9 March, 2024

Just the ticket - Card system to boost parking meter use

Horsham’s controversial parking meters are in line for an improvement which council hopes will further address a litany of teething problems which has plagued the first 12 months of the rollout.

By Tony Curran

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien

Horsham’s controversial parking meters are in line for an improvement which council hopes will further address a litany of teething problems which has plagued the first 12 months of the rollout.

A tap-and-go system is planned to be introduced in May, allowing motorists to park without the need to manually enter their details at the meter.

Exact details are unclear, but Horsham Rural City Council maintains it will be a “user friendly option” for the meter network, which was met with an underwhelming response from motorists when it was introduced in March last year.

The Blinkay network of 60 solar-powered meters replaced the ageing cohort of 361 mechanical meters, at a cost of $735,000 to set up the five-year contract with provider Peritech.

Kevin O’Brien, Horsham Rural City Council director of communities and place, said the tap-and-go idea was first brought up during community feedback as part of last year’s review into the controversial system.

Council’s overhaul of the city’s parking meter system had not been the win-win it had hoped for, with users growing increasingly frustrated with the operation of the app, confusion over the introduction of parking zones, and accessibility issues. 

A group of Horsham business people claimed there had been a 20 per cent drop in foot traffic in the central business area since the meters were installed, and spoke out strongly against an “aggressive booking blitz” by traffic officers.

Council’s Parking Management Plan Review attracted 1200 survey responses, with seven out of eight critical of the new parking meters.

A petition with a further 1132 signatures called for removal of the meters.

Adopted in September, the review endorsed “a range of sweeping changes”, including 30 minutes free parking for those using a metered two-hour parking space, and an increase in non-metered parking spaces.

But another previously unaddressed glitch arose when council approved free parking throughout the CBD during the November 24 Black Friday shopping sales.

Lack of publicity left most residents unaware of the offer, and council did not publicly acknowledge the issue until four weeks later.

“Unfortunately, parking meters were unable to be re-programmed to allow for all-day free parking,” a council spkesperson said.

“We would like to assure the public that we are taking steps to rectify this error.”

Council officers, meanwhile, continued to investigate the feasibility of a tap-and-go system, the results of which were presented by Mr O’Brien in a verbal update to councillors during a briefing meeting on February 5.

“The idea was to have a pre-paid card which drivers could use which would be more convenient as they would not have to enter their number plate or use their own credit card, making it more convenient and giving drivers another option,” Mr O’Brien told The Horsham Times.

A permit system also was considered, but ruled out.

Tap-and-go will be an additional feature of the meter system, which currently offers options to pay by the Blinkay app, cash or card.

Council will spend “approximately $8000" on setting up the new technology.

“As it was not a significant cost to introduce tap-and-go it was agreed that this could occur after a discussion with councillors,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Details are still to be finalised, however it is understood there would be an online option for purchasing the card and also enabling credit to be on the card and also an in-person purchase option as well.”

Tap-and-go is the latest in a suite of revisions since the 1950s-built coin slot meters were replaced with what was proclaimed as “next generation technology” designed to “provide consistency and help keep traffic moving around the CBD”.

Due to the increase in all-day and four-hour non-metered parking in some areas as a result of the parking review, surplus meters have been relocated to other areas in the CBD to improve access.

There also have been improvements in the app functionality.

However, the introduction of limited free parking has by far been the most welcome initiative.

“The convenience of 30-minute free parking has been very popular,” Mr O’Brien said.

“This was the number one thing that community members advocated for when providing feedback as part of the review.”

Council expects tap-and-go to be introduced in two months.

A spokesperson said more information would be provided as it becomes available.


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