Good and bad news on parking

By John Cousins

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Rushing out to feed the meter will soon pass into history for shoppers in Tauranga's downtown, but it could cost them more.

The council yesterday agreed to scrap one of the biggest shopping headaches, the one hour and two-hour limits on carparking.

The new parking regime will take effect from Easter and apply everywhere, except the three or four locations like the PostShop in Grey St, which needed a few high turnover P15 parks.

It meant that shoppers will be able to suit themselves about how long they park virtually anywhere in the downtown.

But the abolition of time limits has come at a price because the council still wants to achieve a turnover of carparks in the retail core. Instead of parking charges being based on $2 an hour in the core, the council will lift them to $3 an hour on the assumption that $3 will dissuade people from parking for too long.

The inner core is the extended block of Grey St/Willow St and The Strand/Devonport Rd - between Elizabeth St and Hamilton St.

Nearly all the rest of the downtown remains at $2 an hour, without time limits. The downtown's outer rim of 2nd Ave, Cameron Rd, Hamilton St and Harrington St reduces to $1 an hour with no time limit.

Council transportation operations manager Martin Parkes said the changes were based on feedback from Mainstreet Tauranga, other business organisations and small focus groups. The majority said that paying for parking was not an issue, it was time restrictions that were the problem.

He said the council was asked to introduce a simple, consistent and easy-to-understand system. There was general agreement that the cost of parking was reasonable and that free parking was not a viable option.

The higher cost of parking in the retail core was also designed to make the downtown's two parking buildings a more attractive option for shoppers. Prices remain the same in the buildings.

Mr Parkes said abolishing time limits meant that in theory someone could pay $24 to park all day in the core retail area. "I can't imagine too many people would be doing that."

In response to a question from Councillor Murray Guy, he said staff had not surveyed every downtown business to find out what they wanted, but relied on feedback from Mainstreet which represented retailers.

Cr Guy said Mainstreet got as much feedback from its members as the council got from the community. He opposed the "whole regime" and he wanted the parking rules to be the same everywhere for everybody - so that the downtown was not disadvantaged.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said the $4.9 million debt in the parking account needed to be funded somehow. The council also agreed to drop free on-street parking on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm.

Off-street carparks and parking buildings would remain free.

Mr Parkes said free parking on Saturdays became an issue when time limits were lifted because it was highly likely that city centre workers would park in high demand areas.

Councillor Terry Molloy reluctantly supported going back to paying for Saturday parking, largely because in the 18 months of free parking there had not been an increased usage.

Lifting of time restrictions was won by a vote of 7-4 while dropping free parking on Saturdays was won 8-3. The parking changes will go out for public consultation because they require amendments to the Traffic and Parking Bylaw.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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