Share car policy stalled in the slow lane

By Shane Scanlan

After two years pursuing an unpopular share car policy, the City of Melbourne has achieved less than 20 per cent of its 2021 CBD target.

When councillors approved the policy in July 2015, the council was aiming to have 1230 spaces within the “CBD”. As of last month, it had achieved just 217.

The council is close to its “on-street” target of 100, with 83 spaces now available for share cars.  But it is nowhere near the 1130 off-street spaces it envisaged, with only 134 being provided.

Share car operators widely criticised the 2015 policy position, arguing at the time that it was economically unfeasible.  Most specifically, they objected to the council’s requirement that they rent an off-street space before the council would release to them an on-street parking bay.

Green Share Car owner Paul Cummaudo told CBD News his company was yet to apply for any more City of Melbourne spaces since the 2015 policy was introduced.

He said it was simply uneconomic to rent off-street spaces for up to $500 per month to qualify for on-street spaces.

“Off-street spaces just don’t work in this industry,” he said.

And, despite his issues with the City of Melbourne, he said his company had been working productively with neighbouring municipalities where share car requirements were being mandated through planning permits to developers.

The City of Melbourne promised a review of the controversial policy after 12 months of operation but has reneged.

Instead, it says share cars will be considered as part of a wider 2017/18 transport policy “refresh”.

“The City of Melbourne has assessed the operation of car sharing in the municipality, including holding discussions with car share operators,” a council spokesperson said.

“We have determined that the current car share policy will remain in place to provide operators, including new entrants, with greater certainty.”

The council is currently charging operators an annual fee of $3000 per on-street parking bay within the Hoddle Grid and $2000 for spaces within a wider-defined “CBD” including Southbank.

It is closer to its targets within the Hoddle Grid, particularly with on-street quotas. Already, 29 of 30 available on-street spaces have been taken.  In the “fringe CBD” areas, 54 spaces of an allocated 70 spaces have been taken up.

Last year, operators told CBD News they were prepared to lose money on Hoddle Grid spaces to prevent them being taken up by competitors.

As a sweetener to the harshness of the 2015 policy, councillors included into the successful motion undertakings to help share car operators.

They requested management to:

Make share cars a theme of one of the 2015-16 developer forums; and

Connect car share companies with apartment block bodies corporate where appropriate.

But these undertakings were not acted on.

A council spokesperson said: “Developer forums during 2015-2016 had a greater focus on a review into the built form of the central city, which was considered a higher priority at that time.”

“Car share operators have provided feedback to the City of Melbourne indicating they did not face barriers in making initial contact with body corporates (owners’ corporations) as they seek to install off-street car share spaces.”

GoGet carshare has had a better experience, with Victorian general manager Justin Passaportis telling CBD News his company had added roughly 20 off-street spaces in the CBD and immediate surroundings.

GoGet claims to have 10 per cent of the City of Melbourne’s population as members.

“It is our understanding that the review is in process and naturally will take a while.  We look forward to growing both off-street and on over the coming months and working ever more closely with the city, including them helping us form strong partnerships with developers for the provision of carshare for new and even existing buildings,” Mr Passaportis said.

“The last year has been a learning experience as we have worked with the City of Melbourne to maximise utilisation and place cars to serve the community within the current policy framework.”

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