As we are all well aware, this past week the City of Ballarat Council's Smarter Parking Plan was put into action.
The new system requires us to enter our vehicle registration before paying by cash, card, or app, within the centre of town.
While this system is not brand new, having been rolled out in places such as Melbourne, it does have some flaws and I, along with many others, are a little less than impressed.
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We all recognise that many businesses in central Ballarat are struggling economically, including those in the Bridge Mall, Sturt Street and surrounds. It should be the Council's aim to nurture these businesses by improving accessibility.
Businesses in areas such as Armstrong Street surely rely on the turnover of customers, which was previously fostered by short time limits in the very limited parking available.
The eradication of timed parking in central Ballarat reduces the availability of parking in the area, which not only discourages people from shopping in the centre of town, but will therefore have an impact on these local businesses.
Many people have raised the issue that the elderly within our community and those without access to the internet, will be unable to reap the benefits of the app-based system.
Further, app payment methods are limited to a Visa or Mastercard, and as more and more people are opting not to have a credit card, many will be unable to use this app at all.
Paypal would be a valuable addition to the payment method options, for the app to become accessible to a wider demographic.
The premium version of the app also comes at a cost, which is something for users to be wary of.
For those of us who won't or can't use the app for the above reasons (or a multitude of others that aren't listed), we are required to use cash or card at the pay stations.
There are now fewer pay stations, and not all of them do have the capacity to accept cash payments anyway. For those who opt to use cash, the parking options are limited.
We get one free hour of parking per day, which is great, except from what I have understood from the Council's Facebook responses is that even if you only park for fifteen minutes, because you have registered that counts as your free hour.
It would be great if the Council could provide a little more information on this, especially how it works for those of us who won't be using the app and so won't be clicking when we have left the park.
Finally, one of the biggest issues from my point of view is that the permit parking zone has been stripped away from our seniors' centre, and now they are being expected to pay $3 per hour to access their own facilities, via a system that is hard to use. Why are we targeting the vulnerable to line the Council's pocket?
Social connection is paramount to wellbeing, and this move by the Council has ultimately meant that these community members that we should be celebrating and respecting, are being put in such a difficult position where those who cannot afford to go simply miss out.
Ballarat Council, if this is the system that you are sticking with, please invest - and quickly - into making Ballarat's public transport system reliable, safe, and effective.
Reliable public transport will allow customers to get to the businesses that need an economic boost, will potentially help our senior citizens get to their centre while avoiding the exorbitant fees, will mean that those who work in Ballarat can get to their workplace without searching for a free all-day park (or paying $3 an hour to work, or having to walk blocks on their own after their shifts), and will ultimately reduce our environmental footprint.
Chloe Waddell, was the Ballarat Young Citizen of the Year in 2017