Should parking at Melbourne railway stations be free?

Here’s something I didn’t know: Perth’s Transperth transport system has some paid parking, and you can pay for it with a Smartrider card.

Pay ‘n’ Display car parks are also fenced, but are patrolled by car park attendants between 7.00am and 9.00pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. A flat fee of $2.00 per day, or part thereof, applies. — Transperth web site

Car park, Laverton station

Bear in mind that provision of new parking spaces costs on average over $15,000 per space.

For multi-level parking, it can cost 3-4 times that amount. For the recent WA election, there was a promise by the Liberals of $47 million for a new multi-storey carpark at Edgewater station, providing 560 spaces. That’s about $84,000 per space. If every space was filled 365 days a year, paying $2 per day, it would take 115 years of for them to make the money back (and that doesn’t count the interest bill for borrowing the capital cost).

It appears that many Perth stations have between 30% and 60% of their parking with a $2 fee attached. I guess having at least some paid is to increase the likelihood of people arriving after rush hour being able to still find a spot. It may also be that the paid spots are those that have been added more recently, so the fees have helped pay for them. Bear in mind that because many Perth stations are in the middle of freeways, walk-up patronage is much lower than in Melbourne.

Another interesting one in Perth is they have some parking spaces which are locked-up between 9am and 3:30pm each weekday. Perhaps car theft is a big problem there.

It raises an obvious (but probably controversial) question: should they charge for parking spaces in Melbourne?

Options

You could have a charge for all station car parks, probably on weekdays only (as in Perth) when demand is high.

Or you could charge more in zone 1. Or have a charge in zone 1 but none in zone 2. That would help reduce the current zone fare difference, discouraging people from driving to zone 1. Plus typically (but not always) at zone 1 stations there are more and better feeder services available, which people should be encouraged to use.

Or you could only apply it to specific stations where there is very heavy demand, particularly around zone boundaries (hello Laverton!)

Or some free, some paid parking at each station like in Perth.

You might be talking boom gates (more infrastructure required), or you might use pay-and-display tickets (more staff required).

Given the government decision that every traveller is expected to have a Myki, I would think you’d want it possible to be paid using that, to avoid having to have cash collection and so on, though also allowing payment with coins might help for occasional users.

Pros

Given tight budgets at the moment, it could fund extra services, particularly feeder buses so more people can get to the station without driving at all. (After all, you shouldn’t have to own a car to be able to use public transport.)

It could help defray the huge cost of providing parking (though at $2 a day it would take at least 20 years to do so). And given that huge cost, user-pays is not inappropriate — remember, despite how it seems, most train passengers don’t drive to the station — and land around stations is some of the most valuable in Melbourne.

It would discourage non-passengers from using those spaces. At some stations such as Camberwell, local office and building workers are known to fill up commuter parking. (What might be practical to solve this, without actually charging, is to make entering and/or exiting a carpark dependent on a touch from a Myki, with the system treating it the same as a fare for that zone… thus actual PT users would be charged no more, but non-PT users would be charged.)

It might help reduce demand so that people who genuinely need a park at the station are able to get one, even if travelling after 8am or so (earlier at some stations) when they currently fill up.

Cons

It means an additional cost for people who may not have any practical choice but to drive to the station… which might encourage some to simply drive all the way to their destination. (When this has come up in the past has been the PTUA position.)

The cost of collecting the fees would need to be taken into account… apart from things like boom gates, it might also require re-modelling of car park layouts, and even a mechanism for ensuring people don’t enter a car park when it’s already full (or perhaps just allow free exit within 15 minutes, like with Myki at stations — also useful for “kiss and ride” drop-offs).

Can Myki handle this type of transaction if it’s not considered part of the zone system, but an additional charge? If not, it might result in additional costs.

Thoughts?

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25 Replies to “Should parking at Melbourne railway stations be free?”

  1. I really like the idea of entry to the carpark being via myki and that this be counted as touching on. I live within walking distance of the station, so I don’t usually need to worry about carparking. Sometimes I drive when I know I’m going to be arriving home late and I don’t want to walk at night on my own – I imagine there are others out there like me. I normally travel from Seddon or Yarraville. We don’t have a carpark and recently one side of the street outside Seddon Station had 2 hour parking restrictions imposed. It might be to ensure residents have somewhere to park. Sometimes I have driven to Footscray Station for one reason or another and it’s impossible to park there if you arrive after about 7:30am. I think parking is important to encourage people to leave their cars behind and take the train the rest of the way.

  2. At Roxburgh Park, people park on mud due to a lack of asphalt parking spots or should i say the lack of frequent buses.

    There is a shopping centre adjacent to it with empty parking spots, but unfortunately the owners dont provide all-day parking for a fee. Its 2-hours for free and then a fine.

  3. Interesting. I parked at Clayton railway station carpark on the weekend to avoid paying $13 fee at Monash Medical Centre carpark (I was visiting a sick friend)
    It cost me nothing and the carpark was 1/3 full. Even if I had to swipe my myki and got charged zone 2 fare, it would still have worked out much cheaper.
    So I’m part of the problem.

  4. I think touching on with myki could work, I would strongly oppose paying extra to park at the station. I live in Mernda and with no train station there it means either a 15 minute drive to the nearest station or using the completely inadequate bus service to get there. The cost of zone 1 and 2 fares for my husband and I and the inconvenience of getting to the station means that it is much quicker and considerably cheaper to drive all the way into work.

  5. I’m in favour of pricing to manage demand. That means zone 2 stations just before the zone overlap would be cheap or free, and those just inside zone 1 probably more expensive.
    At the moment car park spaces are rationed by time of arrival, not ‘need’ (ie, you have to drop the kids off then get to the station at 8.45 – by which time all the early starters, some of whom could have walked/bussed, have taken all the spots.)

    Pricing helps determine the relative value of the car parks, which will vary by suburb, time etc.
    I think if station car park revenue went directly into feeder bus (or tram) routes it would help improve acceptance.

  6. Note that the Perth Park’n’Display carparks are patrolled by attendents.

    I would suspect the scheme is designed to improve the ‘security’ of the cars. It’s PSO’s for cars, and the charge is offsetting the cost.

    But $2 per day per car wouldn’t even cover the cost of the attendents, let alone contribute to the capital cost of the carpark or the interest on the capital.

  7. I doubt it would be politically possible to charge for station car parking until the feeder bus networks are sorted out. At present, the system more or less expects that anyone living beyond walking distance will drive to the station, and so to charge for car parking is just imposing a cost penalty for not living sufficiently close by.

    When it becomes a genuine choice for people whether to drive to the station or catch the bus that runs at the same frequency as the train and takes more or less the same route to the station as you would by car, then we can have the public conversation about the extent to which those who don’t drive to the station should subsidise those who do.

  8. “It means an additional cost for people who may not have any practical choice but to drive to the stationโ€ฆ which might encourage some to simply drive all the way to their destination. ”

    I think this is a spurious argument. The real cost of a 15 km each way commute by car is at least ten dollars.

  9. It’s surprising that no one’s mentioned bicycle parking at train stations yet. The Parkiteer system is a good start and with every full Parkiteer we can get 26 cars off the road at peak times.

    Secure bicycle parking at train stations has the potential to revolutionise the way Melbournians commute. Think of the Netherlands with hundreds (or thousands) of bicycles parked at the stations there. There is no reason why this can’t be achieved in Melbourne if we invest in the necessary bicycle parking facilities. Enabling Parkiteer access via Myki would be an encouraging step as well: imagine if every Myki card had a small Parkiteer logo on it. That would work to “normalise” (if that is the word) the commute to the train station.

    I believe that secure bicycle parking at train stations *alone* has the potential to turn the average person into a daily cyclist. And getting more and more people to cycle daily will be a major achievement in reversing car dependency in this city, not to mention sustainability and bringing life back to the streets and suburbs.

    Perhaps someone can help me. I’d like to know the data on how far on average Melbournians live from the nearest train station. I’d like to be able to quote to people something like “90% of Melbournians live within 2km of a train station.” or “80% of Melbournians in Zone 1 live within 1km of a train station.”

    A flat and uninterrupted 2km journey at a gentle 15 km/h only takes 8 minutes, and you won’t work up a sweat at that pace (though up hill you definitely will).

    I have raised the idea of adding Parkiteer access to Myki to the Minster of Transport. This was in the middle of last year however so the response was “We have yet to fully roll out Myki so we cannot look into this at this time.” However, now that Metcard’s been discontinued it’s time for a follow up letter. I know that Bicycle Network Victoria has also the same goal re Myki and Parkiteer.

  10. If the charge is just for stations like Laverton and Huntingdale then the parking problem will just move.

    Using myki to restrict the parking to people who pay fares is a good idea (if practical), at least in zone 1.

    It is also reasonable to have a small charge to encourage other methods of going to and from the stations.

  11. FrankR, I think you’re an idealist. Bike parking isn’t what’s holding bike commuiting back in Melbourne; it’s getting to youre destination without feeling like you’re being a burden on Vicroads. In huge areas of Melbourne you have to ride your bike on 80 km/h roads to get to the station; and even when you don’t motorists think they have a legal right to cut you off at all the most dangerous places (like right before a roundabout). We are, unfortunately, a long, long way from being able to replace cars and buses with bikes just to get to the station.

    (Anyway, the real revolution would be to go back to walking to work.)

  12. I’m a follower of Don Shoup and parking should not be free as it really does cost money to provide and someone has to pay. At the same time, it should not be fixed in price, but just enough to keep 85% full at all times, so pricing not based on zone but on actual demand. http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/ has information (but down at the moment) but search for “the high cost of free parking” and that should give you the idea.

    The whole notion of park and ride needs to be questioned, particularly in high density areas. Does it really make (economic) sense to erect car parks around stations instead of residential or commercial development? As well as car parks not being free to construct and maintain, the cost inflicted on people who buy a car for this purpose as well as the rent forgone for the land used for parking needs to be taken into account. Have a read of Paul Barters work on park-n-ride in Asian Cities.

  13. How much did Chadstone/et al pay for outfitting of their shopping centre carparks with counters?

    Also, @Frank, Myki and Parkiteer use the exact same technology and card. There is a slot in the Myki program that allows it to store Parkiteer information, they just haven’t gotten around to integrating the two systems yet.

  14. @David, Is that so? Thanks for the info.

    @Felix, When did I say bike parking was holding bicycle commuting back? I wasn’t talking about bicycle commuting to work/study at all except for increasing the share of cycle journeys for the trip to the local train station and back. This is perfectly achievable. There would be dozens to hundreds of people at each suburban train station who would consider doing so if only secure bicycle parking were available. Have a read of the situation down at Laverton for instance: http://hobsons-bay-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/have-your-say-bike-pressure-rising-in-laverton/

    The thing that’s holding bicycle commuting back are the distances involved for most people more than anything else. You have to be a pretty avid cyclist to cycle more than 8-10km to work and back, and after that you’ll most likely need a shower at the end of it. However, people could easily cycle a few km to their local train station, as long as it’s not too hilly.

    Your point about many of the roads being too dangerous for people to cycle on is often true but that won’t change unless there are more people cycling, creating more of a demand for safe cycle routes. Putting secure bicycle parking at train stations will increase local bicycle traffic and safe cycle routes to train stations will follow once enough people start to demand them.

    The reason why you don’t see many bikes chained up at your local train station is not that people don’t want to cycle. They do. It’s just that your bike gets stolen or vandalised. I’ve had both happen to me over the years and I’ll never do it again.

    As for the rest of your post (i.e. Walking? Idealist?) it’s not worth responding to.

  15. I’m a Parkiteer member and while its good to have reasonably secure bicycle parking, to be honest, the cages are pretty ordinary and really do lack some proper integration with the rest of the station access. For East Malvern station for example, trying to bump the bike up the curb or up the stairs closest to the cycle track while then juggling with the smart card which has a very poor scanning range while then lifting the hugely heavy door and trying to make sure it doesn’t close back on the bike is a real pain.

  16. Thanks all, some good comments here.

    @Sazzajane, yeah I suspect the outer-suburban areas are one place where plentiful free station parking is justified, particularly as the feeder bus network is so rudimentary.

    @Dave, yeah perhaps as in Perth there should be some paid parking at each station for those who do need to use their car to get to the station after the peak demand has filled all the free spaces.

    @andrew, for Pay ‘n’ Display to work you’d have to have some level of staff presence, even if it’s just a once-off patrol in the middle of the day to catch anybody not paying. It’s not clear if Perth’s paid carparks have any greater presence than that.

    @Tony, yeah politically it’d be a hot potato. And even the best stations for feeder services now don’t necessarily make it workable for all users. It’s not black and white. Perhaps at the point where connecting services run in at least two directions perpendicular to the train line at least every 10 minutes in peak (eg tram standard) it’s reasonable to start charging.

    @FrankR, it’s interesting to see that the Parkiteer cages are getting increasingly popular. I’d be wary of making any Myki be able to open them. Part of what makes them secure is their exclusivity to bike users. If any idiot with a Myki could open them, they’re no longer really secure. In that context, the application (and deposit?) system makes some sense, though it should be improved. It makes no sense that station staff can’t organise access, but BV (or whatever their new name is) has to do it.

    From memory only about a third of Melburnians have walking access to a station. It’d be higher for bike distances, and higher still in zone 1.

    @Tom, I think a $2 charge at Laverton and Huntingdale might take the edge off demand, but not remove it completely. Some would still drive to save the $4 difference for the two-zone fare. But others would head to a station closer to them (perhaps even not by car), cutting some traffic and car use.

  17. @Daniel – I’d be guessing if you were going to set-up Parkiteer cages with myki you’d still require an individual card to be registered to open the cage. Additionally, you’d likely be limited to one (or perhaps in some cases a few) station(s).

  18. I don’t think the parking should be free at all if the carpark gets full – why should the people arriving early get free parks, and those later have to pay?
    The only time station carparks should be free is if they’re not filling up to capacity – then there’s no need to ration demand.
    Paul Barter has just recently posted on why you don’t need excellent transit as a prequisite to parking reform, and it’s worth reading- http://www.reinventingparking.org/2013/03/parking-reform-does-not-need-excellent.html

  19. There is no choice to me – I will drive before I pay more for parking at stations.

    Base cost

    I drive to the station. I fill my Nissan Micra about every six weeks or so, and so a daily petrol cost is around $1 per day assuming it costs me $52.50 to fill up (35 litres at $1.50 per litre). My monthly ticket costs me $13.70 per day that I travel. A daily ticket from my station costs just shy of $21, and at that price, it is actually cheaper for me to drive to my work and pay for parking in the city 2 minutes from where I work.

    Door to door, it currently takes me at best 1h50m to around 2h10m depending on the train and trams I get to my work in Collins St Melbourne.

    Walking

    The station is 7 km away, so impractical to walk at 1 hour and 20 minutes. With a total journey time of at least three hours door to door will rule walking out.

    Riding

    It is too dangerous to ride as bike lanes often peter out, and there’s a portion of my journey on the A10 is 70+ km/h road with no bike lanes, or I would have to ride even further to avoid the A10. Winter time is coming, and so I would have to drive on wet days. So rule this out on safety reasons.

    Bus

    Bus is impractical – it takes 45 minutes from my nearest bus stop at Deakin University to any of the stations serviced by the busses due to the circuitous route and programmed delays at the Waurn Ponds shopping center, and plus I would have to have a shorter day as the first bus is 7 am, and I would have to be home by last bus at 7 pm. Plus, free multi-modal travel using a V/Line ticket may not be valid in Geelong as we use the Myk and we have some privately operated bus servicesi, and we’re not in Zone 1/2, which is where we get free travel on our tickets. So if I had to add Geelong Myki fares on top of the V/Line ticket, it would be cheaper and far faster to drive, instead of 2hours and 45 minutes.

    Adding parking costs

    If parking cost $2 per day, and thus took my daily cost to $16.70, I would drive as it’s less than $3 per day difference to just driving, which about the same as losing a single coffee from my day, and I would get back around 1.5 – 2 hours per day in travel time, which is worth that difference.

    If parking rose to $5 per day, I would completely stop using public transport.

  20. @Daniel, Yes, as Julian says, the Myki card would have to have Parkiteer access enabled. It wouldn’t be available to any old Myki user. That certainly wouldn’t be secure!

    Having Parkiteer access via Myki would mean one less unnecessary card in your wallet and would promote cycling and Parkiteer as a normal, everyday option for getting to the train station. A small Parkiteer logo on every new Myki card would be an enormous profile booster.

    Currently you have to register and pay a $50 deposit, which is refundable if you choose to stop using Parkiteer. I wrote to Bicycle Network Victoria last year and said that if Parkiteer access was available through Myki perhaps the $50 fee could be reduced? They wrote back and said that though they are keen on adding it to Myki they wouldn’t support a fee reduction as this increases security by acting as some sort of barrier to thieves and vandals.

  21. @Felix, My original posting poorly expressed what I believe is achievable when I wrote:

    “Think of the Netherlands with hundreds (or thousands) of bicycles parked at the stations there. There is no reason why this canโ€™t be achieved in Melbourne if we invest in the necessary bicycle parking facilities”

    I should’ve expressed it more along the lines of:

    “Think of the Netherlands with hundreds (or thousands) of bicycles parked at the stations there. There is no reason why we can’t achieve decent rates of cycling to train stations if we invest in the necessary bicycle parking facilities”

    That is, I certainly don’t think we can jump to Dutch levels overnight!

    While some stations, like Laverton, might achieve a few hundred quite quickly, I believe most suburban stations could achieve a few dozen in the first year or so if Parkiteer(s) are introduced.

  22. Sazzajane, your nearest station is South Morang, and they have built a nice off-road cycleway along the recently built rail extension from Epping to South Morang.

    There is no reason why the cycleway cant be extended to Mernda without waiting for the rail line to be extended to Mernda first.

    As for the philosophical opposition to paying for parking, i call BS. People pay for parking at Westfield Doncaster and Victoria Gardens Shopping Centre. So there should be paid parking spots at stations too.

  23. @Jacob Yes an extension to the existing cycleway is a great idea and would be a great way for many people to get to the station. Unfortunately not everyone is physically capable of riding a bicycle from their home to the train station.

  24. I notice that Perth is now rolling out paid parking to all station parking bays from next month (on weekdays only) along with a ticketless, boom-gate-less payment system involving linking a number plate to the SmartRider card and using numberplate recognition to determine if the parking has been paid for. At most stations this will be run alongside a cash or SmartRider pay-n-display alternative system, but cashless will be the only way at selected stations with a number of bays being lost to non-passengers.

    Will be an interesting one for Melbourne and other cities to watch…

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