Parking meters and charges for tourist buses are on the way

Echo Point meter: Council will expand the number of paid parking spaces at the popular tourist stop.
Echo Point meter: Council will expand the number of paid parking spaces at the popular tourist stop.

Parking meters at some of the main tourist towns in the Mountains are a step closer to reality.

Council has agreed to install meters at visitor hot spots including Katoomba Falls, Leura Cascades and Wentworth Falls Lake as well as the tourist towns of Blackheath, Katoomba, Leura, Wentworth Falls and Glenbrook.

It will also expand the existing number of metered parking places at Echo Point.

Installation will start in the 2018-19 financial year, targeting areas of higher demand first. The meters are expected to bring in $23 million over 10 years (though will cost $6 million in capital and operating expenditure).

Residents will be exempt from paying for metered parking and will be able to apply for a sticker. 

Residents parking permit for Echo Point: Parking stickers are likely to be more widespread in the future.

Residents parking permit for Echo Point: Parking stickers are likely to be more widespread in the future.

The meters are part of the visitor infrastructure investment strategic plan recently adopted by council.

It also recommends charging tourist buses to park, with pay and display at Echo Point and annual parking passes for coaches in other areas.

This is despite the failure of a previous scheme at Echo Point, which resulted in the drivers just moving to surrounding streets and getting their passengers to walk further to the lookout.

Eventually the owners of the Three Sisters Plaza paid council an annual fee to remove the meters and allow buses to park outside the building.

The strategic plan acknowledged that the old scheme did not work and said wider consultation was needed this time.

“It is vital that council develop a communication strategy to inform tour/coach operators and the tourism industry about why the coach parking fees are being introduced and how the revenue generated will be used to improve visitor infrastructure, including better support facilities for bus/coach operators,” the plan said.

While it conceded charging might keep some buses away and affect visitor numbers, the possibility of millions of dollars revenue proved irresistible.

The Echo Point pay and display bays will be installed in the 2018-19 financial year, and fees for coach parking elsewhere from the following year.

The strategic plan has also looked at charging for the use of the five council-managed camp sites, but there are issues with monitoring and compliance because they are in more remote area.

The five are Blackheath Glen Reserve and Old Ford Reserve in the Megalong, Cathedral Reserve at Mt Wilson, and Mount York Reserve and Lockyers Camp Ground near Mt Victoria.

The plan recommended introducing fees from 2019-20, when it is hoped there will also be an online booking service operating.

It will also look at charging for the use of showers at Bulls Camp in Woodford, which is actually a designated Roads and Maritime Authority rest stop.

Council-run toilets will remain free, with the plan noting would-be visitors would most likely go to free alternative facilities at cafes, restaurants, hotels and other sites.