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Free space squeeze prompts creative parking

Parking dramas in the Parliamentary Triangle.

Parking dramas in the Parliamentary Triangle. Photo: Graham Tidy

Have you seen people trying to avoid paying for parking? Let us know via the comments, or get in touch here or by email.

Driving through gardens, parking on dirt mounds, even scraping against walls to find a technically free space – the old Canberra favourite of verge parking takes on a whole new meaning in the Parliamentary Triangle as workers try out a number of creative solutions to avoid paying, according to the National Capital Authority.

But the authority believes a proposal in Tuesday’s federal budget to introduce pay parking in the precinct at about $11 a day would help equalise access to parking, and would ease the current space squeeze.

NCA chief Gary Rake said a quick trip around the federal land before 9am on almost any weekday will reveal cars parked on grass and across bike paths, and commuters parking for free then walking or riding the final distance to their office nearby.

“I went for a run around the lake this morning, and I saw several blokes in business attire riding kids’ scooters towards Civic. It’s pretty clear that they’ve parked somewhere else, probably here where it’s free, and they’re riding their scooter across the bridge into the city,” Mr Rake said.

“They’re not actually doing anything wrong, it’s perfectly legal for them to do that. They’re just reacting to a system that has allowed this incentive to arise.”

Mr Rake said some of the worst examples of people going to great lengths for free parking included:

  • Cars driving up the curb, over the bike path, over a 2 metre dirt mound (where one driver removed a tree guard to allow for easier access), and through a garden to access a boom-gated parking area at the National Gallery – since rectified;
  • People parking hard up against an architecturally-designed concrete wall in York Park to get around parking signage for some technically free parking – since rectified with new signs;
  • Cars parked on the grass south of the National Library;
  • Cars parked across the bike path between the National Museum and Lake Burley Griffin;
  • Drivers parking on a steep 4 metre dirt mound designed to stop cars near the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – since rectified with signs, bollards and rocks.

“When it rained, it was so steep the cars would slide down the mud and into each other,” Mr Rake said.

“We had people threatening to sue us because their vehicle had been damaged being parked in that informal manner.”

There have also been reports of organised short-distance carpooling, where colleagues meet in a free carpark, then all travel into the city in a single car to split the cost of parking.

Mr Rake said the current parking situation effectively encouraged this sort of behaviour, and it would only get worse the longer free parking was allowed to continue.

“The efforts that people go to get a free park are symptomatic of the core problem that we’re trying to solve,” he said.

“Because parking in this area is free, and in surrounding areas, whether it be Barton or Civic, there’s pay parking, it creates an incentive for people to find a way to get that free parking. And the longer we leave that in place, the more over time the price in those areas will go up, as is normal, that incentive gets bigger and bigger and so people will go to greater and greater lengths.”

Mr Rake said introducing a paid parking scheme in the area would free up spaces for both tourists, and for workers in the area who weren’t able to arrive early to compete for a spot but would be willing to pay for one.

National institutions in the parliamentary triangle are wrestling with imposing paid parking on their staff and volunteers or risk having free parks swamped with public servants.

Along with Parliament House, the four independent national institutions that control their own car parks - the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, High Court and War Memorial - face this dilemma.

Management at the institutions had little to say on Wednesday as they considered whether to adopt ''government policy in the management of their car parks'' - as stated in the budget briefing papers - or take a chance on visitors being able to find a park if the car parks are kept free. Without paid parking, the institutions may be liable for fringe-benefits tax for their staff having free parking.

with Ross Peake

39 comments

  • People park in all kinds of odd places (like those listed in the article) here in Belconnen around the Government offices. It is not to avoid paying for parking but simply due to lack of parking spaces. I have seen cars with parking tickets (I assume for parking up the kerb) even though they have paid for an all day ticket and it is clearly displayed.

    I hope that the new parking machines in the Triangle are card and bank note friendly, because trying to find $9+/day in coins is difficult. The car wash centre is about the only place where people can load up on coins for the week.

    Commenter
    Maree
    Location
    Belconnen
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 12:01PM
    • Once again the self government we had to have in Canberra has missed the point. No matter how much they want us to use the half hearted public transport system, people are going to continue to use their cars. The volume of car parks has decreased in the city since we lost some of of the London Circuit sites, so what are they doing about it? Pretty much nothing. You want people to pay for parking and use it appropriately then give us enough spaces to cope with the glut of government buildings in shared locations, and make the price affordable. Paying $11 a day to park in poorly maintained car parks is a bit of a joke. Make it more like $5 a day and people will hardly have a problem with it. Pumping up the cost of parking is not detering mums and dads from using their cars when they have kids to pick up or meetings to drive to in different locations on a regular basis. All you're doing is making life even more difficult financially for them and adding to the day to day stress they already feel.

      Commenter
      RamRod - ACT
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 4:32PM
  • But what is wrong with free parking? It's terrible that pay parking exists. Anywhere. Period. We pay taxes, registration, lisence fees, insurance etc. Why should we have to pay to park the car too??

    Commenter
    $$
    Location
    Tharwa
    Date and time
    May 16, 2013, 12:03PM
    • Fair enough, you have to pay everywhere else and it is terrible to try and get a park in Parkes during the week(one terrible day off trying to take relatives to some of the sights...).
      I personally ride my bicycle (I know this isn't practical for a lot of people, blah, blah, blah) rain, hale or shine which, with the right gear, is both relaxing, healthy and easy. My guess would be over 50% of these drivers live within 10-15kms, if not less, of work which even for a non-cyclists isn't a long ride.
      I haven't been sick for over 4years, am as fit as ever at 40+ and the money I save is a no brainer!

      Commenter
      Coopa
      Date and time
      May 16, 2013, 12:16PM
      • There is a problem that I don't think the NCA has consider yet. Once paid parking goes in there will be signs all over the place saving down park on the grass - but wait, in front of old parliament house there are always cars parke don the grass at the tent embassy. Now whether you support it or not this will be a major issue as up until now no parking inspector has gone near them. So it won't be long before that becomes a new car park as you can park in prime space and get no ticket. I'd be even happy to give the protestors $10 or $20 a week to keep an eye on the car, as I'll still be way in front.

        Commenter
        Tom
        Date and time
        May 16, 2013, 12:29PM
        • I fail to see how introducing paid parking into the parliamentary triangle will free up car parks... Maybe I'm missing something - some of the largest Commonwealth Departments are located here and there are only a finate number of car parks. Can someone explain how making public servants pay $11 a day make more car parks without any proposals to build multilevel parking...?

          Those of us who live here know that the public transports system is a joke and doesn't offer a viable alternative. Combine this with the lack of parking and facilities is the reason I refuse to work in the triangle...

          Commenter
          Wouldn't work in the triangle
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          May 16, 2013, 12:30PM
          • But you are nothing and no one cares!! Go get a fulfilling and meaningful job then you won't be so miserable

            Commenter
            Big George
            Date and time
            May 17, 2013, 6:44AM
        • those 4 cars pictured parking illegally are driven by selfish and self centred dolts.

          Commenter
          can't see past you...
          Date and time
          May 16, 2013, 12:31PM
          • They are probably just busy normal people

            Commenter
            Big George
            Date and time
            May 17, 2013, 6:50AM
        • Some people want to drive their cars, while others want to ride their bikes. As the best capital city in Australia why not provide these facilities, so that the people that live, work and visit Canberra can have the freedom of choice in their daily business. Obviously plenty of people want to use this particular area, why not let them? There is plenty space to make Canberra a great place to live. Keep it all free and provide lots of it, bike paths, roads and parking throughout the region. After all who would want the ACT to turn into a greedy, stingy place like Sydney?

          Commenter
          Meg
          Date and time
          May 16, 2013, 12:32PM

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