The development of Dickson reminds us how important it is to plan new developments around the needs of motorists now and into the future.
Science fiction writers and the concept car division at Toyota have exhausted themselves looking for alternative transport solutions. Robert Heinlein even proposed a network of rolling treadmill-like roadways moving at graduated speeds. The 90 mph expressway would be wide enough to include a network of bistros in which one could enjoy a pie and chips on the way to work.
The border metropolis of Wodonga, Albury and Lavington is a perfect example of how things can go very wrong and very right a city designed for the private motorcar. Designed for efficient through-flow of traffic, the border town eventually began to struggle as it increased in size and also had to accommodate the increasing Hume Highway traffic taking it beyond its capacity. The travel time from top to bottom got to about an hour before the long-overdue bypass, part of the city design from the very beginning, was finally installed.
We don’t think about cars when we ponder pleasant and easy living, but we always end up circling back to them.
Why can’t we escape private travel? It just suits our psyche.
It picks you up at your door and delivers you to exactly where you want to be.
Because it belongs to you, your car can be the exact temperature you like, perfumed with your favourite aroma, your favourite tunes will always be on the radio, you can leave anything you usually need like the baby seat and nappy bag permanently in the backseat waiting for you, or if you are alone you may fart and pick your nose.
Its timetable is flexible and it can arrange to make any stops you need along the way. Catching a bus to a 9-5 job in the CBD may be an easy option but if you’re then going to your second job in the restaurant precinct, if your work has odd hours or if you leave at 3pm to pick the kids up from their various schools, you’ll struggle to make that trip by public transport. Ducking into the IGA for toilet paper and pasta sauce is easy with a car but a major undertaking if your bike is already fully laden.
Finally, when it comes to visiting the shopping centre the ability to fill a car with your groceries, household cleaning supplies, gifts and homewares makes a huge difference. Every student who has ever struggled onto the bus with 3 or 4 bags of groceries or been obliged to hang a bag off the handlebars once the basket and backpack had been filled knows the value of a car for shopping. This is even more true for professionals or people with families who are time-poor and tightly scheduled so may have to have huge monthly grocery trips or combine the grocery shop with gift and clothes shopping.
If you are enjoying alternative transport methods like walking, biking or taking the bus, then you’re winning at life and I urge you to keep it up, but simple observation shows a lot of cars on the road.
This all brings me around to the inevitable issue of parking. Dickson parking is already distributed across many open-air parking spots and a visit to the centre involves a fair bit of circling around looking for a place. The temporary arrangements for the new development apparently involves the release of bits and pieces of parking here and there, at the Tradies and the swimming pool. The number of new parking spots they have announced is nowhere near the 400-ish needed to replace the parking spaces that are disappearing into the construction zone and the increased parking needed for the workers building it. But more importantly this piecemeal distribution of parking just won’t do and businesses are right to be concerned.
We see the impossibility of distributed parking arrangements around Manuka and Kingston during cricket games. Sure, we are all well aware that there are thousands of legitimate parking spots available around Manuka and Kingston within a reasonable walk of the Manuka Oval. But there’s a limit to how willing we are to cruise around, checking out the various car parks to find a good parking spot.
In a shopping centre we are even less willing to circle around for a park. Seeing as how we intend to leave the centre fully laden or pushing a big awkward trolley around, we don’t even like to park on the other side of the centre from where we are. Parking at the swimming pool or Tradies to go to the supermarket is completely out of the question.
As for the restaurant strip, in a way its business is already getting limited by the availability of convenient parking. Parking is usually available over at the supermarket or behind it but you need to be prepared to walk a decent sized block or two on a Saturday night. As fun as a night in Dickson is, I’d be lying if I said I’d never decided that it was too much trouble to park at Dickson compared to simply visiting the café at the local shops.
So the top priority should be a multi-level car park located conveniently to the supermarket and restaurants, to cater for the needs of existing and future shoppers.
Adding shops while decreasing available parking is a serious mistake and it could take a long time for Dickson to bounce back if the customers are driven away! First consider the car, and follow from there. Put in a serious central car park and only afterwards move on to the new supermarkets and other bits of work that need to be done.