Parking should be more expensive during peak hour to help reduce inner-city congestion, according to one of Australia's foremost parking consultants.
Larry Schneider, who has more than 25 years experience in parking management and operations in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, said a big proportion of inner-city traffic - up to 50 per cent - involved vehicles looking for parking spaces.
Free or cheap parking rates encouraged drivers to cruise around hunting for a vacancy, he said.
More expensive peak-hour rates would discourage the use of cars to get into the city during peak hours and, therefore, reduce congestion.
Speaking at the latest Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum yesterday, Mr Schneider said free parking had a high cost, particularly in terms of congestion.
And with the number of registered vehicles in WA having jumped by about 300,000 since 2008 - a rate of about 1160 extra vehicles every week - the demand for parking had continued to rise.
But he said good parking policy could reduce congestion.
Mr Schneider conceded there was sensitivity about imposing fees on people who least could afford it, particularly when these people often did not have many transport options.
But new technology meant that pensioners, for example, could be given an access card that provided discounted parking rates.