Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Fremantle's Parking Problem

Fremantle definitely has a parking problem, and whatever the stats say, one thing in the parking debate is certain - Perth motorists perceive there to be a lack of parking in Fremantle, and that makes them reluctant to visit.

Unfortunately, many of the ‘quick fix’ solutions that I’ve heard put forward to date have been based more on false promises than good research and common sense.  The reality is, given our current urban form and our expectations, achieving an outcome that is beneficial to everyone – residents, businesses, landowners and visitors – can only be accomplished by a multifarious and creative approach.

Here are some of the 'solutions' I've heard mooted, and why I can't accept any of them as the silver bullet for Freo's parking issues:

1.   Introduce free parking and remove time restrictions: This will see demand skyrocket, but does nothing to address the issue of supply.  To me, this represents the quickest way to exacerbate the problem.

2.   Increase supply.  Sounds good - but where exactly will all these new car parks be built?  Anecdotal evidence suggests that most people don't like walking too far from their car to their destinations.  So how do we get more bays in the city centre?  Knock down a bunch of buildings, sacrifice a square or a park or some open space - and watch Fremantle begin to look like a stretch of Albany Highway, or the car park of Carousel Shopping Centre.  Sure, there are no doubt a couple of sites within the city limits that could be utilised without compromising the very essence of Freo that makes it appealing to visitors, but would these be big enough to satisfy demand?  And when we get more motorists in the city centre heading towards these ultra-convenient lots, how are our charming little streets going to handle the increased traffic?

This is a problem that demands innovation and patience.  It's also one that many cities have faced and continue to face, and it only makes sense to look to the rest of the country and the world to see how we can benefit from what they've learnt.

Here are some of the tactics which, in addition to sensibly managing supply, the evidence tells us can make a difference:

Making better use of existing parking

Ensure that all our existing parking bays are well-used - and if not, find out why and fix it. 

For instance, my dad is adamant that Fremantle is impossible to park in, while my mum maintains that she never has trouble finding a space.  Why?  In a nutshell, it's because my dad's not that familiar with the area and Fremantle's charming, winding layout can make it difficult for a newcomer to navigate.  Thankfully, there are some obvious ways Council could and should be helping people like my dad. Here are a few:

·     Providing better, innovate signage solutions to assist visiting motorists with locating car parks and navigating the city.
·     Stepping up the use of parking maps included with event promotions in media adverts, the web, etc.
·     Using electronic signage that gets updated at some of the main entrances to the city - '104 bays currently available in Queensgate, 255 in E-Shed' - that kind of thing.

Another reason our current bays are under-utilised is because many lots are located in out-of-the-way, run down areas that make you wonder whether you're going to return to find your car relieved of its sound system.  The Point Street car park, which as a resident is where Council would have me park on weekends, is in one of these areas.  Luckily our car has a tape deck that could only appeal to an antique dealer, but I'm still not happy with my wife having to walk home alone after parking the car there at night.

Fix some of the more obvious dereliction outside of the city's immediate centre and deal with anti-social behaviour, and motorists will be willing to walk just a little bit further for their park.

Expand public transport options

There is a way that visitors can be delivered to the doorstep of the city centre without the need for the West End to be razed for parking - the train.  However, one of the problems with improving public transport is in the gap between knowing and doing.  Whilst most of us know that better public transport can only be a positive thing, the ‘doing’ lies primarily in the hands of state government.

However, our local government should be lobbying the state government for change and support in this area.  As my dad said, “surely the state government knows how important Fremantle is”.  Here are a couple of things that I’ll be pushing for:

·     Free or significantly reduced costs of catching the train into Fremantle on weekends or for special events.
·     The Perth CBD allows people to have free bus trips within a certain radius. Why not in Fremantle? All buses (not just CAT buses) travelling to and from Fremantle train station within a certain radius should be free.
·     Frequency, frequency, frequency!  I appreciate that the above initiatives could take some time to come to fruition, but achieving frequent services and more carriages on trains is a non-negotiable for me.  And it means less waiting time for buses, which I don’t think is an experience many of us enjoy.

With regards to achieving improved transport options for our community, I firmly believe that ‘persistence is to the character of man as carbon is to steel’.

Expand cycling options

With parents who are enthusiastic cyclists, I appreciate that there is still untapped potential in the cycling options that Freo currently offers.  However, I’d like to take the time to listen to some of the bicycle shops in the city and talk with other cyclists – the casual and the serious – before going any further on this one.

Well, if you’ve gotten this far I applaud you.  My wife flatly refused to proof this post when she read the title (“I trust you” – not something she often says when offered an opportunity to fix people’s grammar).  If elected, I look forward to being able to make Fremantle more accessible to both visitors and our own community.


  1. Hi Michael
    I am a resident of South Fremantle and like your mum have never had a problem finding parking. However, it took me a while to find out where all the parking areas are and I think your idea of having them better signposted is definitely a good one. There is the amazing train service to and from Freo every 15 mins which is also very reasonable and delivers you right into the centre. I cant imagine why more parking is needed when this convenient service is available, and under-utilized. The CAT bus also offers a fantastic free service. I cant imagine parking or transport being the reason for people not coming here. What we probably have to look at is more the fact that the shopping experience in Freo is not very exciting but is very pricey. Even as a resident I dont do my buying here if I can help it. Creating more free buses in and around Freo is not going to bring people who have money to spend here. Maybe promoting and upgrading our hotels and B&Bs will bring more outsiders in.

  2. Hi Michael,

    You express many of the solutions I also suggested on my blog, so it's nice to know there are like-minded people who like you who can see outside the box. Signage is easy and not very expensive and should be implemented by the City of Fremantle as a matter of urgency.

    Roel Loopers

  3. Re: first comment
    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I really feel, along with you, that providing better information about parking is the key here.
    Now, getting to the point of your comment: the overall retail experience Fremantle offers. I’m more of a foodie myself, but the stats tell us that Freo’s lost upwards of 20,000 sqm of retail space in recent years, and clearly that’s left a gap that you’ve picked up on. If we’re going to provide the diversity of price / product that people want in our retail areas, I think it’s council’s responsibility to give traders a helping hand in terms of making our spaces more welcoming – simple things like making sure Freo is kept clean, bins are emptied, anti-social behaviour is curbed, small but innovative place making measures are enacted – even something as simple as planting petunias can make a place look loved.

    Also, I heard recently that the Esplanade’s standard rate of occupancy is something like 95% - that’s incredible. Clearly you’re spot on about promoting and upgrading our hotels and B & Bs.

    Hope my reply wasn't too long!

  4. Thanks, Roel. Hopefully if enough of us say the same thing we'll see some action happening.

    For anyone who wants to check out Roel's excellent post on the subject, visit http://freoview.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/port-city-parking-problems/

  5. Does your wife mind you walking back from Point St?

  6. Good question. I just asked her and she looked at me in that inscrutable way wives have, said “You’ve got life insurance, haven’t you?” and then went back to her book.

  7. Michael,

    I agree the claims of "increasing supply" and "making it free" are just popular catch phrases that lack substance and any real answers.

    My suggestion: Help transperth with the delivery of services to Fremantle!!!
    I find that although public transport is ok in Freo it is very poorly coordinated. E.g. catching a bus to Freo train station only to have the connecting train depart one minute before you arrive and then having to wait 15-30mins for the next train. The same happens for those arriving into Fremantle, all the connecting buses seem to depart one minute before the train arrives? A simple trip from North Freo to the Markets (and back) can amount to nearly an hour just waiting for public transport!!

    A free transit zone in the Freo area would be great and the creation of a CAT service around Freo could realy decrease demand on CBD parking.

    Fremantle also seems terrified of cyclists, surely somewhere safe and secure to chain up your bike would not be too hard to implement??

  8. Hey Chris thanks for your comments. You'e hit the nail on the head when it comes to coordinating rail and bus services. It's these little things that can add up to making a big difference in the end. Improving cycling facilities would also help.

    It's all about providing people with options!

    Take it easy.

  9. Hi Michael
    Its a bit off topic but...
    I live in City ward and work in east end of High St and sometimes big buses screaming down small streets is downright SCARY- the bottom end of Wray, South Tce and High all come to mind here.

    Any ideas about how to slow them down?