BY GABRIELA SZYMANOWSKA
It is no secret that parking meters are the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to politics, but that isn’t always true for the community.
Both Darling Street in Balmain and Norton Street in Leichhardt have seen business downturn because of parking meters, while Waverley Council is set to make changes to their parking meter policies.
Waverley Council will be proposing new changes to the meters at Bondi Beach and Bondi Junction to help increase benefits for residents, while businesses in the Inner West are experiencing an upturn in customers after the parking meters were shut off after 7 pm. in Leichhardt.
As part of their September 2017 election platform, Waverley Council created a proposal for several changes for transportation options in Bondi, including switching parking meters off after 6 pm in Bondi Junction and after 7 pm. at Bondi Beach each day, year-round.
The Council is also providing free parking passes to residents, removing the first residential parking permit fee and creating either a 15-minute free parking zone or “drop-in” zone near local shopping areas.
John Wakefield, mayor of Waverley Council, said he understands that people are stumped by the wide range of proposals, but each one is designed to help benefit residents in the area.
“At the moment, about 20 per cent of the resident households in Waverley have to pay to park outside their own house with a residential parking permit,” Mr. Wakefield said. “Now, those households are in the area which are the most parked—Bondi Beach, Bronte Beach, Bondi Junction—my belief is that Council should not charge residents a fee to park right outside their home.”
These policies are just a step in a bigger plan to increase transportation options in the area, including expanding footpaths and improving bus services at Bondi.
With new proposal changes comes the question of cost, to which Mr. Wakefield said it would cost the Council only $4.88 million, representing 3.53 per cent, of the Council’s revenue of $138.11 million.
The Inner West faces its own policy changes for parking meters after the merger of the Leichhardt, Marrickville Ashfield councils, with one council bringing in parking meters while the other two come into the merger without.
John Stamolis, Inner West councillor for the Balmain Ward, explained that now that the councils have merged there needs to be a discussion about consistency across the board.
“So, I’m saying let’s talk about consistency across the Inner West Council. Let’s talk about whether these meters have caused problems and let’s thresh that issue out to get the best policy across the entire Inner West,” Cr Stamolis said. “If that means dumping parking meters, that means dumping them. If that means recognising that we’ve had problems over 17 years that we’ve had to continuously address, that’s what we need to work on.”
Cr Stamolis explained how it is evident that the parking meters have not worked, citing an earlier test case.
“One test case going back to the early years, we never introduced parking meters in Annandale on the Leichhardt Council. There’s one area that’s never had problems with their local business. All of the other areas did. They went through pain, they went through downturn and they were impacted by parking meters,” Cr. Stamolis said.
Con Damouras, owner of Bar Italia on Norton Street in Leichhardt, has been running business in the area since 1992, said since the installation of the meters almost 17 years ago, he has seen a lot of businesses decline, not due to the fees associated with meters, but because of the fines.
“It’s not that paying four or six dollars is going to break the bank for anyone, but the thing is, if someone is having a great night at a restaurant and then forgets to go outside, they come back out and they have a $100 fine. That’s the biggest problem,” Mr. Damouras said.
Oscar Turkyucel, owner of Le Cafeirer on Darling Street in Balmain, said the same about the parking meters located in Balmain.
“It’s a bad experience for people in the area. And every single time they park they are going to be worried that they’re going to get a ticket,” Mr. Turkyucel said.
The Inner West Council changed the policy for parking meters in Leichhardt earlier this month by turning them off completely after 7 pm to help revive the area’s night life. No new parking meters will be added to the area.
Mr. Damouras said that he has already seen an increase in business since the parking meters were shut off a week ago.
“Since the meters have been switched off, we’ve had an increase of about 20 per cent. Now, I don’t know if it’s all got to do with the parking meters, but it does help,” Mr. Damouras said.