The city parking plan that just might stick

Free weekend parking, reduced fees and extended time limits are among a raft of changes to be introduced after Wollongong City Council’s capitulation on parking meters in the CBD.If administrators adopt the recommendations of a council review, motorists will be able to pay as little as 40c to park for half an hour in three and four-hour zones, and 50c per half hour in half-hour, one-hour and two-hour zones.Free on-street parking will return on Saturdays, although time limits will remain from 8.30am to 12.30pm.On weekdays, parking meters will be switched off at 4.30pm instead of 6pm.All council off-street car parks will be free and unrestricted on weekends and public holidays.The number of free 15-minute spaces will more than double to 72 and 145 spaces will have their time limits doubled.Also, four parking meters between Bank and Ellen streets will be removed after the review found they were underutilised.The review will be put to administrators at an ordinary meeting of council on Tuesday.If adopted, the changes will take effect from September 13.The meters were introduced in March with a flat $2 fee. A six-month review was brought forward after intense campaigning by CBD retailers who claimed the meters were killing trade.The council tinkered with parking fees twice in July, introducing limited pro rata charges and lowering flat fees to 50c in half-hour zones and $1 in one-hour zones.Yesterday, council place manager Peter Chrystal admitted the council got it wrong with flat fees.”We admit that the flat fee probably wasn’t the right fee to start with, and that pro rata fees are more appropriate,” he said.He defended the introduction of the meters, pointing to council figures that showed a steady increase in usage. According to those figures, 17,256 people used the meters in the week ending August 13.”But we’d like to see a lot more occupancy in the CBD. So we’re adjusting our price to encourage more people to park,” he said.Community business group “We Love Wollongong But We Hate the Parking Meters” led the charge against the meters and spokesman Phil Ryan was cautiously supportive of the changes.”On the premise that council refuses to remove the meters, I support anything that’ll help bring people back into the CBD,” he said.Noel Perry of Downtown Newsagency on lower Crown St said it was too little, too late from the council. “To me it’s not going to be a solution at all. The mere word of parking meters is the thing,” he said.Customers were turned off by the need to keep an eye on their watches while in the city.
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