Traders in Bendigo's central business district are calling on council to consider turning off its parking meters in December to increase footfall and boost small business.
Free city centre parking would be in line with measures introduced by councils in Horsham and Shepparton, among others.
Sportspower Bendigo's Geoff Findlay said free CBD parking would be a "small win" for businesses who have done it tough in recent months.
"Free parking would help create an even playing field with Bendigo Marketplace and other shopping centres," Mr Findlay said.
Bendigo council's acting manager safe and healthy environments Jock Schofield said the City is "not considering implementing free parking in December."
"Paid parking ensures parking bays are turned over regularly to facilitate fair and equitable access to businesses and services within the city centre," he said.
Of Bendigo's 11,400 city centre parking spaces, 2,259 are in paid parking areas.
This comprises 20 per cent of all spaces, with more than 7000 parking spaces in unrestricted areas or on private land for use by residents, tenants, customers or visitors.
Former Bendigo Advertiser editor and owner of Bendigo Copy Centre Barry Cail said council should consider introducing free parking in the CBD in the lead up to Christmas.
"Free parking is the first step of what should be a widely promoted campaign to tell the world that Bendigo is open for business this Christmas," Mr Cail said.
"Council has come out with a lot of talk about optimism, but it won't resonate with people who are doing it tough.
"You can be the most optimistic person on the planet, but if your cash flow dries up, there's a problem."
The 2020-21 City of Greater Bendigo Budget revealed council expected to make $2.7 million from parking fees this financial year, $1.5 million less than in 2019-20.
Revenue from parking fines is forecasted to make $314,000 in 2020-21, $53,000 less than in 2019-20.
Based on those forecasts, free parking in December would lead to about $225,000 in lost parking fees.
The Bendigo City Centre Parking Futures Action Plan, published in May, said there is a belief that more parking, free parking, time limit changes and less over-zealous enforcement will improve trading conditions and attract more people to the CBD.
"There is no question that is a worthwhile objective," the report said.
"However, those that have researched the issue in great depth have found...that the success of a city centre hinges more on it being a place people want to visit, rather than having plentiful and cheap parking.
"If what's on offer is attractive enough, people will get there and they will make trade-offs along the way, such as how far they are willing to walk or pay."
In April, Bendigo council's acting director of health and wellbeing Lincoln Fitzgerald said free parking would "encourage people to leave their homes and come to the city centre."
Mr Fitzgerald's comments were made at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, when movement restrictions were enacted.
At that time, the City of Ballarat announced free parking in its central business district.
"We don't want to put any further extra financial burden on our residents, including the few extra dollars motorists are putting in the parking meters," Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor said.
Horsham Rural City Council turned off its parking meters in March and they will remain bagged and out of operation until at least December.
In Shepparton, more than 400 parking spaces in seven council-owned car parks were converted to free parking in July to help reboot the economy.
Mr Schofield said while it would be possible to have time restricted free parking in Bendigo's city centre, a number of councils who did introduce free timed parking have since reintroduced paid parking in their municipalities.
"This is due to complaints they have received about vehicles parking for long periods and taking bays away from shoppers," he said.
A weekly competition with prizes to entice people to park in the CBD would positively reinforce the message of shopping in Bendigo, Mr Cail said.
"The council could ensure that its parking revenue would not suffer unduly by having parking officers on duty to enforce time limits," he said.