Paid parking will lead to more drama in Parliamentary Triangle

For years, there has been rumours that paid parking would be introduced. Just how bad is it going to get? Photo: Graham Tidy

We think Jules Verne said it best, though he was talking about India.

Everybody knows that the great reversed triangle of land,
with its base in the north and its apex in the south,
which is called Parliamentary,
embraces acres of green and gravel fields, in which is spread unequally a population of thousands of SUVs and hatchbacks.

Public servants, particularly those in "central agencies" are always a little wary of shocks on budget night. But paid parking was something that the city, still reeling from the sight of the Hindenboob, was ill-prepared for. People in the Defence area were particularly shocked, unaccustomed as they are to worrying about the Budget. Many of them only discovered they were IN the Parliamentary Triangle on Wednesday morning.

The inconvenient fact is that there hasn't been enough parking in the area for years. A decade ago, public servant cars with their smug little bumper stickers filled every metre of street frontage from Vernon Circle to Deakin. Since then new residential and departmental buildings have been built, while the well-heeled hedge-enthusiasts who populate the inner south rose up in revolt, sparking a war on residential street parking that drove waves of refugees to the protected sanctuary of the triangle.

The triangle isn't actually terribly close to many workplaces, and local food options may consist of a caravan and a place famous only for a PM losing her shoe, but the parking options have been seemingly endless. First there's the free public spaces provided near institutions like the National Library and the High Court. And then there's the rolling green fields and roadside nooks and crannies that have justified the purchase of so many gargantuan 4WDs. And now that sanctuary is being taken away, it's like declaring open season in a nature reserve.

Open season, it seems, for pretentious vitriol. We were prepared for the bile from our big city neighbours – for whom the ordeal of commuting is as righteous as the vocation itself, the usual anti-public service crowd, and even from those who don leather and lycra. But the casting of stones from our brethren across the pond in Civic (many of whom are 'part of the problem' by parking in the triangle and crossing the bridge) has been too much for many to bear.

Et tu Braddon?

For years there have been rumours that this would happen. We just never thought it could. Treasury and Finance officials whose tendency towards free markets and economic liberalism defines them, have, in the past, turned Bolshevik at the threat of losing this uncredited fringe benefit.  Surely we'd abolish the health system or consider a tightening of Defence forward projections  before we'd ever give up our parking? There is no truer sign that the national finances are in danger than this decision.

So what will be the ultimate result of this decision? Basement level 1 Carparking spots (BL1CP) will now become more coveted than a PSM. And for those who miss out, never underestimate the capacity for a public servant to find a workaround to a difficult situation. There are many types of foot soldiers in the battle for parking.

Firstly, the problem will be distributed as soon every piece of unregulated flattish 10sqm land on or near a road in the inner north and south will contain a 4WD.  Secondly, obesity levels in the lower public service ranks may decline as people find "secret parks" in increasingly outlandish but free locations like Curtin and Narrabundah. Some in Civic already do this, marching three kilometres from the National Museum to their London Circuit lairs. Flex hours will decrease correspondingly. Thirdly, competition to become Canberra's Biggest Dickhead will heat up as even more people join the race to fill every loading, disabled and taxi zone in the triangle with a salary-packaged Korean hatchback. Some contestants will form alliances to win this trophy, parking four cars at Questacon before hopping into the fifth to drive 250 metres to their shared BL1CP.

Purveyors of two-wheeled transportation will likely see a spike in revenue as many use the new parking situation as an opportunity to embrace their inner hipster with a vintage-looking bicycle. But dreams that traffic on National Circuit will soon resemble market day in Saigon will be dashed once these new cyclists confront the cold hard reality of their nipples on a Canberra morning (see Hindenboob). As for the buses — people will continue not to take them.

Ultimately, however, this is the very definition of a first world problem. And at very least it'll give us something to talk about during caretaker mode.