Lord Mayor searches for reverse gear

There is a terrible sound of crunching gears at Melbourne Town Hall as Lord Mayor Sally Capp tries to jam years of City transport policy into reverse.

The council’s Future Melbourne Transport Committee met this week with it’s eyes on the rear view mirror.

It had before it a proposal to back-pedal on years of progressive and successful urban reinvention and instead make Melbourne grim again.

It voted to bring more cars back into the CBD.

Somehow a COVID recovery strategy that was supposed lure more people back into central Melbourne has become a befuddled measure designed to draw in more vehicles.

It is common knowledge that the 30-year revival of central Melbourne has been based in the crucial nexus of more people and fewer cars.

Keeping cars out of downtown is not that special these days and most of the world’s great cities have a similar agenda.

The Capp plan for more cars emerged during the recent Lord Mayoral election campaign, and no-one took it seriously. After all, the City had just reinforced its low-car future with a new Transport Plan.

At that very time the CBD's small streets were getting a makeover to give pedestrians and bikes priority over cars.

And these good policies continue, except that they will continue beside a policy that goes in the opposite direction—cheaper car parking.

The resolution before the council asked “the Chief Executive Officer to write to the Victorian Government seeking an extension of the State Government decision to waive 25 per cent of the congestion levy by a further six months subject to this reduction being directly passed through to the customer”.

It was carried 9 votes to 2. Greens councillor Rohan Leppert, who voted against the proposal, said that the law of supply and demand hasn't been suspended in a recession.

"The amount of road space given over to on street parking hasn't increased. In fact it has decreased while the city rolls out its outdoor dining program. And the number of lanes on roads into and out of the city doesn't increase either. The capacity of the road and on street parking network for private vehicles is slowly but surely shrinking, not growing."

" I sincerely hope that before Council adopts a fee structure that may risk the congestion of the Hoddle Grid with people looking for free car parks that just aren't available, compromising the excellent plans for people-focused streets and places in the central city that Council is rolling out, that the economics of parking are genuinely considered."

There is plenty of good economic research that says that economic recovery best works with direct financial stimulus where consumers have extra money in their pockets that they hand over to business in a shop or restaurant.

There is no evidence that cheaper car parking will make a fig of difference to the economic health of Melbourne.

And plenty of evidence that more cars in the CBD is bad idea with 60 years of failure behind it.

Lets not go back there.

Drop Councillors a polite line now suggesting that they remember what makes Melbourne great and stay on strategy by not incentivising more cars in the CBD.

You can see the meeting agenda and a video recording of the meeting on the City of Melbourne website.

Councillor contacts

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