21 December 2023

BEST OF 2023: More pain than gain from apartment blocks without parking

| Ian Bushnell
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Gungahlin Light Rail Photo: Region Media

Will living next to light rail mean that a car and parking space won’t be necessary for some? Photo: Region.

Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Ian Bushnell tackles the issue of apartment parking.

Motoring enthusiast Mick Gentleman says he doesn’t have it in for cars, but there is no doubt that under the new planning system it will be easier for developers to reduce their parking commitments for apartment blocks on transport corridors.

The Planning Minister set the hares running this week with his comments about parking in new developments, acknowledging that developers have already begun reducing, or at least trying to reduce, the number of parking spaces they have to provide based on the site’s proximity to public transport.

Anybody who has looked at development applications for apartment blocks on the Northbourne Corridor will know that developers will argue that access to light rail should mean less demand for a parking space.

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Mr Gentleman says that the ACT is preparing for a time when the public transport system is so good that some people will not need a car, and the new, more flexible planning system should be able to accommodate not just fewer parking spaces but perhaps none at all.

This will mean reduced costs for developers who may not have to build expensive basement car parks, resulting in more affordable apartments and more choice for home buyers.

It will certainly mean more price points for developers and real estate agents but not necessarily good outcomes overall.

The property industry loves to be able to slice and dice to create new products.

What may have been standard in homes becomes a premium feature, and that will happen to the garage.

Many will no doubt be happy to opt for the less expensive product just to get a foot on the property ladder but don’t expect all of them to not have a car.

Those who keep their cars will have to park them somewhere, and that will be visitor spaces and in nearby streets, unless, of course, the government bans parking around developments.

This will lead to car-clogged streets and degraded amenity that will be a nightmare to negotiate, basically transferring what should be a private responsibility to a public liability.

And if they are electric vehicles, where will they be charged?

Even when there are light rail branches all over Canberra, to suggest residents, especially families, will give up their cars in a decentralised city like Canberra is beyond optimistic.

It presupposes that people will be able to, or have to limit themselves to their local ‘village’ and local school, carting shopping on foot or by bike, and jumping on the tram or bus which will pass by every few minutes to get to work.

Canberra needs a strong, effective public transport network to move people en masse and reduce car use, especially in peak times, but in a city stretching from Gungahlin to Tuggeranong, anybody who has done the weekend sports run will know how vital your own vehicle is.

Or does the government expect these garage-free apartment dwellers to be all single, childless, bike-riding, tram hoppers?

READ ALSO Paid parking coming to Stromlo Forest Park but money will help facility grow

In Gungahlin, parts of which are on a light rail corridor, Mr Gentleman’s remarks rang alarm bells for community representatives already grappling with a lack of infrastructure, apartment developments impacting amenity and suburbs where public transport remains minimal.

The fewer car parks model could also be extended to hotels whose guests may not arrive by car, although many will hire a vehicle once they are in Canberra if they want to see more of the capital and region than just the city.

Allowing developments to reduce their parking requirements or ditch them altogether may seem reasonable when strong public transport options are available to reduce congestion and provide more choice in the housing market.

But it means reducing choice in other areas and is bound to be mugged by geography and human nature.

The government should be very careful about heading down a path that will create problems all too easy to see in other cities and which it will have to manage.

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The Pollies of course could lead the way and give up their ratepayer funded vehicles and their private vehicles and travel only on Public transport to gauge how well it would work and then bring in the no parking in apartment developments for the plebs after they have mastered it!

“Mr Gentleman says that the ACT is preparing for a time when the public transport system is so good that some people will not need a car. “

How about you improve the public transport system now, not in 40 years.

The bloke didn’t say boo when his government ripped out over a hundred Tuggeranong bus stops, removed over a dozen bus routes and made the bus service to work worse for most Tuggeranong residents. He himself gets the very weird route R5 rapid bus to near his door that he claims he uses, but stuff anyone else.

Is he trying to outdo Chris Steel for most ineffective and disconnected from reality Minister?

When you have a maniacal oligarchy entrenched, this is the sort of delusional policy we get. We continue to vote them in, so why is anyone complaining?

Mr Gentleman seems to think Canberrans don’t care to travel by car outside the ACT, nor to locations in the ACT which are not and never will be serviced by the tram or buses.

These days real estate is so expensive you need two partners working — often with different work locations. Add to that the sports runs and access to Canberra amenities and you need to think more like providing 2 parking spaces for each unit, not fewer! One look at Wright and you’ll see the chaos that comes from not providing parking.

Ross of Canberra6:36 pm 16 Feb 23

Parking? OK, you now have me started.
When I arrived in Canberra 30 years ago there was little congestion and that was lovely.
Whether or not one subscribes to the mantra of infill, Canberra has evolved quite wonderfully. Except in one respect.
I once had access to the city centre know as Civic. Now the centre I used to enjoy has curtailed access. That centre is more readily accessible by those who have bought developed property in the centre whilst I, who arguably made it all possible, am excluded unless I pay the required fees.
The amenability of Canberra is compromised unless I saty in my suburb.
Give me back my city!

Agreed. Nowadays I have no desire to go into the city, avoid it like the plague.

ChrisinTurner4:36 pm 16 Feb 23

Keep in mind that the north/south dimension of Canberra’s residential area is the same as Sydney’s, and Sydney has metro heavy rail as their public transport backbone not a slow tram.

Ohhh where do I charge my Tesla if I can’t do it at home. There is a shortage of charging stations in Canberra

This video about The Burley Griffin [railway] Plan has just been uploaded from the Canberra Railway Museum: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IUyrJ2F77s

This is a cop out for developers. They can build apartments much cheaper but still flog them off for the same price and government still gets their money. One thing though is those apartments with car spots will become worth a lot more.

“Mr Gentleman says that the ACT is preparing for a time when the public transport system is so good that some people will not need a car.” This century is it, Mick?

Mick Gentleman is the typical out of touch pollie, afforded a taxpayer funded car, fuel card. mobile, internet and all the other perks

I’m lost for words after reading this article. How many more stupid ideas can this Govt come up with to pander to the eco movement and developers who don’t necessarily represent the majority in this Territory? Nor do the majority gain any benefit from these “ideas”.

Oh loads more I would imagine. And they will probably ask for feedback from the public and then do whatever they want anyway.

GrumpyGrandpa7:55 pm 10 Feb 23

We live in a free standing house only have one car and are happy to walk or catch public transport. However, if we were to downsize into an apartment, I would never consider anything with a single-car park.
A property with a single-car park locks you in and if your circumstances change, you’ll regret your purchase. The other important consideration is that only having one car park limits your capacity to sell the property.

HiddenDragon7:23 pm 10 Feb 23

So what happened to the “parking offset” piffle that we heard about some years back, and very much to the point, how are things going with the publicly funded “separate structured car parking” promised by the Chief Minister as part of that?


Of course there are people who genuinely don’t need or want parking space(s) as part of their residence, but as always with this government of posturing twits and its activist bureaucracy, that will be greatly overstated – for the benefit of the usual suspects, not for the greater public good.

The present administration has clearly and unabiguously stated that it’s transport policy ranks private motorists a distant last after pedestrian traffic, bicycles and public transport…so Mick Gentleman is being less than honest in denying that he doesn’t “have in in for cars”
To my mind, the ACT administration in failitating developers to determine parking spaces etc is a complete abrogation of its planing responsibilities.
Canberra and its associated satellite cities can no longer be termed as being planned in an evironmentally and socially sustainable manner. The principal priority of the current admnistration is to garner the maximum amount of revenue for developers and ACT rate payers to fund its own priorities such as the 2nd stage of light rail

What it says and what it does are different things, with there being little money allocated to pedestrian infrastructure. Pedestrians come last in this city, especially the kids and those with mobility problems who can’t run across the roads quickly enough to stay safe.

Cars still dominate the landscape as politicians are not willing to rely upon their badly designed public transport or walking options. Many have bikes, which they load into their cars so they can drive to where they wish to ride.

Mick Gentleman – the definition of setting a low standard and failing to achieve it

In time you will no longer own motor vehicle or anything. You will live in an apartment complex like a battery hen but you will be happy. The State will look after you, so there is no need to worry.

It’s important for planners to remember that Canberra is a city full of tertiary institutions and expensive housing, meaning that apartments often have many students living there, each with their own form of transport. It’s not unusual for there to be 2 or 3 cars per home. As so many of these students come to town to study, but return to families further afield (often in rural areas) on weekends, they need their cars to get back and forth.

Also there are many places in Canberra that are not accessible by public transport. Add to that the distance between transport stops, which means it can be quite a walk even if you are on a transport route. So you need to be fit and healthy to be without a car and willing to forgo visiting places that are not serviced by public transport, nor those places where public transport is infrequent such as the many locations where it’s every 2 hours in the evening or on weekends.

Then consider older people, also those with disabilities who need a car.

Walking a bit more will keep you fit and healthy Psycho – you should try it some time and not obsess so much about trying to force everyone into motor cars.

You shouldn’t make assumptions astro2. As I don’t own a car, I walk every day, everywhere I go (using public transport for longer trips), as I don’t own a car. I’d love to see fewer cars on the road, but this city is not yet ready for that.

We need a better public transport system so that people don’t need cars or parking spots. All people should be able to get to where they need to go without a car, but sadly a city built for cars does not yet cater for the needs of those without them.

If public transport was frequent, reliable, accessible and covered all locations (including at night and weekends) we could have apartment buildings without parking. If we had more safe pedestrian infrastructure (footpaths, pedestrian crossings etc) kids could walk to school instead of being driven there. They’d be healthier and we’d be less polluted.

Hi Psycho, no one is suggesting banning cars; just giving people the freedom of choice to not have to purchase parking spaces if they choose to do so. By the way public transport along the Rapid routes is frequent, reliable and accessible so I think that’s addressed some of your concerns. Sure, we can always improve pubic transport, however that isn’t a reason to force people into cars.

ChrisinTurner3:49 pm 10 Feb 23

I live in an inner-north apartment complex of two-bedroom apartments with only one car space per apartment. The surrounding streets and all visitor spaces are in very high demand. Our bus system suffers from early running so you cannot depend on the decreasing and infrequent services. Does Mick expect everyone to use Uber?

Where are the apartments with NO PARKING – seems a catchy headline but not supported. For the anti-communists you have the free market operating, if you want parking buy an apartment with parking – simple.

Why doesn’t Gentleman practice what he preaches. How about he ditches the tax payer funded vehicle he gets. Then he can look us in the eye and explain how we get our groceries home, visit friends outside of Canberra or even go to the coast for the weekend. He should lead the way but of course in his rarified air ideas like this don’t apply to him.

This nonsense that everything is in walking distance or there is a convenient bus coming to take us everywhere is rubbish. He needs to get out and experience the real world. What happens when it rains or the sleet is coming in sideways with a chill factor of minus 7 in winter?

I don’t understand why Canberrans don’t take the risk on changing government to freshen up the ideas. When they know they will get returned everytime it allows dopes like Gentleman to stay around longer than he should have. Has he ever contributed to any positive thing since he’s been in Government? Doesn’t Barr have someone with more nous to put into the portfolio?

I would love to catch public transport to work. However from Ngunnawal to Fyshwick its 1 hour 39 minutes at best and up to 1 hour 56 minutes. It takes me 30 minutes to drive. I’m a busy parent, it’s a lot to add to the day.

Exactly the point Bel J. A relative of mine had to leave home by 7am to get from Gungahlin to Narrabundah College each day. Teenagers starting the day tired do not learn so well.

cities are for people, not cars. this article is sadly all too typical of the attitude in canberra when new, walkable, healthy development is proposed. ‘yeah, light rail isn’t bad, but where can i park my car?’ this attitude is frankly selfish, and will die with all the old hags who have it.

Public transport in Canberra is not accessible for most of us with disabilities, not necessarily in that physical ‘get on and off’ sense (but it is an issue sometimes too), but it takes a lot of energy for us to go places anyway, having to spend hours on public transport to get to a Drs appointment a handful of suburbs away for example, is just not feasible for me, I would have to rest for 2 days just to get over it. I have appointments every week all over canberra and I would spend 2-4x as long on public transport as I would in the actual appointment. I wouldn’t ever be able to do anything ‘enjoyable’ ever if I had to do so, which quite frankly isn’t a life to live.
So if that makes me an old hag, so be it.

Capital Retro8:44 am 10 Feb 23

How many MLA’s don’t have parking at their abodes?

We already know they have private parking in the city.

Capital Retro8:39 am 10 Feb 23

It’s ultimately all about controlling people. They’ve seen what could be achieved with COVID movement restrictions now they will go a little bit further so peoples movements will be totally controlled by public transport.

The “new” Labor government has a communist manifesto that is slowly coming to the service. Various Ministers have released snippets of already.

i don’t agree with the author of this article that we should be forced to buy a private motor vehicle and forced to buy additional car parking spaces that we neither want nor need. Surely there should be some freedom of choice in this matter. We live in a democracy after all.

Next will be appt don’t need kitchens as there are restaurants near by

As someone who neither has nor wants a car, I’d rather not be paying for a parking space that will sit empty. And doing groceries without a car is not a pain at all when you live a close walk to the shops, it’s just a different thing. Granted I don’t have kids, but the bulk of canberra apartments aren’t designed for families with kids anyway, and kids can’t drive, so living in a place with good local amenities is good for them to be able to get around without mum/dad as a chofer.

Capital Retro8:42 am 10 Feb 23

“and kids can’t drive,”

Oh, no? Have you seen the age of the people that are being caught driving stolen cars some of which have been involved in the death of innocent people.

Might be alright for you living close by the tram and shops Jam but you’re in a significant minority. The nearest bus stop to my house is 800 metres. (The nearest shop 2800 metres measured as the crow flies). If I must go to Civic the MINIMUM transit time by PT is 1′ 10″ assuming I walk straight onto the tram from the bus. By car it’s a run of 20″.

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