Moreland's car-parking plans make sense
Carlo Carli's MITS C183 amendment objection
Robert Durkacz, 24 April 2020
Carlo Carli has written a piece arguing against Moreland council's new car parking plans. This piece was originally written for the Brunswick ALP branch website and is now carried forward onto Brunswick News. Carlo wrote a similar letter to Moreland council as an objection to the C183 amendent. This letter (available here) can be found also on the council's website, as part of the council's progress report on the C183 amendment. Unfortunately this and other objections are censored as if they came from Guantanamo Bay and generally messed up, so best to get it from us.
I am responding to Carlo's views specifically but the context matters too. Carlo is a former MP but as a politician you could not say he has retired. The local ALP is keen to get its people elected as councillors this year and it looks like it hopes to use car-parking issues to gain an advantage over the Greens in the elections. Carlo has close links with the local ALP and we have to be wary of when he might be speaking to the issue of transport economics on its merits and when he might be promoting some issue as talking point for ALP candidates in the pipeline.
Carlo can explain and argue the merits of transport economics and at much the same time promote the interests of the local ALP even where the two are in confict. He does not let one objective override the other, so that if you listen carefully you may find he gives you both sides of the argument.
The question is, do our parking arrangements basically stay the same as they always were, or do they change to respond to the changes in population and housing that are underway? Some would want to stick with the first option. You park where you like. The council on the other hand has adopted a plan that would cut down on parking from unrestricted to 2 hours max in wide vicinity of commercially active areas. Carlo's article has maps (from the council's documents). Right now Carlo is putting up a defence of the old way. Sticking to the old way in fact does not have any great advantages for the average resident. Supposing the resident lives in an area that would be affected by the new rules then the resident is looking at paying something for one or two car parking permits (instead of nothing for any number of cars that the resident might leave in the street). If the resident is accustomed to parking somewhere else in Moreland for half a day or more then there could be an issue but that is more likely to be a problem for out-of-towners who work in Moreland or use Moreland as a commuting staging post.
The 2 hour allowance is good enough for shopping and the like.
So the changes are not particularly a problem for residents. Many will find the changes beneficial when they guarantee parking spots on streets formerly crowded with out of town cars.
Nonetheless the Labor side hopes they can win votes with objections to the new rules. They focus on arguably deserving cases were people can't park where they used to, and, the idea that developers are getting a free kick if they are not required to build in a certain number of parking spots into new apartment blocks. Carlo puts both these arguments.
I hope it escapes no-one that the benefit is to the people buying the units who get to decide if they want to pay for a parking space or not.
This is the kind of slogan you might get from the ALP locals in campaign mode: The Greens council has developers making decisions about parking instead of council.
As I said Carlo gives us both sides. Midway through his piece, Carlo alludes to the ideas of an economist called Donald Shoup. Shoup is known for advocating market-based solutions, looking at parking as a resource to be allocated by economically efficient means. It turns out that Carlo is impressed by Shoup's analysis. Carlo in his submission lumps together "The Greens and certain urban planners [on the council]" as being responsible for the council's schemes. These are different people! While Labor people are accustomed to thinking of the Greens as well-meaning but soft-headed it turns out that Carlo has considerable respect for those urban planners and understands the approach that they are taking.
Note that in his submission, Carlo makes a point that these planners are not following Shoup's principles. I think this is a quibble so that he can still oppose the plans without denying his respect for Shoup's analysis, something that he shares with these planners.
Carlo's objection is that a new development would be no longer required to have any car parking places at all (though it may). But this is another way of saying that the residents of these buildings need not pay for ($60,000 worth of) parking space if they do not have a car. Carlo would allow a development to go ahead with no car parking, or less than the current minimum, but only if the council in their wisdom give their agreement.
Certainly no individual would be interested in negotiating with the council whether they should own a car or not, so it is not clear that it is necessary to give the council a say in how many car parks should be provided for the whole building. Clearly the market has a chance of working. Unless we stick to the old idea that every unit should have a car park, ie saturating the supply of parking spaces, then we have to put a fair price on public spaces. This is obvious, because else people will have a motive to use public spaces at no cost to themselves instead of providing for their own needs (and economising on their needs according to their circumstances).
More briefly, since we leave the matter of car ownership to the individual choices that constitute the market, it makes sense to leave arrangements for storing cars also to the market.
Carlo understands that since he wants to retain the council's ability to insist on a certain number of parking spaces for a development to be retained, he should give a persuasive real or hypothetical example. He does mention an example where the council refused a waiver but does not go on to tell us why he agrees with the council in that case.
Could it be Carlo is referring to the Nightingale project? There is material there for another article.
Carlo's submission puts a lot of emphasis on car spots for the use of disabled people. Fair enough, we would not reflexively argue that the needs of the disabled be simply left to the market. But the present or outgoing minimum requirements are not based on providing for the disabled. They are providing for ordinary usage, at levels which quite arguably need to change. I do not know what allowance the council's scheme makes for disabled. It may or not be adequate.
Carlo has concerns about the needs of non-profit organisations including his own Moreland Health for parking rights. This is not so different from the needs of commercial enterprises. They can be met by purchasing permits. Voluntary charitable organisations very possibly should get concessional treatment. It is doubtful this applies to Moreland Health. Are not their operations fully funded?