Is it time for ‘free’ parking in the CBD?

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris

Last week, a couple of colleagues and I visited Hamilton City Council to see how they manage their parking and transport network.

They’ve gone against conventional parking wisdom and decided to introduce free parking for two hours in their CBD.

There are a few catches - it only applies to on-street parking and you still have to pay to use a parking building. You can stay as long as you like, but the price goes up to $6 per hour after the free two-hour period – although, if you stayed three hours under the old regime it’d cost you $6 anyway.

Of course, there’s no ‘free lunch’. Parking enforcement has had to go up to ensure turnover and availability of parks. You can’t move your car every two hours to get a whole day free, as license plates are recorded.

It cost ratepayers $700,000 for the parking sensors and technology. The city has lost around $1m in parking revenue and the shortfall has been made up by a targeted rate on the CBD and the general ratepayer.

But won’t people stop using buses if the parking is free? After 12 months, the evidence shows no decrease in bus usage.

What has increased, however, is retail spending in the CBD. Hamilton hasn’t let the anti-car transport philosophy override the needs of its community, and have been innovative instead.

Where Hamilton differs is in parking supply. They routinely have 80 per cent of their parking occupied, while Tauranga is closer to 95 per cent. We’re currently building a seven storey, 550-space parking building to address this.

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