Car park at Tarneit station

Melbourne’s station parking problem

Melbourne’s rail network already has some huge car parks, up to 1000 spaces at some stations, as many as a medium-sized shopping centre. There are more than 40,000 spaces across the Metro network, and thousands more on V/Line. Unlike in some cities, they’re all free.

The common complaint is that all station car parks fill up between 7 and 8am each weekday.

Presumably because car parks are so visible and politically popular, the politicians love building more. Here’s Labor’s pledge:

The problem is that building big suburban car parks is not an efficient way to get more people onto public transport.

  • It takes away valuable land around stations
  • It adds to local traffic congestion
  • It undermines more efficient alternatives by slowing down buses and trams, and making walking and cycling less pleasant
  • It requires that users can drive and have a vehicle that want to leave there all day, meaning it’s expensive for commuters
  • Like all solutions involving individual motor vehicles, it doesn’t scale due to the space required
  • It’s really, really expensive. The 1600 planned spaces for western suburbs stations will cost an average of $14,000 each, but at Tarneit it’s an eye-popping $37,500 per space (presumably multi-storey).
  • And worst of all, it’ll STILL be full by 8am (because demand always outstrips supply — Tarneit is a station that didn’t even exist 4 years ago, and it already has 1000 spaces) — so it won’t actually fix the problem
  • This means it only caters for (some) peak commuters, and undermines the efficiency of the whole train system by providing poor access for the rest of the day

I’m not going to tell you to vote for the other guys, because they want to do the same thing.

For example the Coalition has pledged $30 million for an additional 450 spaces, an amazing $66,000 per space. That’s about 7,600 daily fares, or more than 30 years of Monday to Friday commuting — almost 40 years if using a Yearly fare.

It’ll never even come close to recouping its costs. How is this seen as a sensible investment?

The Greens notably have policies around better buses, rather than more car parks, but are unlikely to be running the government anytime soon.

Sure, bigger car parks will get a few more people onto trains, but it’s far from the most efficient way of doing it. What about finding a method that’s cheaper, causes fewer problems, is more scalable, and doesn’t assume train passengers have a car?

Tarneit station

Park and ride has its place. It’s appropriate for urban fringe areas where land is cheap and not suited to other uses such as residential or commercial development, walking and cycling distances for people are too far, and density doesn’t support good bus services.

Perhaps it’s time to consider applying a small fee to help offset the cost and discourage those with alternatives, combined with a rebate for those driving to the station from areas with no other options?

There is one arguable benefit from big car parks at stations that someone well-connected pointed out to me the other day: it’s a method of land banking for future development.

Elsternwick might be an example. Some years ago, the decades-old ground level parking got converted to multi-storey, freeing up space for apartments and retail. I don’t think the retail has been a raging success, but the theory is good… though in practice, given the cost of multi-storey, I’m not surprised it doesn’t happen very often.

Alternatives to driving to the station

The mystery to me is: in suburban areas, when the walking/cycling and bus options are all crap, but could be viable with a little more investment, how come the answer from both sides is always “spend $$$ on more parking”, given it doesn’t solve the problem, and creates others?

“But Daniel, nobody wants to use the bus”. Nope, completely untrue. Here’s a crowd at Tarneit who are more than willing to catch a bus home, but they’re left waiting. Route 167 only runs every half-hour. Apparently the solution is to pay millions to get them to drive to the station instead.

Tarneit station bus stop

“But Daniel, most people drive to the station!” No they don’t. Even in zone 2, a minority of people drive to the station.

The stats for 2013-14 show 27.9% of weekday access to stations (excluding the CBD) was by car. It was higher in zone 2, lower in zone 1, but driving to the station is a minority mode in all areas, with only some individual stations having a majority of arrivals by car.

It just looks like most people drive, because the car parks take up so much damn space.

Station access 2013-14 (PTV data)
(This graph is from the 2015 post, which used slightly older figures. Unfortunately there are no figures after 2015 showing the effects of zone changes, and none for V/Line stations like Tarneit and Wyndham Vale.)

Now, I’m not about to tell people they should go and walk along terrible unlit footpaths, or use a second-rate bus service.

People will use what’s most convenient. Remember, transport is supply-led.

But the infuriating thing is that every time the government has tried upgrading connecting buses, people have flocked to them. Even my local 703 route, which is okay during peak but very poor after the PM peak, gets a crowd every morning and every night.

703 bus arrives at Bentleigh station

Other stations with feeder buses running at good frequencies also get lots of people connecting by bus.

  • Bayside City Council is currently trialling a free commuter bus service, running every ten minutes each morning and evening peak to/from Middle Brighton station. Details

Some stations also have substantial levels of bicycle access, often outstripping capacity of bike cages. At Newport, where the Parkiteer cage is regularly full, locals resorted to the Pick My Project initiative to try and get another one… it wasn’t selected. Given one cage storing 26 bikes takes the space of about 2 cars, and is something like an eighth of the cost, why isn’t government just routinely installing more bike parking, either cages or another design, as demand grows?

And at almost all stations, more people walk to the station than drive, despite often adverse walking conditions.

All these can be improved at far less than $37,500 per car space. Why are these modes not getting more investment?

Public transport shouldn’t require that users own a car. There are proven fixes that are cheaper, can get people to the station even if travelling after morning peak, that don’t take up lots of space around stations, and don’t contribute to local traffic congestion.

If only the politicians could see it.

Southland station under construction

Southland paid parking starts soon

Southland Shopping Centre introduces paid parking on Monday 16th October.

But before you reach for the pitchforks, it only applies if shoppers stay more than three hours.

You get the first three hours for free, with an extra hour if you’re going to a movie. Beyond that, it’s basically $3 per additional hour.

It uses number plate recognition, so if your stay is free, or you’ve pre-registered with a credit card on their web site, the boom will raise and let you out automatically. Otherwise you have to pay as you leave.

The details are all here: — it’s clear from the site that they’ve got this running at a number of Westfield centres around the country, so you’d think they have a fair idea of what it might do to shopper numbers.

Stupidly, the link to rates and conditions at Southland specifically keeps changing, and going up and down like a yoyo. Sometimes you get a 404 error, sometimes it goes to a page with no useful details on it, and just occasionally the actual information appears. So here it is reproduced:

EXTRA HOUR FREE FOR CINEMA – Customers who see a movie at Village Cinemas Southland will get one extra hour of free parking with cinema ticket validation.

FREE ENTRY AFTER 6pm – Parking is free when you enter the car park after 6pm and leave before 6am, meaning there’s plenty of time for dinner and a movie.

SAME DAY RE-ENTRY – If you exit the centre and want to return on the same day, there must be one hour between exit and re-entry in order to receive another three hours free parking.

DISABILITY PARKING – Shoppers with a valid Disability Parking Permit can register for Ticketless Parking to receive free parking all day. If you hold a permit you can visit one of our Concierge to have it validated to access free parking.

Skip the pay stations and register for Ticketless Parking for a quick and easy exit.


0 – 3 hrs Free
3 – 4 hrs $3
4 – 5 hrs $6
5 – 6 hrs $9
6 – 7 hrs $12
7 – 8 hrs $15
8+ hrs Maximum Day Rate / Overnight Fee $18

So what’s prompted this? Fees are being introduced now to prevent people using the centre car park as a station car park when the station opens in November. In that context, three hours for free makes sense.

Personally I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than three hours at Southland, except when I’ve been seeing a movie. So I don’t have a problem with this.

Southland bus interchange

However, they’re also introducing paid parking for staff. They’ll be shunted to a special staff car park, and charged $5 per day.

I’ll use the train to get to Southland, but it’s not like everybody will be able to.

The buses (particularly on weekends) will still be as pathetically infrequent as they are now.

Many staff will continue to have no viable choice but to drive.

So stinging staff $5 just seems greedy, given many retail workers are not particularly well-paid. Especially for junior part time employees, this would eat into their pay.

Okay, now you can reach for your pitchfork. Or at the very least, sign this petition.

Motorcycle/scooter parking on footpaths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

Some years ago I wrote about issues with the City of Melbourne policy of allowing motorbikes and scooters to park on footpaths, except in a few locations where it’s specifically banned.

The problem is, most of the guidelines seem to be ignored.

The guidelines

Here are the guidelines (see also: PDF version):

DO dismount and walk your motorcycle while you are on the footpath

DO ensure your motorcycle is at least one motorcycle length out from the building line to allow free passage of pedestrians (this is important as people with a visual and/or physical impairment may use the building line for navigation)

Motorbikes parked along the building line

DO park at least one motorcycle wheel diameter back from the road kerb, to allow pedestrians free access to and from the road and to parked vehicles (You can leave less space between your motorcycle and the kerb if you park next to a “no stopping” zone).

Parked about half a wheel diameter away from the kerb

DO NOT PARK where signs indicate that motorcycles are not allowed to park
the signs seem to be well observedUpdate Friday: Last night I spotted this:
Parking where you shouldn't, Flinders Lane

DO NOT PARK opposite any parking bay reserved for people with disabilities (marked with a wheelchair sign and symbol)

Parking adjacent to a disabled car parking space

DO NOT PARK where space is reserved for footpath activities such as street cafés
— it’s a bit hard to tell, as most such areas seem not to be well-defined.

Parking in what appears to be a designated outdoor cafe area

DO NOT PARK on narrow footpaths
— this is far too vague, but based on the second and third points, one could conclude that it means don’t park on footpaths so narrow you can’t leave a motorcycle wheel diameter from the kerb, and a motorcycle length from the building line. This should automatically make any footpath narrower than a motorcycle length (plus a wheel length) out of bounds.

Parking on a narrow footpath

DO NOT PARK on or near service access points, such as manhole covers, post boxes or rubbish bins

Parking over a manhole cover

DO NOT PARK near taxi ranks or bus and tram stops

Parking in a bus stop

Parking in a taxi rank

DO NOT PARK on private property without permission from the property owner
— some areas can be identified as private property, but it’s not possible to tell if permission has been given.

DO NOT PARK where your vehicle could damage the footpath, pedestrian facilities or landscaping
— I didn’t find any evidence of this.

DO NOT PARK within 1 metre of fire hydrants

Parking closer than 1m from a fire hydrant

There are just three locations where motorcycle parking is specifically banned:

  • Collins Street, south side footpath, between Exhibition Street and George Parade — I’m not even sure why this spot was excluded; the footpaths are wide, and it’s not particularly busy
  • Flinders Lane, south side footpath, between Port Phillip Arcade and Elizabeth Street
  • Exhibition Street, west side footpath, adjacent to Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Everywhere else, it’s permitted:

In Victoria you can legally park your motorcycle/scooter on the footpath (unless otherwise signed), as long as you do not obstruct pedestrians, doorways, delivery vehicles, public transport users or access to parked cars.

Motorcycle parking brochure

Common sense

Of course, common sense would suggest a few others points, such as…

Don’t block ramps to pedestrian crossings, particularly tactile guidance paths for the blind

Motorbike blocking tactile guidance path

…or block the footpath opposite a tram stop exit

Parked opposite a tram superstop exit

…or park in pedestrian malls

Is it permitted to park motorbikes in tram stops in the Mall? Not legal to drive it into Mall. Rego 1C9PW.

…or in the middle of a civic amenity such as public rotunda

Parked in the middle of a rotunda

Why does this stuff even matter?

Firstly, I have a philosophical disagreement with the idea of motor vehicles being parked (and driven) on footpaths.

Many CBD footpaths are already congested. As the CBD continues to get busier, it’s going to get worse. In the past ten years, total daily city numbers have grown from 679,000 to about 830,000 — about 22%.

While the number of CBD visitors using motorbikes remains proportionately low (less than 1% — a comment on the previous post said about 1200 per day), obviously as the CBD gets busier, the numbers are likely to increase.

Efficient movement of people around the city means encouraging the most efficient mode: that means pedestrians. But their space is being encroached upon by a relatively small number of other users.

Note that cyclists in general don’t cause these problems because they need to be left chained to something, such as a pole, restricting where they end up parked. Pushbikes are also physically smaller.

There are several problems here, I think:

Firstly, the rules as they stand don’t seem to be enforced, and are widely ignored, or perhaps not even common knowledge among motorbike and scooter riders.

Are they even enforceable rules? Or are they just guidelines? I’m guessing the latter.

Either way, whatever the rules are, riders need to be made aware of them, educated, and then the rules enforced — even if it’s just issuing notices advising of what not to do.

Secondly, the free-for-all just doesn’t make sense in a busy city centre. With pedestrian numbers continuing to increase, and motorbike riders accounting for less than 1% of the total daily CBD population, this is simply not efficient use of footpath space to have them sitting there all day. It probably explains why other capital city CBDs don’t allow it.

In comparison, many local councils have cracked down on footpath trading in recent years because of concerns about pedestrian flows and the vision impaired, and have provided clear rules about where traders can place displays, signs, tables, and so on. There doesn’t seem to have been any such clarity around motorbikes, and formalising the current guidelines and enforcing them would help a lot.

Where motorbike parking makes sense

I’d much prefer the policy was changed to allow motorbikes on the footpaths only in defined areas — opt-in rather than opt-out.

There are “motorcycle precincts” such as parts of Elizabeth Street where their presence is to be expected, and there are spots where it works fine, for instance opposite some tram superstops where there are wide footpaths with plenty of spare capacity, and barriers mean nobody needs to park cars or cross the road at that point.

Motorbike parking, out of the way, opposite a tram superstop

The other thing that should happen is the replacement of more on-street car parking with motorbike parking. It makes sense because motorbike/scooter parking on the street is more efficient use of space than car parking. Plus there’s lots of off-street car-parking, and in any case car traffic needs to be discouraged.

Motorbike parking, Queen Street

(I’m less sure that motorcycles/scooters are more efficient in traffic… it might be that they take up about as much space as cars when moving. Motorbikes are also, in the main, much noisier.)

If there isn’t a switch to opt-in footpath parking rules, then there should at least be a blanket ban on parking on narrow footpaths (going by the points in the existing guidelines) and bans placed on areas of high pedestrian traffic, such as around the railway stations.

Ultimately though, the City of Melbourne should be prioritising pedestrians on footpaths. They account for the majority of footpath users, with numbers increasing every year, and are the most efficient use of the available space.


When I’ve raised the prospect of a change on Twitter, people cite a motorbike protest some years ago which was probably how the current policy came about. Motorcyclists parked (quite legally) one motorbike per car spot in protest, and the council surrendered. They imply this could happen again.

You know what? The threat of protest doesn’t make it a good policy.

And I think you could predict my attitude to this specific protest — a protest inconveniencing CBD motorists (another minority mode)? Let them. I don’t care one bit.

One more thing

It’s very much in the eye of the beholder, but what about the heritage and character of our streets?

Beyond problems of efficiency, of footpath capacity… do we actually want every street in Melbourne to be overrun with parked motorcycles and scooters?

Motorbikes on Bourke Street

Update Friday

Last night I spotted a violation of parking where specifically signed that you shouldn’t. Picture inserted above.

And City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has advised me that, as I suspected, they are unenforceable guidelines, not rules.

Update August 2017

This remains a problem, and in some spots it appears to be getting worse — recently, at two motorcycle riders have started parking on William Street near Flagstaff Station, where pedestrian crowding is so bad (up to 3600 people per hour) the City Of Melbourne has installed automatic pedestrian counters. What they haven’t thought to do is ban motorcycle parking there — or indeed remove a few car spaces and widen the footpath.

The City of Melbourne 2015-2018 Motorcycle Plan notes:

submissions to the City of Melbourne’s draft Walking Plan in August/September 2014 noted that motorcycles are frequently parked in ways that do not meet VicRoads motorcycle parking guidelines and cause pedestrian congestion and obstruction. Pedestrian numbers in the city are increasing. The draft Walking Plan proposes minimum crowding levels for pedestrians, and includes an action to assess footpaths where pedestrians are overcrowded and take action to reduce crowding.

… but ultimately, makes no recommendations around changing the rules, or even educating or enforcing the guidelines.

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?


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.


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.


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.


How much ground level parking is there in Melbourne’s CBD?

What’s the ultimate waste of space in a city centre? Ground level, single level parking.

Along with the access space required to get cars in and out, it’s wasted space because apart from perhaps $20-30 per day in revenue, it isn’t used for anything.

This post from Gordon Price compares a few cities — the contrast between Houston and Toronto is particularly stark. (There are more in this discussion thread at

How would Melbourne stack up? I’ve had a go at it, by plotting the red onto a Nearmap image, and scouring Nearmap at high resolution, then checking Google Streetview to see if a carpark was ground level parking, or a multi-storey (which at least piles cars on top of each other, meaning more efficient use of the land — even if it is still parking and is fugly) or parking on top of buildings.

Melbourne CBD, ground level parking
(See it bigger)

I’ve only done within the Hoddle Grid. Have I missed any, or made any errors? Leave a comment.

You’d have to say that in summary, there’s not much. The tiny carpark near Lonsdale/Elizabeth Streets that I used to watch from on-high has vanished, and is being developed.

The parking at the back of The Age building (Lonsdale Street, behind Spencer Street) will, I’m told, vanish when the whole property is re-developed in the nearish future. The back of The Old Mint building (Latrobe/William Streets) is the other prominent area.

There’s a small amount of parking in front of the William Angliss Institute building. This is a perfect example of why it’s such a waste of space. Ten cars accommodated, taking up about half the open/garden space in front of the building.

Apart from that, the remaining surface parking is mostly in the grounds of churches — St Paul’s, St Francis, Wesley Uniting. (Scots Church and others have multi-level parking.)

And of course… there’s street parking, particularly along the non-tram streets such as Lonsdale, Russell and Exhibition.

See, in a city centre that has around half-a-million people a day visiting it, you can’t afford to have lots of people bring their cars. If you try and find space to leave hundreds of thousands of vehicles, that doesn’t work — not to mention the traffic congestion it creates. Bringing them in by more efficient means (particularly mass transit) is the only way it can work.

PS. Thanks for suggestions. The map has been slightly modified.