University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth

University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth
University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth

Cars have become a basic necessity of life. While many Australians are opting for public transport, cars are still required for many industries such as taxi and delivery services, as well as for those where other modes of transport are not easily accessible or a viable option.

While the phasing out of disposable coffee cups is quickly becoming a reality, the likelihood of phasing out car-use is proving to be a far trickier challenge.  

Accessibility of car parking in the CBD is becoming an increasing problem throughout Australia, both the lack of parking spaces available, as well as the impact idle cars and empty parking lots have on a city – both aesthetically and environmentally.

Focusing particularly on the environmental impact, perhaps we need to consider how we can better utilise parking space in the city.

University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth

Are the car parks in our cities even being used?

While we may feel there are never enough parking spaces, Australian census data tells us that there are. 

Cities are abundant with parking spaces because minimum parking policies exist. These policies specify the minimum number of parking spaces a dwelling can include with any property sale. For example, the Western Australian State Planning Policy specifies that for every one-bedroom apartment, there must be at least 0.75-1 parking bays. The policy also states that there must be at least one visitor parking space for every four dwellings. 

University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth
Credit: Western Australia Planning Commission

In Perth, only 18% of residents have access to at least one vehicle, resulting in many car parking spaces left unused. In the City of Melbourne, despite having more than 215,000 parking spaces available, approximately one-third are not used every day

As well as taking up what could be better-utilised space, empty car parking spaces add to a city’s urban heat, known as Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE). UHIE refers to the amount of heat emitted by man-made structures such as concrete and asphalt. Car parks are a major contributor to a city’s urban heat rating and the higher the rating, the hotter the city. 

Public transport in most inner-city suburbs of Australia’s capital cities is well established and reliable. To help mitigate the impact of the UHIE and challenges faced by empty car parking spaces, developers can reconsider including car parking in their developments, encouraging the use of public transport instead. Leading the change is Breathe Architecture, with their subsidiary project Nightingale Housing. Their innovative approach to removing a minimum parking requirement for their housing developments was supported by the City of Moreland.

Council’s recent decision to continue support of the planning scheme amendment is a positive step as we work to address the challenges of population growth impacts for our community, including traffic congestion and maintaining the liveability of Moreland. 

The amendment is an important part of the implementation of the Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy actions. The expert independent panel, appointed by the Minister for Planning, will now consider this groundbreaking initiative, which has the potential to discourage oversupply of onsite parking in Moreland’s Activity Centres.

Nightingale projects and other affordable housing projects are located in Council’s Major Activity Centres, which are well served by public transport. Removing existing minimum parking requirements and adopting maximum parking provisions provides increased housing choice in Moreland, offering a new housing opportunity that relies on sustainable transport instead of car parking.

Kirsten Coster, Director City Futures

Future Focus: How can we mitigate the negative impacts of car use in our cities?

We recently spoke with urban planning students from the University of Western Australia who shared their thoughts on the future of car parking in Perth. Many voiced the need to improve public transport accessibility and increase green spaces in the city.

One student commented that while there is a minimum limit on parking spaces, a maximum should be implemented too. 

“Definitely place a maximum limit on parking spaces. Developers should think more broadly about how people get to places rather than assuming vehicles are the default method. Developments should only be undertaken when a robust understanding of the transport network is complete and high-density projects should only occur along major public transport corridors.”

Another student commented that block parking is unattractive and should be reconsidered.

“Vacant block parking is ugly, cars look like they've been abandoned and are not nearly parked in bays…”

This argument was countered by another student who believed block parking was the best way to avoid parking sprawl within the city.

“Multi-storey would be most practical, as it would use a small block footprint.” 

University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth

Improved public transport infrastructure reduces the number of cars on the road and increases foot traffic. More green spaces can also help mitigate the UHIE and offers inviting spaces for community cohesion. 

“Ideally cities (including Perth) shouldn’t be subject to massive urban sprawl, and driving wouldn’t be the main form of transportation; public transport would be more accessible and easier.”

These are great steps, but we still need parking spaces, as many are reliant on them to conduct their daily activities. Parking spaces are especially important for individuals with disabilities, families with small children and those in the delivery service industry. Therefore, rather than removing car parking altogether, perhaps it is time to consider alternative uses for car parking spaces?

Electric car charging stations

Electric vehicles are not only cheaper to run (approximately $0.33 per e-litre as compared to approximately $1.50 per litre for fuel) but are significantly better for the environment. According to the Electric Vehicle Council, if everyone in Australia drove an electric car, we could reduce our greenhouse emissions by 6%

Charging stations for electric cars are slowly becoming more widely available. New apartment developments could consider adding charging stations to their car parking spaces in order to encourage residents to make the switch to electricity-powered vehicles. Many apartments already offer this service successfully, including some currently under construction that will be incorporating charging stations into their plans. There aren’t many newly built apartments in Western Australia with charging stations, but the state offers a wealth of charging stations, particularly in Perth. 

Car sharing

Many Australians are opting to not own a car, turning to car sharing alternatives for the occasions where they need a car. Car sharing services such as GoGet, Flexicar and Car Next Door are increasing in popularity as they are perfect for short and occasional trips. 

“[Cars will not be] required since all cars will be ‘taxis’ that is not privately owned but a shared resource - readily available and in constant use.”

Car sharing pods are constantly popping up throughout Australian cities, with some parking stations converting two or three spaces into car share only parks. Apartment developments are doing this too. When purchasing off-the-plan, buyers have the option to purchase a parking space. By opting in or out of a car park, more spaces are made available for alternative options such as car sharing. In conjunction with the car-sharing company, developers offer residents a generous discount to encourage its usage. 

In a double win for car-sharing and electric vehicle use, ICD Property is leading the charge, offering Australia’s first electric car-sharing service in their Eq. Tower in Melbourne. 

University of Western Australia students discuss disrupting the car parking status quo in Perth

Repurposing existing/disused spaces

As apartment living becomes more popular, accessibility to green spaces is also essential to the health and wellbeing of residents. By repurposing completely empty car parks into green spaces, a city’s air quality could improve, reducing its urban heat rating and boost community cohesion. Recently, following extensive community consultation, the City of Stonnington in Melbourne converted a 9,000 square-metre car park into a vibrant public park, Cato Square – delivered by Kane Constructions. Whilst car parking spaces are still available, the conversion has enabled Stonnington residents to meet and engage with one another, fostering a stronger community spirit.

The University of Western Australia students also commented on the importance of prioritising the environment and human health over parking and car-use and suggested repurposing disused parking spaces for green infrastructure.

“The benefits are clean air, cooler temperature, increased mental health and wellbeing. Jobs growth in the horticultural sector.”

“[Plant] more local flora and [create] tiny public parks; better for us and the environment. Having small cafes along the sidewalks allowing for more local businesses to flourish and a variety of food and drink to be presented to the public.”

Car parks, especially single- or multi-storey parking stations, aren’t necessarily empty all the time. Those situated in the city may be full during the working day and vacant after 5 pm or over the weekend. These can become multi-use spaces, becoming a vibrant music scene at night or a bustling market on a Saturday. For example, located in the heart of Melbourne’s Fitzroy, The Fitzroy Mills is a farmer’s market located in a car park left empty over the weekend. 

“Turning parking spaces into temporary event spaces - movies, food trucks, markets etc. Increases the vibrancy of the city as things are happening.”

Owners corporations could also consider opening unused private parking spaces to the public, reducing on-street parking*.

Ultimately, if the takeaway coffee industry can disrupt the status-quo with reusable cups that we now faithfully carry, then cities can rethink how parking spaces are utilised in order to improve our environment and better our sense of community.

*Would you consider renting your carpark? Let us know in the comments below.

Thank you to the University of Western Australia students who shared their thoughts on the future of car parking in Perth. Australia is in excellent hands with you as our future urban planners.

Laura van Rens

Laura van Rens

Laura is in’s PR & Media team. When she’s not outreaching for new content opportunities, Laura enjoys writing about the intersection between societal changes and property development and how it impacts the urban landscape.

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