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14 December 2018

Car Parking - What is it Good For?

Death, taxes and car parking - is there anything certain for transport practitioners operating in the statutory planning field?

This is an emotive subject that rarely fails to invite an opinion – be it on maximisation policies to pricing strategies in CBD areas, or the suitability of on-street car parking for fulfilling the demands of new developments without car parking supplies.

Statutorily, car parking is controlled by Clause 52.06 of the Planning Scheme in the Parking Overlay and is typically predicated on a minimum provision, but with instances where a car parking maximisation policy applies, particularly for those locations where there is significant collocation of land uses, where public transport and active transport opportunities are high and where there is significant road network pressure (Melbourne CBD). The matter of affordability for residential development is also now being more closely considered.

The recent Planning Scheme Amendment introducing the Principal Public Transport Network (PPTN) area as a consideration to adopting Column B rates (which are typically lower than Column A rates) has added another level of complexity. This change to the Planning Scheme supports more diverse and dense developments and recognises that reduced car parking requirements are appropriate for new developments in locations that have high levels of accessibility to public transport (this accessibility is identified as land that is located wholly or partly within 400m of the PPTN).

A frequent objection to new development is the lack of car parking provision, irrespective of whether the development will be delivered with a self-contained car parking supply that satisfies statutory requirements. There is a view that either the development will generate car parking demands at levels beyond the statutory requirement (an argument of practical reality versus planning conformity) or that occupants and visitors to the new development will choose to park on-street rather than use the available on-site car parking for reasons of convenience (it’s important to provide on-site car parking that is accessible and permits easy and efficient use).

It’s also fair to recognise that not all new developments will satisfy its statutory requirements, as there is a mechanism within the Planning Scheme to seek a planning permit to reduce these requirements based on a number of relevant factors around the assessment of the likely demands and strategic considerations.

In principle, a reasonable planning outcome would be to satisfy the long-term (employee and resident) car parking demands (those assessed based on relevant factors and not necessarily the statutory requirement) on-site. With respect to visitor car parking demands, dependant on locational characteristics such as car parking supply and demand, restrictions and proximity to public/active transport and areas of significant activity, some or all of these demands could be met by the on-street car parking supply.

One of the more emotive areas is car parking that impacts the established residential areas, either parking demands generated from new residential development (particularly higher density uses) or the invasion of car parking from non-residential land uses. This can be attributed to the idea that ‘our home is our castle’ and by extension the surrounding area is our kingdom. This view can influence perceptions of what constitutes a reasonable approach to new development.

Undoubtedly there are residential areas that have high on-street car parking demands, where it would be unreasonable to expect the area to accommodate the demands from new development. By the same token, there are locations where some car parking intrusion can be reasonably accommodated but this is resisted.

Of interest, a paper prepared by Taylor[1] considers the topic of car parking within established residential areas with consideration of who is actually parking on these streets.  The paper presents data collected for Melbourne obtained from the Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity (VISTA) and an online survey of residents which was prepared to gain an appreciation into the use of residential car parking and the attitudes of existing residents to car parking policies. The paper identifies that:

“Low community acceptance or urban intensification, and the pressures on residential on-street parking popularly ascribed to it, seems common to Melbourne and other Australian cities. It may be that parking conflicts are only a proxy for other concerns about change. There is, however, little evidence – in Australia or elsewhere – of who uses on-street residential parking space nor to what extent its use is mitigated by housing density, or by off-street parking or requirements for it.”

The analysis presented in the paper also suggests that:

“…the use of on-street residential parking space relates more to household choices, entitlements and asserted rights than it does to inadequate off-street parking or to higher density housing.

Assessing the appropriate amount of car parking for a development can be a complex process and there is certainly no “one size fits all” approach. It is important to treat each proposal on its merits with due consideration to matters such as the characteristics of the development, local conditions and policy expectations.

Author: Jason Sellars, Director: Traffic

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[1] Taylor, E.J., 2018. Who’s been parking on my street? The politics of uneven use of residential parking space. Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University.

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