It takes just 20 minutes to drive from Melbourne’s CBD and reach the City of Yarra. The council wants to take advantage of this and attract more people to visit.

“We want to encourage people who are coming to Melbourne to come to the city of Yarra to shop in our shopping strips, to come and visit our art gallery, to come and see our building heritage… and enjoy our night economy”, Roberto Colanzi, the city’s Mayor says.

It may be a heritage district, but the city has plans to build some cutting-edge infrastructure. GovInsider caught up with the Mayor to find out more.

Smart parking

The Government wants to know “when people would park, where they parked, and how long they were parking for”, he says. Smart roads will provide the solution. “We will be digging sensors into the road surface, and that will give us some really important efficiencies in terms of recovering fees and income. This will provide “an explicit point in time” when people park their vehicles, enabling surge pricing to address congestion at popular shopping strips.

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Currently, the council is running the trial in Richmond – a suburb in the city of Yarra. “If the trial is successful, we have the information that we need, and the technology works”, it will be rolled out across the city.

Digital payments will also play their part, although it will be “a slow migration”. The city already has an existing digital payments app for motorists, however, which allows them to extend their parking time remotely and receive texts when their slots are about to expire.

Residents get their say

The city council uses digital to engage residents in these building plans. In particular, they want to understand the importance of heritage buildings compared to modern buildings to the community. “Older buildings tend to be very beautiful, but in terms of energy efficiency are very poor”, he says.

Mayor Colanzi intends to do the same with the city’s budget. “We offer about 120 services at the city of Yarra, and I would like our community to be involved in telling us, directly through this representative sample, what they think are the most important services to them”, he says. The city council can then use participatory budgeting, assigning it according to the direct will of the public.

Future priorities

The Yarra city council is undergoing elections, and if the Mayor is re-elected, improving public transport will be one of his focus. “We have an existing bus, tram and train network that operate through and around the city of Yarra, but they’re highly disconnected”, he says. For example, “you’ll have tram and train routes running along a similar route, so that seems to me highly inefficient and ineffective”.

The mayor wants to “encourage a more integrated approach”, and “one of the key ways of doing that is encouraging and improving our bus network efficiency”, he explains. He cites Singapore as a model, where bus routes and trains have less overlap, and buses cater to citizens’ last mile problem.

The city is open to suggestions and tech to improve service delivery. It keeps its citizens at the centre of its decision-making, and wants to ramp up public infrastructure. But it will retain the heritage that attracts those tourists: “we don’t want buildings of 15, 16 to 20 storeys in the city of Yarra.”

Image from Yarra Councilˈs Twitter page