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Council belts car share in Southbank

14 Aug 2015

Council belts car share in Southbank Image

By Shane Scanlan

Car sharing in Southbank will suffer following a City of Melbourne decision to charge operators thousands of dollars for on-street parking spaces that have previously been free.

City of Melbourne councillors on July 28 voted to charge operators $3000 in their second and subsequent years of occupation within the “CBD” – which includes Southbank.

Up until now, operators were only charged for on-street spaces within the Hoddle Grid.

The council has been receiving fees on 21 Hoddle Grid spaces, but wants to expand the $3000 fee to 100 “CBD” spaces.

It currently has 29 spaces in the “non-Hoddle Grid, wider CBD area” (including Southbank) and wants to expand this number to 70 by 2021.

Asked to define “CBD”, a council spokesperson said: “The CBD is bordered by Spring, Victoria, Peel, Spencer, Flinders – so it is the Hoddle Grid, plus the Vic Market and Southbank areas.”

The fee outside the “CBD” will be only $25 per year, as well as a one-off administrative fee of $500.

The council expects car share operators to find off-street commercial spaces for their vehicles in the future before they will release to them an on-street space.  Currently operators have only 40 off-street spaces within the “CBD” but council expects them to find another 1090 spaces there by 2021.

The new fee-charging regime is due to start next month and will be reviewed in 12 months.

Green Share Car owner Sahil Bhasin said his company would not apply for anymore CBD on-street spaces until the policy was reviewed.  He said the “one-for-one” requirement to find suitable commercial off-street parking in the CBD was impractical.

He said it was currently unclear whether the council intended to charge his company for Southbank on-street spaces it currently enjoys for free.

If charged, Mr Bhasin said his company would have to “re-evaluate” some of its spaces and keep only the more popular spaces. He said another option being considered was to recover a $4 surcharge on Southbank bookings. He said, on short trips, this could result in a 50 per cent fee hike.

He said it was most likely that car share coverage across the “CBD” would reduce.

The car share issue has been difficult for councillors, who were heavily lobbied by the industry and challenged on their environmental credentials. More than 150 items of correspondence were received by the council on the issue.

In an attempted compromise with the industry, councillors departed from the recommendations of officers who suggested even higher fees to recover lost parking meter revenue.

But operators in Southbank would have paid less under the original management proposal.

Under the successful motion, they will also be paying $1500 in their first year, and not the $1000 originally recommended by management.  And they will be paying the full $3000 in their second year of operation, rather than their third.

At the July 28 meeting, Cr Richard Foster said: “It is entirely outrageous to suggest that Melbourne, one of the world’s most forward thinking, progressive, environmentally sustainable cities on the planet, isn’t green enough because we won’t make ratepayers spend their hard-earned on commercial enterprises.”

“If people were serious about running car share businesses, maybe they’d be running electric cars and installing car charging points,” he said.

Only Cr Stephen Mayne voted against the motion, primarily because of the impediment of finding a commercial space before council will release an on-street space to operators.

It is unclear whether councillors fully understood that they were imposing fees in Southbank for the first time.

During the July 28 debate, Cr Arron Wood said: “I think the fee structure is right – no increase in the CBD.”

He also called on car share operators to work collaboratively with the council in the future.

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