They are the bane of every driver’s existence throughout the Inner West – and I’m not talking about potholes. It’s the parking meters that make us sweat as we run back to our cars still chewing on our lunch with a keen eye on the clock! It’s the omnipresent khaki-clad inspectors, that seem to loom around every corner waiting by your car for that free half an hour to tick over by a second.
Relentless, they return to Norton Street day and night, weekday and weekend, driving away shoppers and diners too afraid to overstay their welcome and pay the hefty price. Where in other regions you’d be hard pressed to spot a parking officer doing a routine check once a week, in the Inner West they seem to out number locals as they trawl the streets in what many consider a predatory fashion.
If I don’t bag an all-day parking spot nearby my Petersham office, I’m forced to move my car every two hours to avoid a fine and each time I walk back to my car I wonder: is this my punishment for choosing to drive to work rather than cycle or take public transport? But who could blame me for not wanting to risk my life riding a bike down Parramatta Road?
For years business owners along the high streets have complained that the parking meters hurt their businesses. In response Leichhardt Council now offers 30 minutes free parking, which is a great start, but is it enough?
I mean what can you really do in half an hour? You can’t eat a full meal, considering the time it will take for you to order and food to arrive, you certainly can’t see a movie and any visit to Short Street Medical Centre is likely to take longer than 30 minutes, especially in the cold and flu season.
Personally I don’t like to take the risk (and neither should you now that the starting price for parking longer than the allocated time period is $101), so I dutifully pay the $3.30 for a full hour – but that’s if I can find a working ticket machine.
You see, not only am I expected to fork out for the pleasure of parking, I have to search left and right for the nearest meter machine after the first one I approached ate all my coins and failed to spit out a damn ticket. This is a real frustration experienced by countless people who are now simply making the decision to go elsewhere for their shopping and dining needs – namely to big centres with big car parks, where everything is just easier and the little guys are sadly left outside in the cold.
I shudder to imagine what will remain when there is no one left willing to fill the meters with coins and businesses disappear along with the patrons. You only need to look out the window at the dozens of For Lease signs littering commercial strips to see what’s to come.
Words: Felecia Smith.