Parking, privilege and inescapable reality

The latest conflagration in the hot-button subject of parking in the Ballarat CBD has set social media alight with its usual impassioned, if ill-thought, vitriol.  First in the firing line are the hapless parking inspectors and not far behind them, the council who are continually accused of intentionally-targeted revenue raising. The reality is we all hate parking tickets and feel a barely-bridled fury at those who issue them. But in a growing city like Ballarat are we really justified in our indignation?

The unfortunate circumstance surrounding the latest stoush was a large scale funeral held at St Pats Cathedral in Sturt Street.  No one wants to come out of a dedicatory service dealing with the sublime differences between life and death and be confronted with the irritatingly banal and venomous reminder that is a parking infringement. Given the sensitivity of the event, council is to be commended in swiftly defusing this issue when they had every right to justifiably (if draconianly) enforce a local law.

Nevertheless the problem is symptomatic of a larger issue around policing car spacing. Blaming parking inspectors in this instance may be a cathartic scapegoat but it serves little other purpose. Whether it is on Sturt or many other parts of the CBD the issue is the same; there are not enough free spaces to go around and policing them has to be part of the solution. With 100,000 plus people and many CBD destinations in high demand there is not currently enough physical room for all these cars that people want to park at liberty.  Despite the restriction, this is also a sign Ballarat is a thriving city and not some regional ghost town. And if the growing pains are met with immaturity, they are only exacerbated by a country town mentality that refuses to walk more than 200 metres for a carpark and is resistant to paying for the privilege when there is a closer one.

Part of council’s answer to this shortage is effectively to increase policing so that existing spaces are turned over more frequently or to impose regulation on hitherto unregulated areas. Almost anyone from a larger city would not think twice about this, where whole suburbs have every inch of roadside space regulated. Parking inspectors, are simply an elemental part of this approach. While metering may have a revenue advantage, it is the enforcement and ensuring the spaces are turned over that in turn encourages more free spaces.

After all, it may be that that is the very vacant space you yourself rejoice in finding.