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The city where a car park tax works

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When Turin, in Northern Italy, implemented its parking tax, the city’s shoppers and traders burst into outrage.

But it was worth it, says Turin councillor Stefano Lo Russo, who is visiting Adelaide this week – where he met with Adelaide’s Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood to talk city planning.

“[it was] very politically difficult to be accepted in the initial phase by the Turin people because they don’t want any increase in the park fares inside the centre,” Lo Russo told InDaily.

“The benefit is for the people … which are less stressed by driving. We have significant reduction in carbon dioxide emission and … the commercial speed of the buses and trams increased because we have reduced the private cars that enter in the centre in the morning and went out in the evening.”

Last year the State Government announced a $2-per-day CBD car parking tax, designed to raise about $52 million in annual revenue and fund public transport improvements.

The City Council has set an overarching strategy of reducing the amount of cars in the city – although it opposed the car park tax, which it called a blunt instrument.

In Turin, the city council dramatically ramped up parking prices in the city centre – and coupled that with subsidised public transport tickets plus free tickets for children.

The council also made several major roads pedestrian-only, all in an effort to reduce the traffic congestion in Turin’s CBD.

“We have a problem of traffic in Turin. We tried by municipal policy to move the people out from their cars and on the public transport,” Lo Russo said.

“This policy induced people to abandon the car to go to the centre, and to start to go on the bus and trams.”

The policies resulted in a 30 per cent increase in public transport use, Lo Russo said. But city shops did see a sharp downturn in business – although he’s not willing to put that down to the tax.

“The shops in the center lost clients due to several economic general reasons. I don’t think that the main role has been played by the parking fares but by the general bad economic conditions.”

Turin’s city proper has a population of just under one million, but the metropolitan area has more than two million inhabitants.

In Adelaide, the anti-congestion policy suite has found many opponents, including the Property Council and city traders.

“Certainly reading people’s comments and speaking to people on the street, they’re saying that they’re actually going to avoid the city,” Property Council SA Branch President Nathan Paine told InDaily in March.

“For consumers who already feel that the car parking costs are too high, I think they’ll choose to go to suburban shopping centres.

“If we are to look at a punitive measure like a car parking tax, it needs to be done after we’ve got a public transport system that is cheap, efficient and easy for people to use.”

Mayor Stephen Yarwood said Lo Russo confirmed to him that Adelaide was having “exactly the same conversations” as many European cities.

“Nothing I have talked about in the last three years is anything other than standard and par for the course as cities move forward to tackle to congestion, to tackle increasing densities,” he said.

Yarwood said pedestrian-friendly initiatives needed to be introduced slowly to Adelaide, because the hold of the automobile was so strong on the city’s culture.

“As a city that focuses, has historically relied on cars, we actually have to go at a pace that is going to engage people rather than offend and turn people away.”

 

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