Did you feel ripped off this holiday season when you parked your car in the city, at a shopping centre or at the airport when picking up or dropping off loved ones?

It will cost this child 14 years of pocket money to park under the clothes line. Picture: Katrina Tepper

If paying inflated petrol prices wasn’t enough, motorists are now also being hit with inflated parking rates when they go shopping or to the airport. Then, of course, there are the CBD parking stations that cost an arm and a leg.

It’s these CBD parking stations that consistently cost motorists dearly as the fees at the CBD parking stations start climbing the moment that boom gate rises to let you in.

Of course the apologists for the CBD parking stations will rush to their defence and say that the exorbitant CBD parking station fees are the fault of higher land values in the CBD and city councils that impose parking levies on the parking station operators. And, naturally, the free market theorists will say tough luck as it’s “the market” that decides the price.

Well, the problem with all those excuses is that there’s a real market failure when it comes to CBD parking station fees. Quite simply, there’s a lack of full and timely transparency of the CBD parking stations fees.

How many times have you driven past a CBD parking station only to see advertising boards offering an attractive “from” price? Rarely, do you see a full price board until you are sitting right in front of the boom gate with some impatient driver behind you honking their car horn for you to quickly go through.

Why don’t the CBD parking stations put their full price board in large print at a highly visible place where motorists have an opportunity not to enter the parking station if they don’t like the advertised prices?

It’s pretty simple. CBD parking station operators don’t want you being able to shop around and that’s what you could do if you see the full price board from the road. The harsh reality is that the operators don’t mind ambushing you with the exorbitant prices at the boom gate as you then have no choice but to accept the parking fees given it’s impractical or just dangerous to try and back out onto the road with cars behind you or that could come in behind you anytime.

As for the price boards indicating an attractive “from” price there’s certainly a good argument to be made that they are misleading motorists by creating a false impression as to the true cost of parking at the particular parking station.

And, of course, parking station operators should not feel protected by some tiny asterisk next to the attractive “from” price as the tiny fine print linked to the asterisk cannot generally be seen or read from a motor vehicle.

The key message is that the onus is on parking station operators not to mislead motorists. Here our friends at the ACCC could certainly take action to deal with the misleading conduct. They could also have some useful input regarding the development of a mandatory code of conduct for full and timely transparency of parking station fees.

These initiatives would obviously help motorists, but more needs to be done as it’s not only motorists that suffer from inflated parking rates.

Whether it’s at a Westfield Shopping Centre or a major airport inflated parking rates hurt retailers at those locations by penalising customers who spend more time shopping at the particular location.

It defies logic that the longer customers stay to shop and spend money at the shopping centre or airport, the more they pay for parking. Where’s business sense in that? Or is it simply a case of what the shopping centre can get away with?

Take, for example, a Westfield Shopping Centre. Typically you get 3 hours of “free” parking. At Bondi Junction in Sydney it’s just 2 hours. Beyond the free period you pay an increasing parking fee that quickly adds a small fortune to your shopping bill.

Now stop to think about it. You go shopping at a major shopping centre and if you take the time to go from shop to shop as no doubt the struggling retailers would like us to do you end up having to pay ever increasing parking fees to do it. Surely major shopping centres and their retailers should be doing everything they can to get customers to stay longer and spend more money.

As it stands the fee structure is designed to encourage you to leave before the end of the `free’ period. Allowing a free period of 2-3 hours is just not enough if you would like to browse the hundreds of retail shops you find at a major shopping centre.

For those customers who do want to spend money over an extended period the parking fee structure penalises rather than rewards. Rather than punish customers for staying beyond the “free” period why not provide real free parking for the day if the customer spends more than, for example, $100 at the major shopping centre during the visit?

Such a loyalty scheme could easily be implemented by the shopping centre. A customer could, for example, be given a new validated parking ticket by the retailer to use to exit the car park if the customer spends the $100 at that one retailer.

Otherwise the customer could use a shopping centre loyalty card, like those offered by Westfield, that’s swiped at each retailer and if the amount spent totals more than $100 for the visit then the loyalty card can be used at the car park exit to waive the parking fee.

It’s a very simple idea for rewarding those customers who spend money at the shopping centre. The obvious benefit of this reward system is that it encourages customers to spend more time when retailers are really struggling. Implementing the system would cost very little in the scheme of things and could be used at all shopping centres having or contemplating paid parking.

The shopping centre can retain the existing paid parking fee structure as that’s designed to deal with commuters who simply use the car park on the way to and from work and don’t spend money at the shopping centre.

Of course, if a so-called commuter does spend more than the $100 for a visit then they are no longer what the economists call a “free rider”. That’s a person who is disliked by shopping centre owners because they get a benefit - car parking - without paying for it.

The same concept can be easily used at major airports. People will be more inclined to spend more time and money at airport retailers when seeing off or picking up loved ones. At the moment, the prohibitive airport parking fees mean that it’s always a rush to get in and out of the airport as quickly as possible and that’s bad news for all those struggling airport retailers.

So let’s reward rather than punish customers for spending more time and money. And, let’s not forget the need to stop parking station operators from engaging in dubious tactics that are potentially misleading and in breach of our consumer laws.

Most commented


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    • Nathan says:

      05:07am | 01/02/12

      Agree with the comments surrounding the westfield centres but as far as CBD parking costs i don’t care. If you are not happy with fuel and parking prices public transport is available. I am sure there might be exceptions but the people i know who have to drive to work in the city have their employers pay for it. If people still want to drive and don’t have any real need then they can pay for the privilege.

    • Emily says:

      10:35am | 01/02/12

      Hit it right on the head with your last word. Privilege. Owning and driving a car is not a right.

      Perhaps thinking beyond yourself and car pooling to share the costs and reduce emissions. Or jump on a bus, perhaps ride your bike. A 1km walk can be achieved in just 10 minutes, or a 5km bike ride in the same time.

      Sure, it’s not practical in all situations but the majority of trips could be substituted for more sustainable forms of travel, with a range of social, environmental and health benefits.

    • Seth Brundle says:

      11:14am | 01/02/12

      Eating food daily is not a right either, but it is something I like to do.

    • Nathan says:

      03:54am | 02/02/12

      Necessity and privilege do equate to the same thing

    • Bill says:

      05:13am | 01/02/12

      Beat the carpark ripoffs and take a tram instead.

    • wolf says:

      07:41am | 01/02/12

      The cost of CBD parking in Melbourne is normally more than a weekly metcard ticket (unless you find an ‘earlybird’ special when its only half a weekly ticket). Or you can cycle.  Sure you have to avoid Warnies bogan army trying to run you off the road but parking is free.
      For shopping I normally avoid the CBD altogether - most suburban shopping centres have ‘free’ parking.

    • Barge says:

      08:10am | 01/02/12

      wolf - the biggest problem I have on the roads is the lycra clad idiots who think that road rules don’t apply to them and also don’t understand what bikeways are for. Just get off the roads, they are made for cars.

    • wolf says:

      09:49am | 01/02/12

      Barge a few states have installed ‘bicycle lanes’. This revolutionary idea allows for cars and bikes to share the road. Most traffic authorities have produced a handy brochure to explain their use for the terminally confused:
      http://www.sa.gov.au/upload/franchise/Transport, travel and motoring/bike-lane-brochure.pdf
      Alternatively, everyone could just forgo cycling or public transport, get into their car and drive to the CBD.  If you think parking prices are high now imagine how high they could be when you add the extra traffic in.

    • Mahhrat says:

      05:47am | 01/02/12

      C’mon Frank.  Normally, I’m right on board with companies advertising their products appropriately, but please.

      For a start, here:  Wilson Parking, Kent Street, Sydney CBD.

      The rest of their pricings are here too, as far as I could tell spending THIRTY SECONDS ON GOOGLE.

      Given this is 2012, that is appropriate enough.  You can always call ahead and ask, as well.

      The prices are advertised, you’re just having a bitch because they’re not where you want them.  I’ll wager however that were all businesses so “prominent” in their advertising, you’d be back here whinging about the proliferation of advertising signs blocking your view of the Yarra, or something.

      These are private businesses making money.  They can charge what the market will pay.  I agree that those prices seem incredibly high, and while I lived in Melbourne I thought “fuck that” and caught the damn train.

      Of course, in Hobart we have three CBD car parks owned by the council, where you get your first hour’s parking for free, then it’s like $1.50 and hour or something.  Even then I don’t go into town, because Northgate and Eastlands (you do the geology) both have massive, free parking areas.

      Why don’t you try voting with your feet, and live and play in areas that don’t have such massive overpopulation that there’s a market like this?

    • Direct says:

      08:22am | 01/02/12

      Oddly enough it was a Wilson parking that I decided to park at over the weekend because of their sandwich board price of $15 for the whole weekend. I was more than a little annoyed that they wanted to charge me $175 dollars when I tried to take my car out of the parking station Monday morning, which effectively equated to $160 for two hours.

    • Fred says:

      08:48am | 01/02/12

      I agree, the Wilson Parking website is great, very functional and clear.

      Parking on the weekend is cheap. I parked at The Rocks for $15 for the entire day about a month ago.

      This post should be titled “Sydney is a shit hole” as parking prices during the week are a by product of that and the crappy public transport which makes you want to drive.

      2-3 hours is way more than enough for shopping. I can’t see you visiting every single pretentious and expensive women’s clothes boutique which is what most of the shops are Frank.

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:34am | 01/02/12

      @Direct:  If I read you right, you overstayed the conditions of the weekend parking, so I guess they felt you’d broken the “agreement” you entered into and penalised you.

      Saying that, I would suggest that charging differently to the special rate ini those circumstances is pretty close to unconscionable.  You should reasonably expect that you will be charged $15 until the special ends, and then their standard hourly rates thereafter.  Costs shouldn’t be increased retrospectively.

    • Eric #2 says:

      06:13am | 01/02/12

      Westfield Chermside (Brisbane)  has a ‘fee’ for parking more than 3 hrs and I applaud this move.  Why?  Because something like 1000 cars a day were parked in their facilities as the owners then commuted by bus into the city each morning preventing genuine shoppers from finding a car parking slot.  Now when I go to Chermside I can find a park quite easily.

    • RED says:

      09:20am | 01/02/12

      Yep, so now there’s 1000 more cars on the road that were previously using public transport.
      There was never a problem finding a park Monday - Friday anyway.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      07:11am | 01/02/12

      No you don’t have to “save up”. Just join a bikie gang. They park for free.

    • Wynston Cruso says:

      02:18pm | 01/02/12

      You mean the Police Force? Shit, they don’t even have to obey the rules they enforce.

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:44am | 01/02/12

      Some interesting points. Not sure I agree or disagree.

      Firstly, I was at WBJ on Sunday with friend. We wandered around, looked at a few stores, had a coffee and then left within 2 hours. I can’t see how you could spend much more time than that at a Westfields. One third of the stores are women’s clothing (no interest). Another thid is homewares (no interest). Another chunk is the food court. At best a man has about 5 stores he’d be interested in (electronics mainly). Any clothes shopping a man does is direct to the shop where he knows he’ll get what he wants and then leaves. No “browsing”. If a woman wants to browse then the man shouldn’t follow. That sort of stuff should be a contravention of the Geneva Convention.

      The main reason Westfields has the parking structure is because of what eric#2 said. If I know I can park all day for free I’ll drive there and take the train to work from BJ.

      My friend and I then went to Broadway shopping centre so I could do some grocery shopping and have dinner. Again a few hours free parking. No need to spend all day. Same parking fee rate at Westfield for the same reason (even more valid than Westfield).

      As for city parking do your research first. Most bogans never do and think that driving into the CBD is the same as driving to Castle Towers and then complain that it isn’t the same. Some of us know where the discount parking rates are and when to use them. Some cost as little as $5 for all night.

      Clover Moore doesn’t like cars so doesn’t like parking stations. She seems to think that you can pack the family on a pushbike and get them there. Labor didn’t like spending money on public transport because “Sydney is full”. The internet is at your fingertips all the time. You should know how to use it.

    • sam says:

      11:34am | 01/02/12

      movies should be exempt. went with a friend and we drove out paying $25 to park so we could watch a movie at NIGHT. this is criminal and wont be going there again. I know penrith plaza used to have a movie exemption, why not other centres?

    • Gregg says:

      07:57am | 01/02/12

      Come on Frank, how often do you go shopping?
      Re ” The harsh reality is that the operators don’t mind ambushing you with the exorbitant prices at the boom gate as you then have no choice but to accept the parking fees given it’s impractical or just dangerous to try and back out onto the road with cars behind you or that could come in behind you anytime. “
      The harsher reality could be that you want the operator to clear the driveway behind you so as you can exit or give you an in and out free ticket.
      If that happens often enough the operators might get the message to have better signage or have a Uturn facility.

      And then with
      ” Take, for example, a Westfield Shopping Centre. Typically you get 3 hours of “free” parking. At Bondi Junction in Sydney it’s just 2 hours. Beyond the free period you pay an increasing parking fee that quickly adds a small fortune to your shopping bill. “

      And nothing at all wrong with that Frank for the smarter more efficient shoppers will be in and out within the free period or if needing a much longer time, they might even decide seconds is economically desirable, a further out and back in for those not so smart.

      The larger supermarkets who probably pay more of the free time for shoppers most likely understand that it’s all about throughput for them, low margins and high sales being the key to competition.
      And the after free time charges will just penalise the loiterers and freeloaders.

      It’s time you got a real life Frank or at least some real life experiences and see if you can drum up a team of politicians and other bureacrats to take with you on the life experiences bus.

    • stephen says:

      08:19am | 01/02/12

      I’ll bet dentists, doctors, cafes, hairdressers and the like are feeling the pinch at Westfield Centres after the 3 hour free parking limit was introduced.

      And if Westfield wanted to discourage cars at all from their centres, they should have made arrangements with City Councils for free public transport on Sundays, maybe.
      Actually, free buses and trains on a sunday may bring folk back into cities, and spending.

    • ibast says:

      08:42am | 01/02/12

      Despite your opinion that demand isn’t driving the price the fact is most of these car parks are near full.  So Whilst you might not like the price, enough people are willing to accept it such that it is the price.

      Shouldn’t be taking a car into the city anyway.  Most first world cities outside of the US don’t practice such stupidity.

    • TrueOz says:

      08:43am | 01/02/12

      “Here our friends at the ACCC could certainly take action to deal with the misleading conduct.”

      ...or they could sit on their lazy, worthless, overpaid backsides and do absolutely nothing - just like they do with nearly everything else they are supposed to be looking after. I thought you were a Professor Frank. Turns out you’d be more suited to a job as a comedian!

    • Anubis says:

      08:59am | 01/02/12

      The author atates “Here our friends at the ACCC could certainly take action to deal with the misleading conduct”

      The ACCC are a useless bunch of t*rds tht are just a drain on taxpayers money.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      10:04am | 01/02/12

      Kinda hard to shop around for parking at the airport. It is a monopoly. Thank You John Howard for the privatization of airports. I suppose I could take the bus from the CBD to the airport, but in Melbourne it is, you guessed it, a private monopoly at $17 one way for an adult. Basically anything to do with airports these days is license to print money…..

    • JM says:

      03:32pm | 01/02/12

      Actually, it’s $16 one way, or $12 if you buy a ten-trip ticket..

    • Nathan says:

      10:09am | 01/02/12

      Inflated parking rates? If anything, they’re too low. Parking is expensive, and quite frankly it’s ridiculous that we dedicate so much valuable land so that people can abandon their car for the majority of the day. The availability of abundant cheap parking has a real detrimental affect on a city - look at Adelaide, which has once of the highest number of carparks per capita in the world. As a consequence, every one drives every where. It seems like every month a new ugly multi-story box rises to house these cars. And despite parking in Adelaide being incredibly cheap (especially compared to the likes of Melbourne & Sydney), with street parks going for as little as $1 for 3hrs on weekends, people STILL whinge like no tomorrow that it’s too expensive.
      This creates a horrible culture where cars rule everything, to the detriment of public transport and walkability.

      There’s an interesting article from Los Angeles Magazine about the true cost of parking:

    • Emily says:

      10:42am | 01/02/12


      Walkable neighbourhoods have also shown to increase property values, social connectedness, reduced traffic congestion, health benefits from active transport… the list goes on. Time to stop prioritising cars and invest more in walking, cycling and public transport.

    • iMitchy says:

      11:22am | 01/02/12

      First of all Frank, try writing an article without attacking “apologists” and “free market theorists”, we have good basis for our POV, we vote with our feet instead of pretending we are forced to spend money then whining about it later.

      Second: There is no monopoly held by any businesses in the areas you mentioned ie parking and shopping centres. Shop around, suburban shopping centres have free parking - you don’t need to do your groceries at the mall.

      Third: (And this is a biggy). Have you considered that people who enter a Westfield might know what they intend to buy already? This means that they have a mental itinerary to get all their shopping done and maybe even fit in a coffee or some lunch before their free parking runs out. So they spend the same amount of money in a shorter period of time, effectively freeing up a parking space, sales assistant time, and indeed floor space in the isles of the shops for some other shopper to do the same. It makes the shops more money in less time.

      Believe it or not, most people have a capped budget for shopping or limited funds in their bank accounts because they do not get paid while shopping, and if they did, they would be restricted by credit card limits and daily withdrawal limits on debit cards.
      So loitering in shopping centres does not help retailers to make money. They do not want you look around the shops for cheaper equivelents of an item, they want you to see something and buy it then and there.

      And if you do want to stretch out your time spent at the shops not spending, taking up space, wasting sales staff’s time and preventing an eager spender from finding a park (and perhaps going elsewhere), then the shopping centre will be very modestly compensated for your doing so via a parking fee.

      Your anti-capitalist ideals are as riddled with holes as swiss cheese sometimes Frank.

    • Emily says:

      10:29am | 01/02/12

      You’re kidding right? Crying because you can’t drive your fuel guzzler right to the front door? Seriously…. I can’t believe this dribble was even published. Classic first world problem.

      We SHOULD be discouraging car use in favour of sustainable and active transport. If you jumped on your bike, the bus or walked there, we wouldn’t need a carbon tax, and we wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic. Not to mention less traffic issues. More roads and more parking is NOT the answer, nor will it ever be. Save your pennies and jump on a train, maybe you could read up on the benefits of sustainable transport while you’re cruising past all the people stuck in their cars on the freeway.

    • RyaN says:

      11:34am | 01/02/12

      @Emily: How do you know he doesn’t drive an electric vehicle or a hybrid? Launching into a greenie(AKA commie) tirade about this is ridiculous.

    • LC says:

      09:14pm | 22/02/12

      Of course, Gillard was SSSOOO brave to tax politically sensitive petrol so plebs like Frank are forced to take the bus/train (and tough tits if there isn’t one). She’s a hero of our time!


    • Malleeringneck says:

      10:45am | 01/02/12

      Simply do not shop where parking is expensive. If everyone did that the parking stations, shopping centres and councils would soon get the message and be forced to lower their costs to attract customers.
      Buy over the internet, the postage of the parcel is often far cheaper than the combined parking and fuel costs, often even cheaper than public transport.

    • Richard says:

      12:24pm | 01/02/12

      C’mon it’s 2012!  Plan ahead, and let technology help you.  There’s great public transport websites these days, or, if you insist on driving, there’s several websites that can solve this problem for you - the dominant one is probably carparking.info - they’ve even got mobile apps for you.

    • AFR says:

      01:57pm | 01/02/12

      +1 - if you’re that stupid to get rorted by parking costs, perhaps its time to hand in your licence.

    • Josephine says:

      03:57pm | 01/02/12

      If you are not disabled, elderly or do not have some other medically valid reason to drive and park in the city, then I find it hard to sympathise with you.
      The blue & white chauffer service gets me to the city & back for less than $10.  I can read a book on the way and shop for as long as I like.

      As for suburban shopping centres,  I’m out of there within the free time limit because to stay any longer gives me an awful headache.

    • Michael says:

      08:04pm | 01/02/12

      For pete’s sake Frank, you sometimes makes sense but this is nothing more than a ideological rant that must have taken you 5 minutes to muddle together. Ideological in the sense that you’re once again being an apologist for the poor performance of Australian retailers, and blaming everything else except their…well… poor performance.  Car parking in shopping centres is irrelevant when people don’t even bother - whether there’s free parking, a free period, or paid parking - when the retailers inside the centre aren’t worth visiting in the first place.

    • Tim says:

      08:14am | 02/02/12

      Paying for parking is for suckers. Just rort the disabled parking scheme like every other driver in the CBD.

    • LC says:

      09:32pm | 22/02/12

      I can park my motorbike for nothing, or next to nothing.

      Makes my life a lot easier.


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