Council staff have defended they way traffic data is analysed, after the Brunswick Heads chamber of commerce claimed the term full capacity is defined as an occupancy of 90 per cent, not 100 per cent.
It comes as councillors consider paid parking for the town at this Thursday’s meeting, with staff recommending deferring consideration until the October 2020 meeting ‘owing to the current impacts of the COVID-19 crisis’.
The chamber’s Kim Rosen says Council staff inexplicably dropped full capacity from 90 to 80 per cent. ‘So it’s much easier to reach capacity!’
When asked about Ms Rosen’s claims, Council’s Director Infrastructure Services, Phil Holloway told The Echo, ‘In traffic engineering terminology, parking areas are considered to be at capacity when they reach 90 per cent occupancy’.
‘This is widely referred to as reaching “practical capacity” because at 90 percent occupancy you have 10 percent of car parking spaces available. Many of these remaining spaces are often difficult to see, hard to manoeuvre into and provide some buffer for sudden short–term surges in demand. What this means is that the parking is ‘full’ but there is a small amount of buffer that allows cars to circulate, wait and eventually find a park’.
‘Between 90 percent occupancy, and up to 100 percent occupancy, when every car space (or nearly every car space) is taken, it is possible that you won’t be able to find a car park at all. When these conditions occur, it is common to experience traffic congestion on the road (cars backed up waiting, blocking access, holding up traffic movement) and the impacts of poor driver behaviour. In these conditions, there is evidence of increased risk-taking by drivers who make take short cuts, park in dangerous or illegal locations and race to beat each other to a space that suddenly becomes available.
‘As identified within the Traffic & Parking Consultants (TPS) report, a number of key zones within the Brunswick Heads surveyed area are operating above 90 per cent (practical capacity). There are also a number of zones operating above 80 per cent (approaching practical capacity) and these are also of concern to Council.
‘In order to stay ahead of congestion and manage the situation before reaching practical capacity, Council has recommended the town be monitored and when parking returns to 80 per cent capacity or more (i.e. before the town reaches practical capacity and begins to see a return in poor driver behaviour) we begin to implement a sustainable system to better manage the Brunswick Heads parking scheme’.
Council’s groundwork for paid parking in the town has been ongoing since 2017, despite efforts of the town’s chamber.
At Council’s May 23, 2019 meeting, Greens mayor Simon Richardson tabled an unexpected lengthy amendment calling for paid parking for the town and expanding parking schemes. It was rejected by other councillors, who resolved to defer the decision.
Paid parking was introduced in Bangalow that year, despite opposition from the town’s chamber of commerce and claims the council has failed to abide by its own processes.
Ms Rosen also criticised a report by Council’s consultant EthosUrban, who assessed the business conditions in Bruns. Describing it as ‘seriously flawed’, she said, ‘EthosUrban’s assessment was mostly a desk-top one, based on 2019 retail sales (commercial floor space x $5,230), and projections that there’ll be an extra two million people in SEQ by 2034. Consultation was minimal and many opinions and erroneous assumptions were repeated multiple times, as if they were fact’, she said.
Ms Rosen said that the goalposts have been moved. ‘The industry definition of “capacity” is still quoted as 90 per cent, but staff have inexplicably dropped it to 80 per cent. So it’s much easier to reach capacity!’ she said.
‘The most popular zones outside the bakery, on the Terrace and near the Torakina toilets only have three or four spaces and showed extremely high figures. They are adjacent to either a bus stop, loading or no parking zone.
‘We are talking 257.4 per cent up to as high as 666.3 per cent – well over 100 per cent. Apparently, cars parked illegally in these zones were included in the zone count’, said Ms Rosen.
‘The average capacity across all timed zones in September was 111.3 per cent and October 142 per cent. But occupancies for November, December, January and February were between 74.8 per cent and 80.8 per cent.
‘So, no surprises that the average pulled up to 94.7 per cent! This figure was then used to conclude that Bruns has exceeded capacity and therefore needs paid parking. From a business perspective, 90 per cent occupancy levels are not a problem, provided the turnover is good, just like in the busy timed parking commercial strip in beachside Coogee,’ she said.
Local business owner, Michelle Begg, said, ‘The most popular spaces will always be full. Show me a coastal town where this isn’t the case. Apart from Twilight Market and Old & Gold days, you can generally get a park near my business in Fingal Street. In fact, the TPS Report showed there were lots of spaces within five minutes walk of the centre, so there is no “problem”.’
Lennox Heads’ Masterplan says their community is willing to accept some parking and traffic problems, to ensure that the village atmosphere is maintained.
‘That’s what we want for our village too’, said Ms Begg.
‘Mayor Richardson recently acknowledged the almost cataclysmic impact on Byron Shire businesses of the bushfires, Queensland floods, Bluesfest and Splendour cancellations, then COVID-19. Ms Rosen said that staff’s recommendation did not reflect this insight, nor have they asked the Chamber how businesses were faring.
‘Staff recommend that a final decision on paid parking in the CBD and beach precincts be delayed until October, with paid parking implemented when occupancy rates hit 80 per cent.
‘If Councillors really cared about Bruns businesses, they would delay any final discussions until Bruns’ economy picked up’, said Ms Rosen.