Carter / Hail the end of parking’s free ride

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AUSTRALIA is a car nation and Canberra was a capital built for cars.

Catherine Carter.
Catherine Carter.
We can accept this as a universal truth – and accept the consequences to our collective hip pocket, carbon footprint and waistline – or do something about it.

The ACT Government is doing something about it by introducing paid parking around the Hyatt and in the Kingston area, ahead of paid parking starting in the parliamentary triangle.

Free parking provides little incentive to use public transport, carpool or ride a bike.

In fact, 83 per cent of Canberrans continue to travel to work by car, which puts pressure on our road infrastructure. Subsidising ACTION buses last financial year cost the ACT taxpayer $111 million.

Aside from the cost, driving to work damages the environment; 22 per cent of the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transport. Just a third of us need to embrace sustainable transport to see our emissions drop by 14 per cent.

There are other less-visible consequences of free parking. It was a sign of inequity (dare I say, elitism) that some workers parked free while everyone else had to pay. And the reputation of our city suffers as visitors waste time circling national institutions, desperately seeking space in carparks overflowing with office workers’ cars.

The introduction of paid parking within the parliamentary triangle is not simply a cash grab. It presents an opportunity for us to build a city for the 21st century.


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Catherine Carter
Former ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia


  1. I doubt anyone will dispute your argument that introducing paid parking is ultimately beneficial to the environment, but is practical in a city such as Canberra currently is?

    If we are actually serious about building a city for the 21st century, why can’t we build up that city before we start penalising the people who are simply trying to make it work for them in it’s current form? Why do we have the poorest bus service possible? Why do we have no genuine consideration being given to a light rail service to benefit the majority of Canberrans? The Gunghalin light rail proposal will probably never get off the ground and wouldn’t help the thousands of people who work in the parliamentary triangle anyway as it wouldn’t extend that far. People still need to get from their homes to work, so without there being a sensible alternative, people will still probably need to drive to their jobs. So their cost of living will just be higher. Is that what a 21st century city looks like?

    I live in central Canberra and work in the parliamentary triangle. I work part time, as I have a small child. If I relied on the public bus system, getting from home to daycare to work would be a 2 hour round trip, despite the total distance travelled being only 5kms. Is that a 21st century option? Travelling a total of 4 hours a day for the satisfaction of knowing I was contributing to dropping emissions? The cost would be more than paying for parking all day in the parliamentary triangle will be. Paying $11 a day for parking isn’t ideal either, as I work part time it eats into an already reduced take home pay.

    Whilst Catherine Carter’s utopian vision is an attractive picture, it’s quite naive to hail the introduction of paid parking as the solution to our problems. It’s foolish to jump 2 steps ahead and wonder why the general population isn’t happy about it, when no one’s thought about we tackle the first 2 steps.

  2. I don’t live in central Canberra and, like the majority of Canberrans, public transport in its current form simply isn’t an option for my commute to work. We don’t all live in the city centre, nor are we all able to spend hours on a bus each day or ride bicycles along main roads. At this point I should also point out an expensive tram between civic and Gungahlin isn’t going to do diddly squat for me besides making the road environment more cluttered and dangerous around these areas.

    How much of a difference will paid parking really have? Just a hint, it’s not going to be a third of car drivers… Now compare that to how many people will now have to pay the additional cost of these parking fees.

    It’s nothing to do with the environment. It’s a clear cut cash grab from a government hell bent on spending our money on airy-fairy poorly thought out feel good plans. Next up will be land rights for gay whales (knowing full well the legislation will be deemed unconstitutional of course… anything to waste time).

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