The introduction of pay-by-phone technology in Shepparton’s CBD marks a sensible result to the ‘free parking’ drama which occupied some Greater Shepparton City Council meetings late last year.
To recap, attempts to hold a trial of free parking in Shepparton’s CBD — as a response to a difficult retail climate — were considered over a number of months.
A notice of motion ultimately fell short, with councillors determining free parking would be costly and have unclear benefits, if any at all.
But two pockets of parking were made free of charge in an attempt to attract city workers away from key shopfront parking.
Meanwhile, moves towards new parking technology were endorsed.
Implicit in this is an understanding that a much-needed update to the way people used and paid for parking was needed in accordance with modern traffic and parking behaviours.
A regular point raised through the free parking debate was the suggestion that ‘no-one carries coins anymore’.
This pointed to the parking issue at its heart being less about the cost of parking, and more about the inconvenience of paying for parking.
The good news is that the new system will unlikely come at a significant cost to integrate.
It should allow a more user-friendly way to park in town, with, one imagines, less potential for fines through a direct debit system, and possibly less enforcement costs required.
Perhaps more valuably though, it may open up the possibility to provide valuable data about parking behaviours to council, ensuring it is able to more smartly apply changes in future.
It is also good news that the old coin-driven infrastructure is remaining for now, so as not to alienate anyone just for not owning a smartphone, or not being able to download an app.
Despite delays over signage, which seem largely out of the council’s hands, it is welcome that the council has not delayed on integrating this technology.
It will be interesting to see to what degree it is taken up by those parking in Shepparton’s CBD and, perhaps more importantly, to what degree it encourages people who had been avoiding the centre of town on the basis of inconvenient parking access, to return there.
This surely marks an important and welcome outcome to emerge from the long-running free parking discussion.