Ballarat, it’s time to stop expecting to park exactly where you want

Nothing gets Ballarat talking like parking and while the subject often turns to the ease of shopping or entertainment, the biggest headache is for those who must drive to work and find an all-day place to park.

Inherent in most of these conversations is a wistful belief that Ballarat still has country town status and free parking right outside your destination should be a given. 

With 104,000 plus people in a growing city little wonder this indulgence is causing grief when confronted with a reality there are often just not enough carparks to go round.

Nowhere is this transition or growing pain felt more than in the demand for long-day carparks required by workers.

The conflict over the parking plan in the health precinct, Ballarat’s largest employment precinct, shows how much tension the issue can create without easy solutions.

But the problem potentially lies with a wider issue.

Private transport is the overwhelming means to get to work for many people in Ballarat because it is the only feasible option. 

The 2016 Census data shows 93 percent of Ballarat’s workforce use the car as a primary means to get to work.

A paltry six percent of this number, or almost one in twenty, travel as a passenger, so even ride sharing has not caught on in spite of the parking paucity.  

As a form of comparison, Melbourne private car use as the primary means is at 74 percent.

Geelong, perhaps closer to what Ballarat could become as it grows, has dropped to 91 percent. 

All day car-parking shortages naturally follow suit as work places are concentrated and demand exceeds supply.

The data is a valuable snapshot and begs questions about where these pressures will be as Ballarat grows to 140,000 or larger in the decades to come.

What the pressure indicates is what was a transport given could soon become a luxury and people will need commuting alternatives. 

The census data reveals how much more work there is to be done if other forms of transport are to be an important part of this mix.

In 2016 for example, walking to work comes in at three percent of Ballarat’s working population.

This is higher than the two percent or 975 people who used public transport in single or combined form. 

The limitations on walking are most likely to be time and distance, a significant factor in how a city grows but public transport and cycling (currently less than one percent or 304 riders) is one area where infrastructure and services can provide better and cleaner options.

This story Ballarat, it’s time to stop expecting to park exactly where you want first appeared on The Courier.