By Cam Lucadou-Wells
For a decade, it has been central Springvale’s great parking paradox.
A six-deck, 517-space car park at 8 Balmoral Avenue stands more than half empty while drivers hunt for sparse on-street parking.
Newly-elected Greater Dandenong councillor Richard Lim says it’s time to entice shoppers and traders into the car park by fixing its forbidding design.
If the solution can be found, Springvale’s potential as an Asian food and tourist hub could be fully unlocked, he argues.
One design flaw is the uninviting diagonal chicane entrance.
Worst of all are the numerous head-on bingles and scrapes on the tight, blind corners between levels.
Barely the width of two vehicles, the corners are obscured by thick concrete pillars. The poles are chipped and smudged by years of collisions.
Cars are regularly wedged at the corners for up to 20 minutes, with long traffic queues behind them. In an emergency, the result could be dire, Cr Lim says.
In the car park’s near-empty upper tiers, convoys of high-revving cars are reportedly hooning even in mid-afternoons. It’s also become a hang-out for groups.
Cr Lim, who runs a nearby pharmacy, bought parking permits for his staff. But few use them – many too “scared” to walk into the dark empty car park at night.
Ahead of the 2021-’22 council budget, Cr Lim has called for CCTV, better lights, police patrols and new one-way ramps to bypass the second and third floor’s narrow southern corners.
In the past, an extra one-way ramp was installed on the first floor with successful results.
According to the council, it would cost $1.3 million for ramps on the second and third floors and widening three other corners.
It’s a costly solution for a Covid-struck council but one that could pay for itself, Cr Lim argues.
Currently, the car park raises up to $270,000 a year from casual users. This is despite only 30 per cent occupancy on weekdays and 40 per cent on weekends.
A cheaper and quicker possibility is to use a traffic-light system – about $140,000 per corner.
However, acting engineering director Kevin van Boxtel told a recent council meeting that it was “unlikely to be an appropriate solution”.
“These types of traffic light systems in multideck car parks are typically used in private car parks that are not open to the public.
“But in a public car park with a high turnover which is what we are trying to achieve at No.8 Balmoral Avenue, Springvale, it is harder to operate a system of that type.”
The ‘No.8’ car park was built by private developers in 2011.
The council contributed to the construction for an extra two levels to create more public parking.
Since then, the council has fixed a litany of faults such as broken-down lifts, ticket machines, boom gates and the first level’s tight corner.
It has tried to entice traders to park on the upper floors with bargain-priced $55 annual permits. But less than 20 traders park there regularly, Cr Lim says.
Councillor Sean O’Reilly says the main brake on Springvale’s growth is traffic and parking congestion.
“It’s a great shopping centre (but) a lot of the time I get an Uber because the parking and traffic is diabolical.”
He said traders were reluctant to pay for parking. A trial of on-street parking ticket machines was abandoned at great cost due to trader opposition.
“The only way to improve the parking situation is to make it easier to park at No.8 car park or remove fees at No.8 car park.”
He agreed that new ramps at No.8 could pay for themselves, but the council’s capital budget was tight due to Covid impacts and rate-capping.
“The business case should be looked at.”