ACT Government trashes free parking and public transport proposal as ‘ill-informed’ and ‘ignorant’

Lottie Twyford 14 November 2021 36
Civic carpark on London Circuit

The Opposition and businesses believe free parking and public transport could encourage more Canberrans back to town centres. Photo: File.

A proposal to make public transport and public parking free after 6 pm, with a view to encouraging more Canberrans back to the city’s town centres, has been blasted by the ACT Government as “willfully ignorant”.

Opposition spokesperson on business Leanne Castley moved a motion in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 11 November, calling on the government to rethink its approach to parking and public transport until March 2022.

She said such a move would encourage more local spending and ultimately contribute to helping the local nighttime economy bounce back from COVID-19.

“Providing free parking and public transport will really help get Canberrans out to enjoy our spring and summer evenings,” said Ms Castley.

However, this view isn’t shared by ACT Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel, who amended almost the entirety of Ms Castley’s motion, watering it down to the point it was unrecognisable.

According to the amended motion which passed, the ACT Government will now “continue working with businesses to identify ways to encourage Canberrans into town centres”, including outdoor activation and events.

Leanne Castley

Opposition spokesperson for business Leanne Castley moved the motion for free parking and free public transport after 6 pm and on weekends. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Mr Steel argued the government had already put in place a range of measures to support businesses throughout COVID-19 lockdown and those proposed by Ms Castley would not achieve what she intended.

He described the motion as “misinformed”, saying the vast majority of car parks in the city and around town centres already have free parking after 5 pm and on weekends.

According to Mr Steel, some areas of paid parking support local businesses because it encourages a higher turnover of patrons.

Furthermore, he said it was not yet wise to encourage “droves of people” back onto public transport given the ongoing risk of COVID-19 transmission in such environments.

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ACT Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne was similarly disparaging of the motion, saying while “well intentioned” it was “ill-informed, if not willfully ignorant”.

Ms Cheyne argued the opposition was “literally trying to claim a win for something which already exists” given “the ACT does have a mix of parking arrangements to support a range of activities in different spaces”.

Ms Castley said it is a shame the government hadn’t supported the motion as she’d spoken with businesses who supported the idea.

OTIS Dining Hall owner Damian Brabender was one such business owner who spoke in support of Ms Castley’s motion.

He said one example of the current paid system not working is near his restaurant where one-hour parking spots are paid until 9 pm, requiring patrons to go out and top up the meter in the middle of a dinner, which is “a little bit ridiculous”.

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During the ACT’s recent lockdown, parking in government car parks was free for the duration, as was the case in 2020. Paid parking was reinstated on Monday, 1 November, 2021.

The ACT Government has moved to implement a number of initiatives to encourage Canberrans to spend local, including an outdoor activation trial to encourage al fresco dining.

This received mixed responses, particularly on Manuka’s Franklin Street, where some business owners said it was hurting businesses rather than helping. Others welcomed the use of the road for street dining.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr spoke repeatedly during lockdown about his expectations for a v-shaped economic recovery whereby pent-up demand would see Canberrans spend heavily post-lockdown.

Mr Barr said there is evidence from business that this is “already occurring”.

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36 Responses to ACT Government trashes free parking and public transport proposal as ‘ill-informed’ and ‘ignorant’
gordon1 gordon1 2:28 pm 17 Nov 21

Re Civic …

Never again…It’s a nightmare

We used to go to our Dentist, Doctor, Solicitor, tax agent and Optometrist in to Civic…But no more. We now drive to Goulburn to see our dentist and Optometrist …and to Yass to see our Dentist and Doctor. For our tax matters we drive to Bungendore. Canberra is not a happy place to live in anymore.

Gerard Dwyer Gerard Dwyer 5:50 am 16 Nov 21

Weird proposal, specialy the public transport bit.

Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 8:05 pm 15 Nov 21

It is absolutely not yet time to deliberately get big crowds to gether. And people can already go out if they want to.

Kevintrev Kevintrev 7:54 pm 15 Nov 21

Mr Brabender may not be aware that ample free under cover parking is available on Eyre Street less than 100m from Otis.

kenbehrens kenbehrens 7:50 pm 15 Nov 21

Free car parking. Yes I get that, but I think the Libs are overestimating the impact of free public transport after 6pm.
Firstly, only people who are planning a big night on the grog or those who are frequent users of public transport users would consider it.
Those without a speedy public transport option won’t use it and no one is going to catch the train or bus if they then need to make multiple connections late at night to get home.
Secondly, the financial incentive is minimal. After 6pm, public transport is off-peak and “half-price” and free for eligible Seniors and Centrelink clients.
And finally, the Libs seemed to have forgotten that public transport is considered a Covid risk. (That said, passengers after 6pm should be relatively safe because they will be the only passengers).

It is ironic however that the Minister raises Covid in respect to public transport, yet billions are being poured into expanding light rail. Hopefully, it’ll be safe by then!

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 5:49 pm 15 Nov 21

Seems like a good idea especially the free public transit aspect... Ms Cheyne argued the opposition was “literally trying to claim a win for something which already exists”... do we already have free public transport after 6pm???

Steve Ulr Steve Ulr 4:55 pm 15 Nov 21

this does not help local businesses, at all.

Futureproof Futureproof 4:15 pm 15 Nov 21

An ACT politician – “free parking for me, but not for thee.”

Julian Rowe Julian Rowe 3:50 pm 15 Nov 21

A.C.T Government moments before rejecting a proposal from the bleeding masses

Chris Bennetts Chris Bennetts 3:41 pm 15 Nov 21

I'd be surprised if the price of parking or a bus ticket is the reason people choose to stay home. Making them free would probably just lose revenue for very little extra patronage.

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 5:52 pm 15 Nov 21

    Chris Bennetts if people aren't doing it, it's not generating revenue. Free public transit is known to drive an increase in users and is arguably better than waisting money on the empty buses 🚌 driving around...

Brian Kilgannon Brian Kilgannon 3:34 pm 15 Nov 21

Just another example of why Im leaving Canberra. It is truly the worst run city in Australia. Lazy, incompetent idiots who wouldnt get a gig in the real world. How they get elected is beyond me.

Jane Kim Jane Kim 3:04 pm 15 Nov 21

There are lots of free after 6pm parking spots in Civic and elsewhere, except on Friday nights when it’s after 9pm.

gooterz gooterz 2:41 pm 15 Nov 21

With a bag full of hope the ACT government drove two iron rails though the heart of the city. Now suffocating it with over inflated prices to finally kill it off.

Charles Godworth Charles Godworth 2:38 pm 15 Nov 21

Surely they cannot let the peasants have free parking. Otherwise that would make them no different to everyone else as they themselves already get free parking 24x7x365 in the city

Peter Bucke Peter Bucke 12:56 pm 15 Nov 21

Even if buses where free after 6 most would be empty anyway like right now and even before the pandemic

Clive John Trenton Clive John Trenton 12:01 pm 15 Nov 21

More likely that the thought process went along the lines of not wanting to give up revenue

Louise Anne Louise Anne 11:44 am 15 Nov 21

Where is “the vast majority of free city parking after 5pm?

    Rich Mahon Rich Mahon 12:06 pm 15 Nov 21

    Louise Anne Chapel Hill, Tennessee--all the free parking you need

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 3:06 pm 15 Nov 21

    Louise Anne in all sorts of places; don’t want to say though as they’re usually fairly busy, sorry.

    Uy Nguyen Uy Nguyen 3:14 pm 15 Nov 21

    Louise Anne at your own place…

    Louise Anne Louise Anne 4:13 pm 15 Nov 21

    Rich Mahon I’ll keep that in mind! 😀

Nick Savino Nick Savino 10:47 am 15 Nov 21

London cct pact park opposite baileys corner has paid up to 1030 pm I think they have forked tongue

    Jane Kim Jane Kim 3:08 pm 15 Nov 21

    Nick Savino yes, however others not that far away have free parking after 6, except on Friday nights when it’s after 9pm.

    Nick Savino Nick Savino 7:00 pm 15 Nov 21

    Jane Kim I pay enough rates etc a nice break would be nice

Tony McKillop Tony McKillop 10:33 am 15 Nov 21

If public transport is risky, maybe they shouldn’t be “encouraging” people to return to work if they can work from home.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:21 pm 15 Nov 21

    Tony McKillop umm not all workers catch public transport to go to work - bit of a blanket

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:23 pm 15 Nov 21

    Tony McKillop umm not all workers catch public transport to go to work - bit of a blanket/biased comment to make - plus don't think the majority of workers go to work AFTER 6pm - as what this article is about ...

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:26 pm 15 Nov 21

    Linda Stapleton but the majority of people don't go to work AFTER 6pm to catch public transport - so which part do you 'agree' on?

    Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 5:06 am 16 Nov 21

    Nada if you have an issue with the comment Tony made re the times take it up with him.

Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić Hrvoje Hančević-Grabić 10:29 am 15 Nov 21

First they say they charge for parking to make more available parking, not for profit, then they say they’ll continue billing even though there are many parks free after 6pm.

Finally, they call others ignorant, which was an unnecessary insult.

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