Following council's largest ever public consultation, the City of Ballarat's new Smarter Parking plan officially began at the beginning of February.
One month on, there's been some adaptations and changes as the city learns how to use the system, which includes an app as well as new licence plate recognition tools and the first hour free.
The system has been criticised by some residents, who fear the elderly or differently-abled will be unable to park in the CBD if they don't have a bank card with tap-and-go capability or a smartphone.
The criticism stems from council's choice to install a mix of meters - while previously there were about six different types of meters, some with only coins and some with card capability, the new system now has just two types.
One third of the meters accept coins as well as tap-and-go card payments, and they are spread through the network - but not having coins at every machine has led to anger from some community members, who say they have to walk to find one that does.
The City of Ballarat has consistently maintained its choice to use two types of meters, including ones that only accept card, was based on feedback from residents and businesses received in the consultation period - people said they want to use their cards or an app.
Having a choice of machine "increases flexibility", council representatives have repeated.
Not all the meters were activated at once, leading to confusion - particularly around the hospital precinct - about whether drivers would be fined when they could not use the meters.
Several machines were delayed by customs, which in turn delayed installation and full activation.
Parking there is free and limited to two hours, as before, and the coin-accepting machines were moved to the hospital precinct.
Two machines were also destroyed not long after the system came online, in alleged acts of vandalism.
City of Ballarat infrastructure and environment director Terry Demeo said the system was now fully operational.
"The community has had an extremely strong take up of the free hour and utilisation of the meters," he said in a statement.
"While the sample size is small, a number of observations are possible. The app has also been downloaded by over 11,000 motorists and is being used on a daily basis.
"We're seeing that Fridays have the highest number of parking transactions, with people parking for shorter periods.
"Last Friday saw the highest number of transactions since the system was introduced with more than 7000 transactions recorded, of which more than 5200 were free.
"The City of Ballarat continues to have education officers on the street to ensure all users are able to familiarise themselves with the new technology and take advantage of the system City of Ballarat has implemented."
Not everyone is happy - a Lydiard Street law firm slammed the system as "discriminatory".
In a letter sent to The Courier, representatives from Saines Lucas Solicitors describe the scheme as having "clear breaches of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 and Disability Discrimination Act 1992" - council denies this.
Partner Ian Vinson said in a statement the plan was an "inconvenience" for the elderly, the less ambulant, and the intellectually disabled.
"Council assumes that the possession of credit cards and mobile phones is universal. This is not our experience," he wrote.
The firm's office has a card-only parking meter on its block, but had written to council about the lack of access to meters that accept coins, which it says is the method of payment preferred by its clients.
The nearest meters, according to council correspondence, is on Lydiard Street, about 130 metres away.
Commerce Ballarat has also been keeping an eye on the system on behalf of its members.
Chairman Nick Thurlbeck said there had been promising changes which showed council was listening to the community, but also said people had repeatedly asked for more machines that accept coins.
"From a Commerce Ballarat point of view, our organisation and its membership understand that a new parking plan was needed, and certainly it was a tough decision by council to implement it," he said.
"We're a year on from consultation, it was quite a process.
"No doubt it's impacted some businesses, with particular age groups and demographics that have found it a bit more challenging to use the technology and understand the process to park in the CBD."
He said he had heard some positives from members as well.
The aim of the plan is to increase turnover of parking in the CBD, and Mr Thurlbeck said had been noticed by some retailers.
"There are many people in particular who are using the app and finding it very easy to tap on and tap off, stop for five minutes and go into a trader within the CBD and get back and go again, which is a good thing again about the system," he said.
"The key thing is going to be that council continues to listen to feedback from the wider community."
He encouraged council to continue to use social media, across a variety of channels, to respond to comments and help educate people.
How exactly does the parking system work?
On-street parking in Ballarat's CBD now uses licence plates to identify who's parking where.
Drivers have two options - using a meter on the street, or the CellOPark app.
The first hour every day is free, and every additional hour is $3.
A full day - 9am to 5.30pm - will cost $22.50.
There are two types of meters, one which only accepts tap-and-go bank card payments, and one that also accepts coins.
Both meters work the same way. After parking, drivers must find a parking meter, enter their licence plate number, and select whether they are in an on-street car park or one of several off-street car parks.
Time then begins, and there's an option to pay for more time.
Drivers can add coins or tap their card at any parking meter in the city to add more time for their licence plate.
The app is also linked to the licence plate - once details are entered, users hit the start button when they begin parking, and hit stop when they leave.
If they don't hit stop, they'll be charged until 5.30pm that day.
Free parking is available on Lyons Street North (some timed), Eastwood Street (two hours), Scott Parade (all-day), and Creswick Road (currently all-day).
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