Editorial: Time for rethink on metered parking

WARWICK RASMUSSEN - DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 13:48 26/10/2012

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OPINION: People hate paying for parking. It may be your archetypal "first-world problem", but there's something about the process that drives people wild.

It's understandable; no part of the process is enjoyable.

In Palmerston North there's the battle to find a suitable space, remembering to have the coins ready, battling with the new machines, then dashing around shops and offices in an allocated time. The sensor system means parking wardens are more likely to hand out infringement notices and then you can get stung $40 because you had to pop into a shop or post a package.

It is a punitive way of going about things, especially when the people most likely to park are putting money into the local economy, helping keep people in jobs.

Shopowners are rightly furious at the setup. And something has to change.

Palmerston North City Council gets about $2 million from its meters each year. Money from tickets and fines tops $1.5m - don't forget there are plenty of people who don't pay.

For an organisation that takes in more than $95 million in revenue the parking money represents a significant amount.

New rules have been suggested, even getting rid of meters altogether. That would hit the council coffers hard, but is this argument about money alone?

Paying for parking isn't simply about revenue. It was also originally designed to keep traffic and parkers moving along. But times change. If people are so anti-parking and have other options, such as online shopping or out-of-town malls, all options should be looked at.

Doing something simply because it's always been done that way is foolish.

And if fewer people are coming to town to support the businesses there will come a tipping point where the parking revenue starts to drop.

Many cities around New Zealand, and indeed the world, are grappling with this issue.

There are so many overheads involved with running a shop in town. That's why more and more are cutting their losses and going online only.

The endgame for that, though, is that towns and cities will lose their character and a little bit of their soul as the migration to large retail centres and online shopping will squeeze those retailers and service providers. Is that what we want? Or do we want to hold on to those shopping areas that have stood the test of time and give a city like Palmerston North some of its identity?

There is an opportunity for the council to be bold and at least look at encouraging people to shop and go about their business in town, rather than punishing them for doing so.

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- Manawatu Standard

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