Outside of the weather, nothing gets Ballarat talking more than the hot topic of parking and it appears council has given people plenty to talk about with its latest proposal.
There is no surer signal of the city’s growing pains than this increasingly scarce commodity in the CBD and how it instantly becomes a bone of contention.
These sweeping solutions are sure to have people incensed.
If driving around the block for the closest possible carpark is a kind of atavistic city trait, indicative of halcyon days when the number of cars and available space was more balanced, then so too is the begrudging reluctance to pay for all day parking, no matter how close it is to the centre of town.
You can view the proposed changes here.
Given the unenviable job it has always been to try to convert a populace from this historical entitlement, the council has taken the reluctant bull by the horns and has declared the entire CBD a paid parking zone.
With exception of some current off-street carparks, almost every street from Pleasant to Barkly and Macarthur down to Urquhart will now be open to short and long term parking but it will come with a sting.
The idea is you can park for as long as you like but you pay accordingly.
The model which has apparently worked well in larger cities will be an interesting litmus test on just how ready the city is to pay.
Those not willing to seek alternative modes of transport including some sizeable hikes to outside these zones, the commuters used to free parking in the streets around the station and hospital patients unused to the technology will all have a bone to pick.
But the problem is Ballarat is growing up and it has a further issue in the numbers; an estimated additional demand for 2000 long day parks in the near future, for instance, and the disparity of expectation as to what these carparks should cost.
As always, the market will charge what the market can bear and that is directly related to the scarcity of the commodity.
If off-street parks are to be part of the solution they too will want a return on investment. In short, the glory days of plentiful free parking are over.
Under this scheme, the vexed issue of higher-rotation CBD parking is also linked to how willing people are to pay for all day parking.
For a maximum of $19 a day, what some would say by comparison was relatively cheap, you can have any downtown carpark you like for the whole day.
So will this affect the number of high turnover vacant spots available? It remains to be seen.
While inner CBD prices remain essentially unchanged, council concessions like the 9.30am start to metering and the first ten minutes free, don’t necessarily alleviate old fears of a doughnut effect; the tendency for shoppers to flock where the car parking is easy and free; i.e expanding fringe shopping centres.
Furthermore the cut off at 7pm may appease hospitality outlets and theatres but it is unlikely to ease retailers uneasiness.
Residents who live within these zones, in the past the most vocal about all day parking that blocked their homes may be pleased with household parking permits but the cost of additional permits will also likely provoke further fury.
And all this on only the first day of a plan aimed at simplifying a problem that may have no simple or cheap solutions!
As a city looks for the solutions it urgently needs, further reactions are likely to unfold; watch this space.