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Council chickening out on parking reform?

Over the last few months, this blog has discussed parking policy a few times, with the general consensus being that it’s extremely important for us to get rid of minimum parking requirements – as they act as both a huge subsidy for driving and also as a huge barrier to land-use intensification. The need to undertake significant reform of parking provisions was recognised by the Auckland Spatial Plan – which gave a pretty strong direction in relation to how things should change:

Inappropriate regulations and inflexible standards can impact negatively on good design. They impede the development of more intensive housing and mixed developments. For example, at times traditional parking standards (minimum numbers of car parking spaces) are imposed in areas where alternative options (parking buildings or investment in public transportation) imply that such minimums are counterproductive to delivering the goal of intensification, mixed use and affordability. The Auckland Council intends to review its approach to parking, as part of the development of the Unitary Plan

There’s even a specific directive in relation to the issue of parking – though interestingly located within the spatial plan’s urban chapter rather than in its transport section:

Directive 10.6

Parking standards and innovative parking mechanisms should take account of multiple objectives, including the need to:

  • facilitate intensive and mixed-use developments within strategic locations
  • improve housing affordability
  • reduce development costs
  • encourage use of public transportation
  • optimise investments in public parking facilities, civic amenities and centre developments
  • foster safe, convenient and attractive walkable neighbourhoods.

This sets the scene, one would think, for a pretty dramatic change to the approach to parking – including the phasing out of minimum parking standards – one would think. Given this, it is pretty disappointing to read in the latest “Unitary Plan Update” report to the Council that the approach to parking seems like it will be relatively “business as usual” – with minimums only being removed in a number of centres.  While getting rid of minimums in the city fringe areas and in some (most I think) centres is certainly a step in the right direction, this probably still ignored the vast majority of Auckland. In these other areas – many of which are served extremely well by public transport (especially on the isthmus) – minimum parking requirements will continue to stymie development, continue to subsidise driving and continue to undermine attempts to improve housing affordability.

All for what gain I wonder?

24 comments to Council chickening out on parking reform?

  • Sacha

    All for *whose* gain, you mean.

  • Exactly, who benefits from a glut of parking spaces being forced upon developers and property owners? By all means let the people who design and own properties to decide how much or little parking they need, if they what a shed load then so be it. But why force them to buy land or construct garages for parking spaces if they don’t want it?

    The only people who gain are retarded dinosaur traffic engineers that think the whole world will shut down if they don’t force property owners to build masses of parking everywhere. Them an nervous council bureaucrats that think they’ll have to start spending millions on municipal parking garages if they don’t force a glut.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, when you talk to old planners/engineers about removing minimums you can see their eyes glaze over as they imagine a city with “insufficient parking.” They imagine a pestilence filled world where developments are close enough together to walk between then, where people have to think twice about driving, where vehicles may, from time to time, actually have to wait and/or pay for a car-park.

      The reality is that removing minimums, when supported by pro-active on-street parking management (which is revenue positive by the way), would be not that much different from the city we have now, it would just have better transport land use outcomes. Those who choose to continue to drive (and there will be a lot) will simply have to pay for parking more often.

      Perish the thought!

      • Sacha

        Good point. When parking minimums are removed it is car users who pay rather than being fully subsidised by everyone else. It is ideologically consistent for Joyce, Brownlee and chums to be leading the charge to keep the invisible subsidy in place in their (short-term) interests.

  • Also who benefits from all that complexity? What a mess. First solution; no minimums anywhere. So the only decision is between whether a place requires maximums or total freedom. Isn’t simplicity always an objective in regulation? And shouldn’t no regulation always be a default only to be replaced with a rule when absolutely necessary?

  • Peter H

    Hamilton City, Operative District Plan. Rule 5.2 Parking, Loading and Access,
    “The Plan sets minimum parking and loading requirements so that activities are readily accessed with minimum disruption to the functioning of the road network.”

    How should I read this?
    The road network needs minimum parking and loading requirements so that activities are readily accessed with minimum disruption.
    Or. The road network will be disrupted if there are LESS THAN set minimum parking spaces.
    Anyone wants to explain what disruption means when there is not enough parking.

    • Stu Donovan

      Hi Peter, “disruption” typically refers to the congestion caused when a lack of parking in an area causes vehicles to queue and/or circulate waiting for a car-park.

      The unfortunate irony in the situation is that minimum parking requirements can help to solve this kind of short-term “disruption”, but in the process they have a huge range of unintended impacts that lead to more driving and more congestion, such as:
      1. Minimums increase the availability of parking and hence reduce its market value, this contributes to both higher vehicle ownership and more driving than what would occur in a situation of no minimums;
      2. Minimums lower land use density and fragment the urban form. And because they make every individual site meet its own demand for parking, they ignore opportunities for efficient sharing of parking resources between properties.

      So the answer is that minimums probably do reduce “disruption” in the short term, but they do so in a way that causes shed-loads more disruption in the long term.

      All the planners/engineers that defend minimums really need to do two things: First, they should jump on Google Earth and look at the prevailing land use patterns in towns where minimums apply versus those that developed before minimums. Second, they should go back to university and take some economics papers.

      The issues caused by minimums are not quite covered off by Econ 101, but they’re not that much more complex either. Minimums should go …

  • Peter H – Basically traffic engineers are trying to make it so that cars have to slow down as little as possible. When it comes to parking they want it so that cars can get off the road as quickly as possible so as not impact other users of the road and the easiest way to do that is to ensure that each property has enough parking to cover the busiest period.

    A great explanation of the issues with minimum parking requires is in this video (even features one of my fellow bloggers)

  • Stu Donovan

    The most concerning aspect of these proposals is that the removal of minimums is being linked to the availability of public transport. The thinking here is that “we can’t remove minimums unless there’s an alternative.”

    But this ignores that even without public transport there are a bunch of viable alternatives to driving your own car, such as car-pooling, walking, cycling, taxis, home delivery etc. And all those alternatives probably account for a larger proportion of travel demands than public transport. So I fail to see the logic behind the suggestion that access to public transport is relevant to the removal of minimums.

    And the risk with framing the removal of minimums as a response to public transport is that objective debate on merits of removing minimums is now intertwined with subjective perceptions/definitions of the availability/quality of public transport. I bet you that even after the frequent network is rolled many people will simply say “you can’t remove minimums because PT just is not good enough for me.”

    One gets the feeling that a whole lot of planners have got together and decided to make parking policy reform a whole lot more complicated than it actually needs to be. It’s pretty simple when you think through all the issues …

    • Although alternative transport such as walking, cycling is great for people close enough, from out of town this is not acceptable, and PT is important for another form. Car-Pooling is great but again is restricted to those is more built up areas. Taxis in Auckland are very expensive if you are going further than the city limit.

      However our Public Transport has improved immensely over the last 5years, and the improvements are still coming, maybe not quite to the 21st century yet, but getting there. The point is if you are building in the city or surrounding city fringe locations, public transport is a viable option to most. Therefore minimum parking requirements should be removed.

      • Stu Donovan

        No, you don’t need to link the removal of minimums to public transport at all. Removing minimums would be beneficial even in areas without public transport.

        Think about water: We price water not because there is an alternative that we want people to use instead, but because we want to encourage people to use water efficiently (and it does).

        You need to draw a clearer distinction between “substitution” (i.e. using alternatives) and “conservation (i.e. using less). In the case of parking, removing minimums would encourage both. And even if conservation was the only viable option, then we’d still be better off from removing minimums.

  • Peter H

    Many per minimum parking shopping areas like a local dairy are still trading without parking, For some reason planner do not see these are possible. Like Joshua suggest, there may be someone from outside the shops target customer group (People living about 400m of retailer) that may want to shop there. There for Minimum parking requirements makes planners the expert are telling business where there customers are.

  • filde

    Who did this and why? Misinformed fools should be fired.

    • Stu Donovan

      While in my darker moments I have expressed similar sentiments, I think it is genuinely more useful to take a more respectful and considered approach. I think of the planners/engineers putting forward these kinds of contradictory (and unnecessarily complex) parking policy proposals as “having their heart in the right place”, even if the thinking is not particularly rational.

      And don’t forget that all these proposals will be formed by a committee – as such they tend to often represent a mish-mash of different views, rather than a coherent train of thought. That’s not a real excuse though – it’s the job of the project manager and team leader to ensure the proposals are internally consistent.

      • Nick R

        Yep this outcome sounds like a committee outcome to me. Elightened types trying to remove minimums on one side, obstinant dinosaurs on the other fearing carmageddon, moderates in the middle just trying to get something to happen.

  • Max

    Well, I guess as a transport engineer working a lot for developers, I should thank them. Such a beautiful mess will mean tons and tons of application reportage… and fees. Nice.

    …as a transport advocate, it almost makes me weep.

  • One litmus test I have is the situation of the movie theatre on Mt Eden Rd (Crystal Palace). Richard who operated the Lido was prepared to take over the lease for this cinema, restore and operate it. That is until faced with a demand to provide some 200 or so carparks – an absurdity to start with and even moreso in that location where the Crystal is.

    • Ray Ginnever

      The Crystal Palace cinema example is so typical of inane thinking by planners. They look to regulation to solve problems, instead of outcomes. The Crystal Palace as a cinema and venue is a long established social and cultural venue that adds to the vibrancy of both Mt. Eden and Auckland. It has functioned for a very long time without 200 extra car parks. Why ever would it need to add them now? This is sheer lunacy. How these planners think that shutting done an iconic cultural venue and business in Mt. Eden because they refuse to add 200 additional minimum parking spaces is indicative of how little these people understand what they are trying to achieve. LET THE CRYSTAL OPEN ITS DOORS AND LET THE PATRONS DEAL WITH THE PARKING. BELIEVE ME. THEY WILL FIND A WAY IN THE OFF PEAK BUSINESS HOURS THAT THE PALACE OPERATES IN.

      • Ray, please make a submission to that effect when Unitary Plan consultation opens. One thing many planners are trying to achieve is to do away with the absurdity of minimum parking regulations. The more of the public asking them to be gone the better.

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