Lack of car parking is an economic problem
There is a shortage of car parking in most outer suburban activity centres and at commuter train stations. In Frankston, provision of car parking has not kept pace with development and prevents our economy from functioning efficiently.
On the 17 July 2019, Frankston Council’s independent car parking working group and the Committee for Greater Frankston hosted the inaugural reviving CBD car parking community forum. The car parking committee is investigating supply and pricing of CBD parking as well as assessing the impact that affordable parking will have on commercial viability of the CBD over the next two decades.
The Committee shared preliminary background research on: “What do we know? and ‘What are the key challenges?’. The car parking working group will be assisting Council to update and refine this available research over the next 6-months.
Event review: Reviving CBD parking: community consultation No 1
CIVIC, business and community leaders tackled the complex problem of lack of affordable car parking in Frankston’s CBD at a forum on Wednesday 17 July, the first of several this year. It was the inaugural community discussion with Frankston Council’s newly formed car parking working group, created in May when Frankston councillors unanimously voted to convene and fund the committee to the tune of $30,000.
This followed news that shop vacancies in Frankston’s CBD (also called Metropolitan Activity Centre or MAC by the council) had reached 21 per cent, arguably the highest in recent memory. The parking committee is investigating supply and pricing of CBD parking as well as assessing the impact that affordable parking will have on commercial viability of the CBD over the next two decades.
It brings together council officers, Committee for Greater Frankston members, and representatives of Frankston Traders’ Association, Peninsula Health, Chisholm TAFE, Monash University, Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Centre, individual businesses, service clubs, traders, sports clubs and others.
The group will provide advice to the council about all aspects of parking in Frankston’s CBD including balancing the different needs of residents, train commuters, shoppers, students, business clients and staff, and visitors.
Committee for Greater Frankston (C4GF) president Fred Harrison, CEO of Ritchies supermarkets, kicked off proceedings – a breakfast meeting at Functions By The Bay – by recalling the 1960s and early 1970s when he was president of the chamber of commerce: “We had plenty of parking at locations such as Quayside and Central Park, but it all changed in the ’80s.”
Mr Harrison said creating more affordable parking would require a great deal of work and he commended the “great joint initiative” of the committee and the council. (A first step in creation of the committee occurred last September when an invited group that included state and federal politicians and candidates attended a roundtable meeting at Frankston International Hotel organised by C4GF.)
Following Mr Harrison was C4GF vice-president Chris Richards, a lawyer, journalist, editor and former Frankston councillor and mayor (2009–10). Ms Richards said when the Committee for Greater Frankston was formed more than two years ago, members had been asked to suggest and vote on policy and infrastructure priorities. “Almost every member said fixing the lack of affordable parking in the CBD should be high on the list,” she said. “We were a bit surprised that this had a higher priority than some other tasks. Our members told us the city would not progress until access to affordable parking was provided.”
Ms Richards said parking was added to the transport advocacy priority list, which also included extending the metro train line beyond Frankston – with its massive and wide-ranging benefits including possible 1000-space commuter car parks at Langwarrin and Baxter – and duplicating Lathams Road, the backbone of Carrum Downs Industrial Estate, which had become congested and was hampering the growth of Greater Frankston economic engine room.
She said getting the state government and its road-building authority VicRoads to approve duplication of Lathams Road, an $80 million plus project, had provided a model for successful advocacy. “This is about the community and bureaucracy working together cohesively – truly listening to what the community is saying and doing. “Lathams Road and affordable CBD parking are similar issues – both have been ‘on the books’ for more than two decades.”
For Lathams Road, C4GF assembled a public benefit case that included extensive interviews with businesses that revealed how an out-of-date arterial road was hampering growth. It met with local politicians. VicRoads then championed the project internally. Ten months after the first meeting, the state government announced money for the project, which is expected to be completed next year, 2020.
Ms Richards said C4GF had been collecting statistics to back the case for improved CBD parking. She said the lack of parking was not just a Frankston problem. “Urban planners say that good cities don’t have lots of car parking, but this only works if a city has good public transport. In inner Melbourne there are frequent trains and trams. In Frankston you can wait 45 minutes for a bus.”
C4GF chief executive Ginevra Hosking told the meeting that creating more CBD parking was not a convenience issue: “It’s not about people having to walk too far. It’s an economic issue.”
She said parking in the CBD was relatively expensive. “If you put aside free on-street parking, prices for three-hour parking are higher than comparable retail precincts.” Parking costs for low-paid workers could be nearly 10 per cent of their income, she said. CBD off-street parking costs had risen markedly in the four years 2014-18 – by between 18 and 242 per cent. Off-street car park time limits and user restrictions were inefficient, inequitable and reinforced negative perceptions, Ms Hosking said. She said parking areas that cost more than $4 a day were underutilised while free parking was “over capacity”.
Ms Hosking said Public Transport Victoria’s free car park at Frankston station held just 416 vehicles, but more than 3000 people a day accessed the station by car. About 60 per cent came from outside Frankston, such as from Langwarrin and the Mornington Peninsula, and 40 per cent were local.
She said Frankston was unique in that 93 per cent of publicly available CBD parking was owned by just two entities: Frankston Council and Bayside shopping centre (owned by Vicinity Centres), 36 per cent and 57 per cent respectively. Ms Hosking said there was a mismatch between parking supply and demand, with the most glaring shortage being all-day car parking in the CBD for workers, commuters and TAFE students.
Frankston’s mayor Cr Michael O’Reilly said the community car parking committee had been handed the task of suggesting priorities for the council’s “10-year action plan” for parking. It was a great opportunity for collaboration, he said, including creating independent research to add to what the council had found over the past decade. He looked forward to the day when public transport was more frequent in Greater Frankston: from 40-minute trains in the old days to 10 minutes now and 5 or 3 minutes in the future.
Michael Papageorgiou, Frankston Council’s manager of planning and environment, said the supply of more parking was essential and should be combined with a variety of other initiatives including making best use of existing parking via new technology.
Traders’ advocate Marie Hardwick reminisced about the old days “when there was plenty of parking”. She said projects such as the South East Water HQ had reduced available parking, and chided the council for reducing parking times in some areas to 60 minutes. “This is insufficient time for businesses to have a client meeting or to encourage shoppers to actually spend time in the city.” Ms Hardwick queried why of the 26 shopping centres owned or operated by Vicinity, only three including Frankston had paid parking. She suggested the state government’s promised multi-deck car park for commuters be built on vacant land next to the fire station on Cranbourne Road. “We deserve free parking,” Ms Hardwick said.
Ken Rowe, wearing his Rotary Club of Frankston hat (he’s a former principal of Frankston High School, former Frankston Dolphins coach and founding member of Proudly Frankston), said there had been “no vision, no planning for 50 years, and that’s why we’re here today”.
“The community is talking about extending the train line to Baxter but we should be talking about extending it to Mornington too and running them every few minutes,” he said. There was vacant land off Watts Road at Mornington that could be used for commuter parking. This would complement the proposed parking at Langwarrin and Baxter following extension of the metro train line. He said other places for new car parks included on land adjacent to Kananook station that was once used for football training. “There’s a council depot near the station that could be converted to parking too. You could get perhaps 1000 car parks at this precinct.”
However, council transport planner Graeme Read cautioned about creating more parking at Kananook station precinct, saying traffic flow could be disrupted.
Michael Papageorgiou was asked about progress of the multi-deck car park near Frankston station, which was promised during the state election campaign in late 2018. There had been some commentary that the council should provide the land. He said the land should be provided by the state government. The council had identified 6 or 7 suitable sites in the CBD. Some could include a commercial component – shops and offices.
He said the council was levying developers $19,500 per car park if they could not provide the minimum obligatory parking for their projects. “However, multi-deck car parks cost more than that,” he said.
(On 27 September last year, the Labor state government said that if it was re-elected it would build a $35 million, 500-space multi-deck car park near Frankston station. Based on this figure, each car park would cost $70,000.)
Daniel Meadth, a council strategic planner who is taking the lead on the car parking issue at council, said recent innovations in transport such as autonomous (self-driving) vehicles and ride sharing needed to be taken into account when planning the CBD’s parking needs for the next 20 years. Wayfinding and the technologies that assist this, such as smartphone apps, can lead people to vacant car parks. “When people recognise how beneficial this can be, they will quickly adopt it,” he said.
John Billing, president of Frankston Traders’ Association, said most of his members thought there was insufficient parking and it was too expensive. “One idea is to have the first hour of parking free and then charge for the second and third hours. This works in many places. People end up staying in the CBD for two or three hours. They are happy to pay.” Mr Billing said there was one new route – Seaford to Cranbourne “and that doesn’t help our city: buses taking people to Casey”.
He also said tourism in Frankston was languishing: “There’s not enough parking for locals let alone tourists.”
Christine Richards said the harsh reality was that fewer and fewer residents were using Frankston’s CBD. As part of revitalising Frankston, she said the Committee for Greater Frankston had in January hosted one of Australia’s foremost placemakers, Gilbert Rochecouste of Melbourne-based consultancy Village Well, at the committee’s first event of the year.
She said Mr Rochecouste had built an enviable reputation for helping town planners, governments, developers and other stakeholders create a people-centred approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces – placemaking.
(Village Well is best known for creating blueprints to revive Melbourne’s inner-city laneways in the 1990s, rejuvenating the ailing industrial cities of Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW as well as work on Dark Mofo food and arts festival in Hobart, and Queen Vic Market’s night market.)
“Gilbert is coming to Frankston again and perhaps we should invite him to join the committee for a couple of meetings,” Ms Richards said. Fred Harrison said the parking committee would do well to use Gilbert’s knowledge. Mr Harrison offered to set up a meeting between council officers and Mr Rochecouste (who started his service career at renowned Frankston restaurant Douce France (“Sweet France”) in the late 1970s before moving into high-end retail with Myer and later Chadstone shopping centre).
Marshall Hughes of retail home delivery firm Passel said more buses and bicycles would improve CBD accessibility for many people. However, it was revealed that bicycle use in Frankston was very low. Michael O’Neil of Frankston Football Club supported the proposed multi-deck car park at the station and said he would be interested to see research into what would happen if parking area time restrictions were changed.
Ginevra Hosking said reducing parking times would make the CBD more of a transactional city – “People will just get in and out as quickly as possible if we reduce time limits.”
Kim-Maree Jackson, C4GF board member and executive manager of Village Baxter, said providing sufficient and convenient parking was also a safety and wellness issue. “You can’t have a young female employee standing on a highway in the dark waiting for a bus.”
Recent media coverage:
Group to help relieve parking woes
Brodie Cowburn, Frankston times, 16 July