One of the most important directions in the Auckland Plan, in my opinion, was the strong emphasis on shifting away from the current way we manage parking regulation. This may sound like a pretty mundane issue, but if you read on, you will discover the complete and utter madness of the way parking is managed at the moment – and how ensuring that the Auckland Plan’s direction comes to fruition in the Unitary Plan is going to be one of the most important transport issues that this blog will focus on in relation to the Council’s new planning rulebook.
Here are the directives in the Plan that relate to parking, somewhat hidden away in the Urban Auckland chapter:
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 (see Chapter 13: Auckland’s Transport).
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.
Interpreting this, the Plan may as well have said “the Unitary Plan shall not include minimum parking requirements”.
So what are minimum parking requirements and why are they so mad? Well let’s have a look at them for a moment, courtesy of the legacy District Plan which applies to the isthmus area. Parking is considered from page 15 onwards. Here are the objectives and policies of the parking section, highlighting what the rules are trying to achieve:
I suppose before we give this too much stick, it must be remembered that the isthmus plan was drafted up in the early 1990s when public transport use was at record lows, petrol was dirt cheap, we didn’t mind too much about sprawling and so forth. Transport planning was pretty much solely about traffic capacity so perhaps it’s not too surprising that all the matters now considered important in the Auckland Plan (as per above) in relation to parking regulation weren’t yet seen as important by those writing the isthmus plan.
To paraphrase, the assumption is that everyone will drive for every activity, any on-street parking is the horror of horrors and therefore it should be required that huge chunks of our off-street urban environment must be dedicated to the storage of vehicles. Once again absolutely not consideration of the potential adverse outcomes like stymieing development or subsidising driving – but I guess they weren’t too concerned about such matters in the early 1990s.
These numbers raise some pretty amusing questions.
- Why does an entertainment facility require one space for every three people but premises for cultural activities or natural displays only one for every five people?
- Why do integrated housing developments require more parking spaces than non-integrated developments?
- Why are healthcare services one for every 20 square metres, offices one for every 40 square metres but laboratories one for every 50 square metres?
- Why is there a distinction between indoor and outdoor eating areas?
- Why do places of assembly require one space for every 4.5 square metres – and do they realise that means any site will become around 80% parking because a car is bigger than that?
Surely with the imposition of any regulation a process needs to be undertaken which seriously asks the question of whether or not that rule or regulation generates benefits that outweigh its costs. Not just financial costs but also the regulatory burden and how these rules might discourage development that would otherwise happen.
In future posts I’ll look to go into some further detail around the negative impacts of minimum parking requirements but generally I find myself wondering why we bother with something that seems to be a huge amount of hassle for next to no gain. Really, what’s the point?