Carparking is currently a hot topic in Melbourne as several councils attempt to address the combined issues of greenhouse gas emissions targets, traffic congestion and improving the liveability of city suburbs through measures that discourage car use.
Moreland and Darebin Councils, in Melbourne’s north, recently released plans for community consultation, that would see the introduction of restricted parking near train stations and within 400 meters of local shopping areas. Other councils nearby have proposed introducing paid parking around shopping strips. In Brimbank, parking sensors are being installed in selected on-street public car parking spaces to help with turnover of parking spaces in busy town centres.
Some objectors claim they would be disadvantaged because they can’t access public transport, or that they must drive because they need to drop off children at school on the way to work. Others predict a drop in productivity as workers would be forced to play musical cars every two hours as carparks expire.
While the proposal to restrict all day parking prompted a noisy and energetic backlash from residents and businesses, vigorous enough to cause Darebin’s plan to be shelved, the underlying theory of discouraging car use is sound.
Yet a raft of changes to our suburbs’ planning and amenities is gradually nudging people in the right direction.
Minimum parking requirements are being relaxed or abolished for new residential developments encouraging carless families.
Numerous strategically placed share-car parking spaces have appeared. Bicycle lanes are encroaching on busy streets and secure bike parks are becoming more common. Traffic is being re-directed through the creative use of gardens and street trees, public seating, encouraging outdoor eating, giving pedestrians right of way, and creating slow points.
A few people in every community are willing to proactively change their behaviour for the collective good. Most need persuasion usually by making their current habits uncomfortable enough to stimulate a change. Still others need to be forced (i.e. legislation) to accept change, even when it’s good for them - think smoking, sugar, drink-driving.
I applaud councils’ efforts to subtly edge residents along the path to ‘best behaviour’ and I also applaud their hearing and bending to public feedback when the changes are too big, too fast or too hard.