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Critics doubt parking hikes will ease congest -

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Critics doubt parking hikes will ease congestion

Simon Santow reported this story on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 12:42:00

PETER CAVE: Sydneysiders have long complained about traffic congestion in the nation's largest
city.

Now the State Government believes it has the answer in the form of a dramatic hike in parking
charges in and around the central business district.

It says it'll pour all the money raised into improving Sydney's much maligned public transport
system.

The car park operators are crying foul and not everyone's convinced that making parking more
expensive will actually do much at all to ease the gridlock.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: From today the tax on car parking spaces has more than doubled in Sydney's CBD and in
some popular suburban centres it's gone up by more than 50 per cent.

CRAIG SMITH: We're talking about rates in the Sydney and North Sydney area which the Government
calls category one, going from $950 to $2,000 a year plus GST. That's 110 per cent increase.

SIMON SANTOW: Craig Smith is chief executive officer with Wilson Parking, Sydney's largest private
parking operator.

He says the move is devastating for his industry and inconsistent with the stated aim of lessening
congestion in clogged streets.

CRAIG SMITH: Everyone knows that it is not about congestion, this is a simple tax grab, it's
another tax on doing business in Sydney and New South Wales. There is not one study in Australia or
the world to our knowledge that validates this style of levy, in fact far from it.

We have pressed the Government since 1992 to do proper reviews and quantitative studies with
traffic engineers to validate their proposition, they refused to do it. We've even offered to
jointly fund it, they've refused our offers.

And we believe the refusal is simply because they know it makes absolutely no difference to
congestion, and it's a tax grab, pure and simple - a tax grab.

SIMON SANTOW: Sydney's parking levy is the most expensive in the country by far. The New South
Wales Government says it makes no apology for targeting some motorists, and not others.

DAVID CAMPBELL: The parking space levy is all about encouraging people to leave their car at home,
and take public transport.

SIMON SANTOW: Transport Minister David Campbell argues its Sydney's commuters who stand to benefit
from the changes.

DAVID CAMPBELL: All of the revenue from the parking space levy increase will go into developing
commuter car parks across the Sydney metropolitan area, the Central Coast and in parts of the
Illawarra.

SIMON SANTOW: How do you know it will be effective in alleviating that congestion?

DAVID CAMPBELL: It is something that is one of the tools being used to encourage that strong growth
in public transport that we've seen.

SIMON SANTOW: How do you know Minister, that it will be effective in alleviating congestion?

DAVID CAMPBELL: This is a policy that has been in place since the Greiner government and successive
governments have seen that it's a valuable tool in providing funding for some of the
infrastructures required for public transport.

SIMON SANTOW: The Government says it expects more people to try buses and trains and it has
confidence the city's overstretched public transport system could cope with any influx.

Cate Faehrmann, the executive director of the Nature Conservation Council, doesn't share that
optimism.

CATE FAEHRMANN: There's no doubt that increasing the amount that people have to pay in car parks
every day will impact on some people's decision to drive to work. But I don't think it will have
too much of an impact on congestion.

The fact of the matter is in New South Wales and in Sydney, we've got shocking public transport
options, particularly in our high growth areas such as north west Sydney.

The sort of people that do fork out for a day's parking in the Sydney CBD presumable they're not
hard up to begin with?

Any increase in parking levies probably isn't going to make too much of a difference to the people
that can afford it right now, what it will make a difference with I suppose is the people who
really don't have any other options and are currently driving in.

SIMON SANTOW: Last year the Government raised $51-million from the tax on parking, the revenue is
expected to more than double in this financial year.

PETER CAVE: Simon Santow reporting.