many decades and with continuing investment will do so for many more to come.
Parking fees are also used to help pay for the growing cost of delivering the many other services that the people of Hobart rightly expect.
Those other services include things like good roads, accessible bushland, enjoyable parks, emergency management and essential waste and stormwater services.
In an ideal world, parking fees would not increase. But our world has not been ideal of late.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our budget, and therefore the funding available to provide all the many services to our community. Increasing parking charges is one part of a bigger effort to respond to the unprecedented financial impacts of COVID-19.
City of Hobart is just one of many public and private parking providers in the city. Drivers can choose to use the services of other providers if they wish to.
While parking fees may change from time to time, one thing will remain the same: City of Hobart will always make its parking charges fair and sensible and use the funds collected for the benefit of our City and everyone who lives, visits and works here.
Kelly Grigsby, CEO City of Hobart