City coffers drained by parking meter loss

A parking meter on Kembla St that will be one of four removed in the near future as part of the council’s parking review. Picture: ANDY ZAKELIThe proposed introduction of pro rata parking fees in the Wollongong CBD will cost Wollongong City Council an estimated $405,000 in lost revenue this financial year.Council administrators will decide on Tuesday whether to abandon the $2 flat fee for CBD parking in favour of pro-rata fees and a raft of other changes, including turning meters off at 4.30pm on weekdays and all day on weekends.Motorists will be able to insert as little as 10c into the meters, with parking to be charged at $1 an hour, or 50c for half-an-hour), in 30-minute, one-hour and two-hour parking zones. VOTE: Are you satisfied with the parking meter compromise?In longer-stay three and four-hour time zones, parking will be charged at 75c per hour, or less for a shorter stay.Four under-utilised meters in Church St, between Ellen and Bank streets, would be removed.The report, to be tabled at the council meeting, reveals that the changes will slash the council’s parking income from $943,000 to just $538,000 for this financial year.Revenue will be allocated to projects including a new 85-space car park on Ellen St, footpath improvements and a new pedestrian crossing at Lowden Square.The changes would provide relief to many business owners, Illawarra Business Chamber (IBC) chief executive Greg Fisher said.”We are pleased council has listened to our concerns and taken on board many of the suggestions the IBC put forward.”He particularly welcomed the earlier end to metered parking on weekdays, and the return of free parking on Saturdays.”That will help the hospitality industry and retailers who have lost Saturday trade,” Mr Fisher said.But retailers including Gala Trophies owner Gareth Leyshon, John Skipp of Skipp Surf and Mr Quickfix owner Jim McDonogh were less certain.While all were hopeful the changes would bring customers back to the city, they feared it could be too little, too late.”I think we have lost customers who won’t come back. The meters have already done the damage,” Mr Leyshon said.Mr McDonogh said the new fees were “probably a little bit better”.”But I still think it is a disgrace people have to pay to spend their money in Wollongong,” he said.Neighbourhood Forum 5’s Felix Bronneberg was pleased with the progress and urged the council to continue monitoring meter usage.”We hope this change will not disadvantage traders in the CBD,” he said.Statistics contained in the council’s parking review highlight the public sentiment that prompted the meter backflip.An IRIS Research phone survey of 450 residents found that 51 per cent of those surveyed had changed their pattern of visiting the CBD since the introduction of paid on-street parking – either by staying away, using alternative transport or visiting at different times.Of those whose habits had changed, one-quarter said they now did their shopping elsewhere, while 11 per cent parked elsewhere.SIX IN THE CITYHow will free parking on Saturdays change your shopping habits? Page 31
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