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Geoff Lee talking to the community about parking issues Geoff Lee talking to the community about parking issues
04 October 2013 Posted by 

Perception of parking problems plague Parramatta

By Geoff Lee
State Member for Parramatta
LACK of parking in Parramatta is one of the issues I hear the most complaints about.  There is a perception that finding parking in Parramatta is difficult. Perceptions matter! 
Parking is important to lure businesses, shoppers and diners to the CBD to keep the city vibrant and expanding.  To encourage visitors to our city we need to make it easy for them to park.
In 2011, Parramatta City Council estimated that the city had in excess of 26,000 parking spaces in the city centre. Parramatta has more than 10,000 spaces spread across 21 public car parks, 15,331 in private off-street parking spaces and 1,363 in metered on-street parking.
The question remains ‘Is that enough for Parramatta’s CBD?’ 
As a past retailer, I know that parking matters. If parking is not available, shoppers do not stop. Westfield shopping centre’s strategy works with their centres attached to multi-deck car parking. Westfield Parramatta has close to 5,000 spaces alone. When talking to business leaders, they all recognise the need for parking for their staff and clients. 
Our city parking strategy needs to be carefully managed as:
58% of Parramatta residents drive to work,
79% of Parramatta households have one or more cars,
Projections of the city sees growth from 50,000 to 100,000 workers in the next 25 years.
Parramatta Council’s Car Parking Strategy September 2011 provides interesting recommendations. It recommends improved signage to direct traffic to car parks, better management of parking fees to encourage longer stays on the edges of the city, and improving the amenity of multi-deck car parks, which make good sense.  However, the recommendation to relocate around 500 car parking spaces from the city’s CBD to the outer areas is problematic.
I do not see how you can solve the parking problems by removing public parking.  In an ideal world we would not need car parks as everyone would have access to convenient public transport. Yet despite continued Government investment in trains, buses and ferries – most people in Western Sydney still drive a car.  There is no ‘magic bullet’ – solving parking concerns needs a multi-faceted strategy.
Encouraging residential and commercial development around transport hubs is essential to fully utilize public transport options.  Parramatta is doing this particularly well with new high-rise development in the CBD to offer an inner-city lifestyle.  The elimination of the need for people to use their cars to get to work is the ideal solution but not practical or desirable for everyone.
All developments need ample parking. Development controls need to reflect the reality of the need for parking.  Residential developments need to have more than one car space per unit - two people means two cars.  Commercial developments need basement parking for their staff and the option for paid public parking – we should encourage developers to put in as many off-street parking spaces as possible – the more the better.  
We need to better utilize our existing parking more efficiently. The Council has made some good efforts with parking on the outskirts of the CBD offering commuters ‘park and ride’ options, and improved street signage so people can find the parking stations, and variable pricing as a mechanism to manage demand.  With parking increasing in cost closer to the centre of the city, people can then choose the option which suits their budget.  
Finally, we need to ensure the traffic management of CBD streets reduces congestion. Cars need to be able to get to and from their destination in the most direct manner.  While more cars does mean more traffic, if we optimise the flows onto local streets we should be better able to manage the increased traffic. 
Despite the 5,000 car spaces at Westfield Parramatta the area around the mall is in grid-lock at Christmas time.  Something needs to be done to address choke-points like this. The proposed ring-road around Parramatta, shared cars, and the introduction of a dedicated police metropolitan response team on motor cycles are a good start but we need to do more. Parking has become a perennial issue for cities such as Parramatta.
Often town planners assert that we should reduce parking to encourage the use of public transport and discourage car ownership.  However, public transport relies on high-densities to be most efficient.   The sprawling suburbs that make up Western Sydney necessitate the use of cars to get people to work.  Restaurants and retailers rely on parking close by to attract trade. Businesses want on-site parking for their staff and clients.  Without adequate, convenient and cost-effective parking solutions customers will choose to do their business elsewhere.
Personally, I don’t believe we can ever have too much parking in our city.  

Nicole Baines

Nicole Baines runs All My Admin, a business that provides support services to Western Sydney Business Access (WSBA) for its online activities. Call (02) 9894 8682 for assistance.



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