“Punished for our success”: the parking crisis at Garran Shops

Lottie Twyford 8 April 2021 41
Parking at Garran

Hot property: getting a park at Garran shops isn’t easy and it’s affecting local businesses. Photos: Lottie Twyford.

It’s no secret to locals that the Garran shops are thriving at all times of the week. But business owners say they have a serious parking problem, and it’s both dangerous and affecting businesses.

Customers are often forced to do multiple laps of the car park searching for a spot, and accidents and incidences of road rage are common.

Brett Davis, the owner of café Little Garran, is also concerned about its impact on business. After all, when there are not enough spaces, people will be forced to go elsewhere.

“It’s like we are being punished for our success. To keep the growth going, we need the government to step up and provide the infrastructure needed to sustain growth and traffic,” he said.

Local business owners Brett Davis and Julie Sluce are concerned about the growing parking crisis at Garran shops.

Julie Sluce from the neighbouring Garran Dry Cleaners says this problem has been getting worse over the last 30 years.

“It’s so bad at the moment that customers are having to remain in their vehicles, call me, and I run out to give them their dry-cleaning or to collect their garments.”

She says this is not a sustainable business model.

Mr Davis voiced these concerns in a letter to Minister for City Services Chris Steel, who is also a Member for Murrumbidgee, the electorate in which Garran falls, but he’s yet to receive a response.

Mr Davis is frustrated, saying the “silence and the arrogance is deafening”.

In a statement to Region Media, Mr Steel said the ACT Government is aware of and “understands the need for parking to support our local community centres, as well as the need to maintain safe road access for drivers and other road users”.

The Minister notes he has already requested more frequent parking enforcement at Garran shops to encourage parking turnover.

However, business owners agree that the response is not increased policing, as neither wants customers to take their business elsewhere, and both are relatively certain that although some hospital staff do park in Garran for the entire day, they have a negligible impact.

Likewise, Mr Davis says reducing the time limit on the 2P spots to half an hour is unhelpful as it penalises businesses.

“We want people to come along to the Medical Centre for an appointment and then stay around, pick up a few things from the shops, drop off their dry cleaning and have a coffee, without worrying about parking tickets.”


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Like Mr Davis, Mrs Sluce has contacted various ministers over the years and was successful in getting some increased parking out the back of the shops. She says originally there were plans to build a proper car park behind the shops, but she has repeatedly been told that the response is just for people to park in the streets of Garran.

But this is not the solution, she says, as even this is often full, and it’s causing a real headache for residents who find it difficult and now dangerous to leave their homes.

For Mr Davis, the situation in Garran has become the “perfect storm” and he references the developments at the hospital, its proximity to a busy school and the medical services operating at the shops.

Both say they are not complaining that Garran shops has become an “axis” for the Canberra Hospital but is concerned that little thought has gone into the development, particularly since a Medical Centre was introduced.


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They’re calling on the government to introduce appropriate infrastructure to support growth in the area and improve safety.

“Some members of the public actually get out of their own vehicles to berate owners of 4WDs and demand they move onto the grassy verge, which is an illegal park in itself.”

There are many accidents, and she suggests the introduction of speed bumps or one-way parking rules to improve safety.

Around eight weeks ago, Mr Davis said the nearby Church of Latter-day Saints blocked off its 150-spot car park, saying they could not accept liability for people parking there anymore.

Since then, the Garran shops’ car park has borne the brunt of the increased traffic.

Catherine Joseph, the owner of the local IGA, calls it a “crisis for residents and business owners” and, after coordinating the efforts of local business owners, says Opposition Member Guilia Jones has expressed an interest in their dilemma.


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41 Responses to “Punished for our success”: the parking crisis at Garran Shops
annp annp 12:40 pm 13 Apr 21

Parking is a difficult problem. I go to the medical centre in Garran and parking is often difficult. We have the same problems at Curtin shops, and I expect it to get worse when the new development opens. The ACT Government just tells us to park on nearby streets or in nearby church carparks. This last is not a solution, as the closest church carpark has put up a notice saying that the carpark is for church and school users only.

Michelle Vernon Michelle Vernon 2:21 am 11 Apr 21

Last time I had a doctor's appointment there I had to circle around the block 4 times and ended up parking on a residential street blocks away, which might not be an option for the elderly or disabled. And it's ridiculous for the locals who might just be wanting to quickly drop in to pick up a loaf of bread from the bakery or collect their dry cleaning.

It never used to be this bad. I'm pretty sure hospital staff are parking there all day and walking to work because one of the carparks at TCH has been turned into a Covid testing facility, and there also seems to be a lot of tradies parking there who are working on construction nearby. I've never seen parking inspectors around to enforce the time limits.

Maree Silling Maree Silling 7:30 pm 10 Apr 21

I was living in a unit behind Garran shops until I moved out a month ago. People park very close to the driveway of the complex, in an already narrow street, making access difficult at times. When I moved out the removalist could not drive out because a car was parked too close to the driveway. He ended up driving along the nature strip and exiting further along the curb. One day there will be a genuine emergency and emergency services will not be able to access the complex due to everyone cramming their cars every which way.

Ol L Ol L 12:55 pm 10 Apr 21

I’m a local and now go to the nearby Hughes shops instead. Can always find a park their.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 11:46 am 10 Apr 21

The Church of Latter-day Saints must be one of the few churches in Canberra not making sorely needed revenue from parking.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:47 pm 09 Apr 21

“Around eight weeks ago, Mr Davis said the nearby Church of Latter-day Saints blocked off its 150-spot car park, saying they could not accept liability for people parking there anymore.

Since then, the Garran shops’ car park has borne the brunt of the increased traffic.”

Perhaps the ACT government could stir itself from its slumbers and pursue a deal with that Church to re-open the car park as paid parking, policed by government inspectors, and with all net revenue going to the Church. The inspectors could also, by the sounds of it, direct their attentions to existing public parking at the Garran shops.

The broader issue floating around in this story is private car usage vs. “active transport”. If there’s to be any real shift, at all, in this, the ACT government needs to lead by example, starting with MLAs, and extending throughout its workplaces, rather than continuing to rely on “do as I say, not as I do” nagging and finger wagging about the evils of private car usage – an approach which the general public understandably treats with a large dose of cynicism.

Deref Deref 5:16 pm 09 Apr 21

It’s everywhere. Surely it couldn’t be government policy to discourage the use of cars.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 3:22 pm 09 Apr 21

I stopped going to my local Deakin shops due to parking difficulties and then started going to Garran. Now they’re getting just as bad.

Went to Erindale a few times lately and even parking there was a complete nightmare. Wanniassa shops car park with Coles and Jordo’s was also full, but it was not full from customers but from people driving to and parking at the Rapid bus stop on Athlonn because the government took away their suburban bus stop near their house.

Karen Evans Karen Evans 3:08 pm 09 Apr 21

As a local resident I definitely think that all the things going on near or around the hospital are impacting this issue. With the increase of people visiting the vaccination Centre as well as traffic issues around the hospital I have seen a major increase in illegal parking in the streets that are close by as well as near the shops. Able bodied people are opting to park for free and walk to their destinations. It is both dangerous and frustrating.

Leslie Henshaw Leslie Henshaw 10:37 am 09 Apr 21

This a major problem at most suburban shopping centres, the town planning around canberra for roadworks, parking and development is ridiculous, yarralumla, deakin, o'connor, campbell they are all the same, populations grow yet its not planned for

Robert Knight Robert Knight 9:13 am 09 Apr 21

I think it’s important to highlight that this problem will not be solved by demanding the government build more parking at the Garran shops.

The current parking pinch is felt most acutely only at certain times of the day. The remainder of the time there is no issue getting a spot. The biggest problem here is the fact the parking is free and insufficiently policed. It’s a classic ‘tragedy of the commons’ problem where a free public good is used beyond its capacity because there are no controls.

Parking, in effect, is a piece of valuable urban property. How do we otherwise regulate valuable urban property? We use the open market to send the price signal on what the true value of that land is.

A system of variable parking charges, aimed at keeping occupancy hovering around 85%, and where the income generated is sunk back into the local area, is the very thing being implemented by several municipalities across the United States in response to the very same problems of parking overflows and capacity issues.

You can’t pave the world just to make driving cheap and easy. We still need places for people. It’s also more economically sound, noting that it’s people who spend money in local businesses, not cars.

As for the safety issue, this is a general problem right around Canberra. We have prioritised the movement of cars above all other things in our neighbourhoods. If we want to make it safer for people, then we need to redesign our local streets so a visual signal is sent to the driver that hey, this environment is where lots of people are walking. Road surfaces and widths need to be changed, raised crossings installed, and driver education provided to indicate people have priority in these places.

    Nicky Goose Nicky Goose 9:33 am 09 Apr 21

    Robert Knight respectfully, you’re wrong on this one. As someone who regularly uses the medical centre at the Garran Shops (and it’s one of the major medical centres in the area) the parking at the Garran shops is woefully inadequate at all times of the day and the access is inequitable.

    It’s dangerous entering the carpark and exiting as the lines of sight in both directions are blocked by cars parked on the sides of both roads and on verges, there are hardly any disabled car parks and all suburban streets surrounding the shops are lined with cars parked along them at all times of the day.

    It would not matter if these were paid spaces or not, Rob. There are not enough of them to sustain the important services offered at the shops. That is a big problem

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 9:40 am 09 Apr 21

    Nicky Goose I do get where you’re coming from, and I understand the frustration. However, I live in Garran, and I see the shop parking lot at all times of the day and all days of the week. I just visited there this morning, in my car.

    Respectfully, I’m not wrong on this one. I’m a transport and logistics planner, with a degree in urban planning, and although I don’t claim to know everything about the problem, I’m somewhat informed.

    Nicky Goose Nicky Goose 9:50 am 09 Apr 21

    Robert Knight I’m not disregarding your qualifications. And I know you live in Garran. I’m talking about the fact that there’s a medical centre at the Garran shops that is packed, constantly and there is not enough parking to satisfy its needs.

    There just isn’t. Not once have I been able to get a park without doing at least one or two laps. And I usually end up on the street. I could certainly count the times I’ve ended up with a disabled park on one hand in the 12-odd years I have been going to the medical centre at Garran.

    I use that medical centre on average two or three times a week and at different times of the day. I deliberately try to avoid ‘peak’ periods.

    It’s a problem that is not necessarily going to be reduced by paid parking alone. It’s about having access in the first place, and health facilities need access

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 10:04 am 09 Apr 21

    Nicky Goose it’s precisely a problem that can be reduced by paid parking. That, and adequate policing.

    When I say ‘certain periods of the day’ that’s generally the working day, i.e. when you’re likely trying to access the centre. Outside of those times, when all the other businesses are still operating, there is ample availability.

    There should be a study conducted to find out who is using the parking lot when, and for what reason. If we had that kind of data, we could see if it really is workers from around the area parking there all day, or if it’s patrons of the various businesses.

    Nicky Goose Nicky Goose 10:10 am 09 Apr 21

    Robert Knight I have tried to use the centre during the working day and also outside the working day (from about 4pm onwards because of my own working hours as a school teacher) and it’s always the same deal 🤷‍♀️

    The only time I don’t really have an issue is at about 9am on a weekday. That’s hardly ever an option for me though as I am either at work myself or in the middle of a school run.

    I coordinate appointments around classes (so for me that could be 10am, 2pm, the ‘lunch rush’ or after school hours from 4-6 pm)

    I absolutely agree there should be a study done. I’m surprised there isn’t one, actually.

    Karen Evans Karen Evans 3:14 pm 09 Apr 21

    Robert why should the elderly and local residents, those that are most in need of using the spaces, pay for visiting their local shop or medical Centre when the people causing the issue are not them? The problem at Garran is it’s proximity to other infrastructure that is not providing adequate parking options (hospital/vaccination Centre).

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 4:42 pm 09 Apr 21

    Karen Evans for the same reason the elderly and local residents have to pay rates.

    There will never be 'adequate' parking options if we keep laying them on for free.

Christine Lawrey Christine Lawrey 8:41 am 09 Apr 21

Are people parking at Garran shops and walking to work?

Catherine Foley Catherine Foley 7:46 am 09 Apr 21

Same dangerous issues at Yarralumla shops and proposed future developments will only make it worse.

    Kim Shelley Kim Shelley 8:59 am 09 Apr 21

    Catherine Foley and Campbell shops - they keep adding apartments with business to shopping areas but don’t change the infrastructure🤦‍♀️

    Catherine Foley Catherine Foley 1:38 pm 09 Apr 21

    Kim Shelley timely reminder to get proactive with the ACT Govt Planning Review! Thanks for sharing the link Kim.

Shaun Hogan Shaun Hogan 7:16 am 09 Apr 21

Stop hospital staff parking there all day would certainly help

Cat Cat Cat Cat 7:03 am 09 Apr 21

It’s become very unsafe. We have medical appointments for kids there regularly and always struggle to find a park. The parking at and near the shops seems to be supplementing hospital staff parking (there should be adequate well located affordable parking for staff and visitors), also seems to be a lot of tradies (many of whom can’t seem to park between two white lines). Vehicles seem to travel at unsafe speeds searching for elusive car spaces. While not the church’s problem, closing their carpark seems rather unchristian. Perhaps more locals could walk/ride until the government fixes the parking issues in the area 🤷‍♀️ 🤔

    Arleen Stark Arleen Stark 9:04 am 09 Apr 21

    Cat Cat It’s a long walk to the hospitals from there so I doubt it is their staff!

    We have the same problems at Gwyder square in Kaleen, especially at school pick-up time. Why do so many kids have to be transported to school these days. Surely most of them live close enough to walk or ride a bike. There can’t be that many living outside of the catchment area!

Jen Jen Jen Jen 6:38 am 09 Apr 21

Marisa Paterson MLA this situation is apalling. An accident waiting to happen. Since the church closed their carpark, there is a capacity issue, and cars are parking illegally all over the place. It also affects kids ability to walk to school ... our street gets choked up with bad parking, the footpaths are blocked by construction traffic, and now all day parkers, and there is nowhere for the kids to safelly walk.

    Marisa Paterson MLA Marisa Paterson MLA 11:31 am 09 Apr 21

    Yes, I agree - I just posted this on the Garran Residents Page - I formally wrote to Minister Steel about this issue a few weeks ago and I am very happy to share the response once I have received it. I encourage residents to write to me - my email is paterson@act.gov.au - I very much recognise this is a substantial issue in terms of accessibility to the shops and for the business owners. Next week I will seek to have a chat with the local businesses and very happy to talk with Garran Residents Association to work out a way forward.

    Karen Evans Karen Evans 3:10 pm 09 Apr 21

    Jen I nearly had a head on collision in my own street today because I was unable to see any oncoming traffic due to illegally parked cars outside the Vaccination Clinic 😡

Acton Acton 6:32 am 09 Apr 21

Anyone who has tried to find parking at Garran shops or in the vicinity will know how difficult it is to get access. Parking in surrounding streets is all taken. I have gone to Garran, been unable to get parking and had to go elsewhere. I think the problem is that parking was not expanded when the medical centre was built. It got worse and worse after that.

Lindi Loo Lindi Loo 11:06 pm 08 Apr 21

Chifley is just as hectic 🤦‍♀️

Maria Greene Maria Greene 10:19 pm 08 Apr 21

Parking is ignored when planning new residential and business developments. Developers love it and idiot Greens reps think it will stop ppl using cars. Asif

    Brad Gaynor Brad Gaynor 10:47 pm 08 Apr 21

    Maria Greene Completely agree! More and more carparks are going for yet more apartment blocks. It's not like we have a decent public transport system either.

    Maria Greene Maria Greene 11:34 pm 08 Apr 21

    Brad Gaynor but shiny red trams to nowhere will fix that

Vickie O'Malley Vickie O'Malley 9:51 pm 08 Apr 21

Was there Monday - 3 rounds of the front carport, 2 of the back before I was lucky enough to jag a spot as someone was reversing out. And why only 1 disabled parking spot outside the medical centre?

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