Jody Lindbeck’s Mum’s the Word | OPINION, May 18, 2017

PARKING is an issue which is continuing to vex our city.

As The DA reported this week, business operators are concerned about the likely impact the creation of 16 new disabled spaces will have on the city’s parking.

“While people generally welcomed improved access for people with a disability, there was a worry about the increased pressure on contentious inner-city parking, which had been a point of contention for years,” The DA reported.

“Despite official studies finding ample parking at peak times, the experience of many shoppers and business owners was quite different.”

I’m always intrigued as to what constitutes “peak periods” in these surveys.

Yes, shops are open during the day, but if you’ve tried to park in the top block of Baylis Street – between the Morgan and Edward streets intersections – at night, you’ll know that the large number of restaurants and cafes mean parking spaces are just as sought-after in what is probably considered off-peak times.

Perhaps the reason parking is such a vexed issue is because there is more at play than business hours and peak periods.

A driver who is quite happy to go to a car park during the day and walk to the shops they need to visit may be much more reluctant to head off-street and walk for some minutes if they’re just trying to grab a take-away or the family is with them.

Wagga Business Chamber manager Anabel Williams told The DA she had heard parking complaints from a number of businesses, particularly at the southern end of Baylis Street.

“I think we need to invest in some solution, to either change the amount of time people can park for or build a new multi-storey car park, because at the moment businesses are bearing the cost,” Mrs Williams said.

“We need to encourage people to shop in the CBD otherwise they’ll go to the big chains in the shopping centres or go elsewhere.”

Our city is growing and the neighbourhood shopping areas are improving constantly, but for now the central business district remains very much at the heart of our city, which serves not only its actual residents, but those from a great many of the surrounding towns and districts.

Perhaps the problem is that we are talking about “fixing the parking problem”.

Maybe we need to admit that the parking requirements in the central business district will never settle into one pattern?

What is wrong with picking a plan that is right “for now”, but might need reviewing in just a few short years?

Our city is evolving, and the way people shop and conduct business is changing alongside it.

Surely the worst mistake that could be made is to set in stone plans that need to be kept fairly fluid.

We all know how rapidly the world is changing, so why would it be wrong to say there will never be a “completed”.

Admittedly this approach will inevitably lead to periods of inconvenience, but surely it’s no more hassle that if we locked the city into a plan that had become outdated and bad for business?

Surely the greatest signal Wagga City Council could send to main street businesses was one that said “we’re open” when it comes to acknowledging growth and change is inevitable and a necessary part of doing business?

JODY LINDBECK, www.dailyadvertiser.com.au