How can we offer dignity to those on low incomes?

People on low incomes deserve the ability to move safely, conveniently and enjoyably around Yarra, without being forced to own a car. This means that walking, cycling and public transport, supported by irregular use of car sharing, should be safe and convenient. 

Council is committed to creating a city that is accessible to all, irrespective of levels of personal mobility, to support a fulfilling life without the need for a car.

City of Yarra Council Plan
Source: Mobility Lab

People on low incomes include:

  • working-age people and other life-long renters,
  • people who live with profound financial hardship as a result of domestic abuse, illness, family death or diminished career prospects,
  • young people still living with their parents,
  • couples just moving out of home, and
  • seniors who are cutting costs.

People on low incomes deserve access to modes of transport that offer low up-front and low ongoing costs. Walking, cycling and public transport all offer this, supported by occasional use of car sharing. In contrast, driving a private car imposes high upfront and ongoing costs, because people must pay to purchase, insure, fuel, park and maintain their car. 

Example from Strong Towns

Strong Towns describes how there is a cohort of ‘invisible bike riders‘ in each city – people on low incomes who use cycle to work, not to save a little money or for the purposes of exercise, but because they have no other option.

Image credit: Strong Towns

Guidance from The Conversation

Many Australians, for reasons of disadvantage, disability or age, may not have access to a car. The typical cost of owning a car is A$300 per week. Increasing spending on walking and cycling infrastructure will therefore improve equity by helping low-income earners and others who need inexpensive mobility.

Matthew Mclaughlin and Trevor Shilton writing in The Conversation
Image credit: Shutterstock, via The Conversation

Support from the Sustainable Development Commission

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) was (until 2011) the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. They held Government to account to ensure the needs of society, the economy and the environment were properly balanced. Their “Fairness in a Car-dependent Society” report describes how people on low incomes are impacted if streets are dominated by cars, and how they would benefit by greater investment in walking, cycling and public transport. Most of this analysis also applies to people on low incomes in Yarra.

What Yarra can do

Yarra can improve access to low cost transport options by allocating street space and budget to active transport. To be effective, walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing need space. This includes space for wider footpaths, protected bicycle lanes, protected tram stops and allocated parking bays for car sharing. 

If Yarra chooses not to allocate space and budget to active transport, and instead continues to allocate all almost of our highly valuable public land (the space between property boundaries) to driving and parking private cars, as well as continuing to charge less than market rates for on-street parking, then this effectively subsides driving. It also subsidises people on high incomes (who dominate the cohort of people who drive and park) at the expense of people on low incomes (who dominate the cohort of people who walk, cycle, use public transport or car sharing). In contrast, if Yarra allocated space to active transport and levied demand responsive parking charges, it would effectively be a transfer of mobility and wealth from people on high incomes to people on low incomes.

The study concludes that the regressive effect of a market-rate residential parking benefit district should not be an impediment to implementing such a scheme because low-income permit purchasers can be subsidised with permit revenue from higher-income drivers in the district, resources from higher-income parking districts, or both. Additionally, revenues can be used to support transportation modes that particularly benefit all low-income residents.

Impact of Market-Rate Residential Parking Permit Fees on Low-Income Households


Overall, it’s better for people on low incomes if the City of Yarra and the Victorian State Government allocate more street space and budget to walking, cycling and public transport, supported by revenue from demand responsive parking charges and demand responsive driving charges.

Join us

Let’s build a beautiful, liveable and accessible city