Downtown Newcastle is about halfway between a seedy late-night no-go zone and a hip vibrant small downtown core. At the seventh largest city in Australia, Newcastle commands great beaches, a great lifestyle and affordable living, but downtown is a mess. Here’s my take on why…

The previous post in this series focused on the problems with the existing rail network. Today, I’m going to partially contradict myself, and say that we need more public transport, and that trains are a great means of getting people to use it!

How good are Newcastle City Council for giving me material while I’m in the middle of a series on the problems they face. In their Council Meeting on Tuesday night, despite thousands of signatories to petitions, the Councilors agreed to increase the area of paid parking, (yet again), removing free all day parking for a few hundred spots that are a short walk from the downtown core, and turning many of them into one or two-hour spots. As such, the Newcastle Herald has reported extensively on this issue.

The response to this issue typifies the decisions that are made in council, lengthy decision making process, then a decision that the majority of residents and workers don’t want anyway. Read more after the jump…


parking woes Within a city there needs to be a balance between short term shopping, lunch or delivery type parking and long term day parking for all the workers of the city. When I say needs I am openly acknowledging that the average worker will not change their existing commute behavior without either large penalties or incentives to move to public transport.

The Lord Mayor of Newcastle is more concerned about, “turning spaces over”, and suggests that the state government needs to improve and extend the public transport network.

The Lord Mayor is kidding himself. Bus operating costs have increased, bus-pass prices have just gone up again in response to fuel cost rises and timetable changes to the bus routes have taken buses off the peak hour routes, go figure?!?

Some businesses are happy with the concept, seeing that there is potential for more visitors to come downtown. But many more businesses are realizing that they council needs to be asking the question, “at what price”. Businesses are moving out of the downtown area to improve staff and client parking availability, some businesses are offering free parking to shoppers who by over a certain dollar limit.

Public Transport

For the past three years we have lived within walking distance of downtown Newcastle, while we were in Carrington, buses were preferred due to the length of the walk, (up to 45 minutes into work) and working long days. The bus system served me well, in Carrington, generally they were relatively clean and on time. The value of the price is debatable though, with the system running on a per hour charge rather than a distance charge. As such, I paid the same amount as people who traveled six times the distance I did.

Public transport has a bad rap in many cities, with cleanliness, safety, cost and time taken some of the issues raised. I think Newcastle does pretty well at most of these issues, but shouldn’t be raising the cost of the service without vast improvements in the quality. But again, maybe it’s just wishful thinking, as many of the patrons are the cause of the problems. Down and out citizens don’t respect the infrastructure that their government provides, particularly since they have to pay to use it!


There’s not a hotter topic than the commute, parking, public transport debate in many cities. Urban planners are often finding novel solutions to the problems, I don’t imagine increasing the area of paid parking is high on the list of innovations.

Makes me want to move out of the city, or become a webworker.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.