Parking Space Levy could burst NSW public transport system

By: Chris Smith

The Parking Space Levy Bill 2009, introduced to the New South Wales Parliament, aims at curbing motor vehicle activity in

The Parking Space Levy Bill 2009, introduced to the New South Wales Parliament, aims at curbing motor vehicle activity in metropolitan areas and reducing congestion by promoting public transport use. However, pressure groups say the system simply won’t cope with the extra patronage.

Garth Mathews, NSW Parking Operators Association spokesperson, questions the viability of pushing commuters out of cars and onto public transport system which he claims is running over capacity already.

Mathews says with more than 218,000 people travelling to the affected Levy areas to work each day by car, the 110 percent Levy increase will cripple their ability to park.

If this actually happens the Government would have achieved their goals and put a dint into congestion issues facing the city, only to open a public transport capacity can of worms.

According to the NSW Transport Data Centre’s 2006 Journey to work data more than 247,000 people already travel to work in the Levied areas by public transport each day.

Mathews however, does make a valid point when he asks the Minister which stations should these drivers park at and which train or bus will they get on when and if the Bill is passed?

"How are they going to fit on public transport when the system is already operating beyond capacity," asks Mathews?

The Parking Operators Association representing all parking management companies and the owners of car parks is demanding a roll-back on the latest increase as of 1 July 2009 and a full assessment and review of the levy’s effectiveness.

For public transport advocates however, the Bill is updating the Parking Space Levy Act 1992 and closing existing loop holes in the previous Act.

The revenue raised will continue to provide facilities and services that encourage the use of public transport.

In introducing the Bill, Paul Lynch, Minister for Ageing, Disability Services, and Aboriginal Affairs, on behalf of Transport Minister David Campbell, says the levy is currently the sole source of income for the Public Transport Fund and has been responsible for a number of key projects.

"It is the principal source of ongoing capital funding for multi-use interchanges for rail, bus, ferry and taxi services, and for commuter car parking facilities at transport interchanges in the urban transport network," he says.

"Since its inception, the parking space levy has funded a number of major and minor projects."

Significant among these are the Parramatta bus interchange, interchanges on the transport network, and the extension of the light rail system to Lilyfield, in addition to numerous interchanges, commuter car parks and wharf upgrades.

Current projects being funded by the levy include: the Holsworthy, Wentworthville and Woy Woy commuter car parks, Morisset, Windsor and Tuggerah interchanges and car parks, Hurstville interchange, Bundeena and Cronulla wharf upgrades, along with the ongoing maintenance work required on some of the previously constructed facilities.

In addition, the NSW Government has also announced a further $56 million over three years for more commuter car parks.

"Already announced as part of this program are additional commuter car parks for Wollongong, Emu Plains and Quakers Hill," explains Lynch.

He says the parking space levy program had not been subject to a comprehensive review since its inception in 1992.

"In light of this, and consistent with the Government's commitment to review regulations periodically, there was a review of the Act and regulation," he says.

"The result of the review process was that the Act and regulation were found to be generally meeting their objectives.

"However, opportunities for improvements were identified in a number of areas," he says.

These included: clarifying the boundaries of the levy areas, freeing up the restrictions that limit the way the levy proceeds are used, and simplifying the administration by clarifying a few rules and definitions.

He says changes identified would not result in the addition of any new spaces that had not been intended to be captured by the original Act or add to a general increase in revenue.

"However, there may be some minor impact on owners of spaces who have relied on loose definitions to seek exemptions and thus avoid their obligations to the community in reducing congestion and its impact on the environment."

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