Pilot parking program to be trialled in Warburton, roll out possible across shire

Thomas Avenue, Warburton is a particular problem area for parking that will be involved in the pilot program. Picture: ON FILE

By Callum Ludwig

A new pilot program for parking is set to be trialled in Warburton after being approved by councillors at the Tuesday 14 May Yarra Ranges Council meeting.

As part of Council’s Integrated Transport Strategy 2020 – 2040 and reviews of parking across the region, Yarra Ranges Council is trying to find ways to address the concerns of residents regarding parking, particularly in popular tourist areas.

O’Shanassy Ward Councillor Jim Child said the item is about parking management across the region, not specifically all about Warburton.

“The visitations to our municipality have been quite extensive, especially post-Covid but we could see signs of it happening at our hot spots like Olinda, Sassafras, Warburton, Healesville and other places,” he said.

“The majority of them are from people outside our municipality so if you look at visitations to other municipalities and I look at Mornington Peninsula and Cardinia Shire, they have management procedures in place to manage traffic flow and to manage that situation they have with an influx of visitors.”

Increased parking enforcement in tourist areas has already been underway in the Yarra Ranges since the start of the year, including in Warburton, with number plate recognition technology, physically chalking vehicles and new signage all being implemented.

Cr Child said people have become aware of the Yarra Ranges location in relation to Melbourne.

“What we’re seeing now is that they’ve all of a sudden been awoken to a journey they can take on a tank full of fuel, they don’t have to fill up their fuel tank at Warburton or Healesville and still make the return journey back to Melbourne,” he said.

“But now it’s about managing the visitations when they come to our hot spots.”

With Yarra Ranges Council predicting tourism to double over the next decade, the pilot program and increased enforcement, are part of a plan to reduce the impact on local communities and traffic.

The pilot program in Warburton will involve the installation of real-time parking information technology to display parking availability as well as a new paid parking system for non-Yarra Ranges residents. A permit for Yarra Ranges residents would exempt them from parking fees.

Cr Child said they want to be able to improve parking outcomes through the pilot program.

“That’s to use information technology to identify parking positions, to be able to display their availability and to be able to notify the public when we reach saturation or very close to,” he said.

“I draw the example of Thomas Avenue up in Warburton. it’s a decision at the moment, ‘Well I’ll turn left coming from Melbourne and let’s hope I can get a car park down in Thomas Avenue by the Yarra’ but this technology will be able to say there are no car parks down there at the moment, visit one of the other locations, which there are many.”

Thomas Avenue in Warburton has become notorious for cars struggling to turn around after being unable to get to a park in busy times, usually in the summer, and a proposal to turn it into a thoroughfare in the Warburton Urban Design Framework was scrapped due to community backlash regarding the proposed relocation of the Warburton Tennis Club courts.

The pilot program will be trialled for a period of up to 12 months, alongside the already increased enforcement.

Cr Child said it’s important for residents to remember that even though they will be exempt from parking fees, Yarra Ranges residents won’t be exempt from staying overtime in a parking space.

“Irrespective of if you live in Upway, Sassafras or over at Healesville, if you come over to Warburton and you’re a local, you won’t have to pay,” he said.

“It’s really about capturing those visitors that come and use our facilities that our ratepayers pay for so why shouldn’t there be user pays.”

Yarra Ranges Council expects the pilot program to improve traffic flow, safe parking behaviours and parking accessibility for the community, support local businesses by increasing traffic turnaround and patronage, provide clarity on the number of available parking spaces and contribute funds to go back into Council assets through the paid parking scheme.

Ryrie Ward Councillor Fiona McAllister said she was very keen to see how this plays out over the next 12 months.

“It is about getting the balance right about not charging local or charging residents but actually acknowledging that there is a cost and an impact on our infrastructure in our communities from the millions of people that love to come and visit this place that we call home,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to trial an approach that meets many needs and with residents and local communities very front of mind.”

Details of the permit process have not been finalised yet and expansion of the pilot would be considered after Council evaluation that would take into account operational performance, system performance (including the resident permit system), community and local business feedback and the endorsed Parking Management Framework.

The motion was carried unanimously.