Carmageddon without buses

A TRAFFIC apocalypse is predicted after the July school holidays if Perth people don’t return to public transport pronto.

During the height of restrictions at the end of March, freeway use dropped from 1.5 million cars per week to about 1 million.

They’ve now sprung back up to 95 per cent of pre-Covid levels and city car bays are filling up as commuters take advantage of free on-street bays and the cheap $10 all day rates in undercover council carparks.

Department of Transport stats show bus and train use has likewise tumbled from about 430,000 SmartRider boardings per day to below 50,000 per day. 

Despite public transport resuming usual schedules and premier Mark McGowan ensuring people it’s safe, boardings are still down 150,000 from what they should be in a typical wintery June.

Not sustainable

A Perth council report says “the proportion of commuters currently driving to the CBD is not sustainable” and bays are filling up with city workers rather than shoppers. Some retailers have reported shoppers saying they’re having a tough time finding a spot. 

“The city has observed increasing levels of congestion with each announcement by the premier on the lifting of restrictions, with the next announcement to occur after the July school holidays,” the report warns. 

This week chair commissioner Andrew Hammond moved the city incrementally restore the old prices in city carparks buildings, getting them from $10 a day back to pre-Covid levels by the end of the year (averaging a bit under $20). 

“What we need now is the people that were commuting [on public transport] prior to Covid to start commuting again so that’ll free up some of this parking space for our retail customers,” Cmmr Hammond said.

The other commissioners endorsed his plan.

The council’s parking staff say it’s tough to predict whether the higher prices will have an impact on parker behaviour but they’ll keep an eye on levels.

Commissioners also voted to extend the one-hour free street parking trials on Royal Street and Hay Street, and extend the three-hour free parking in some of the city carparks on weekends, both until mid 2021. They’d hoped to use those trials to see if retailers got a boost, but the numbers were skewed by the pandemic. 

By DAVID BELL

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