This article in the NZHerald highlights growing demand for parking at Long Bay during summer months, which is causing delays of up to 1-2 hours for vehicles looking to enter the park.
Before tackling this topic let me quickly describe a recent experience: On my recent holiday up North I snuck in a visit to Elliot’s Bay. This is a relatively isolated private beach just off the road south of Russell, where the landowner has carved some land out of his paddock and created a car-park and beach access.
To cover the costs involved in doing so they charge visitors $2 per vehicle per day. The system works through an honesty box made out of an old plough, as shown below (note my neo-liberal use of sunscreen).
The system used at Elliot’s Bay works perfectly well. It provides the farmer with revenue and (from what I can tell) effectively guarantees you a car-park.
Now back to the issue at hand: In my mind the delays incurred by people who drive to Long Bay are unacceptable because they seem easily avoided – if we are prepared to pay for parking.
I’d suggest Auckland Council and Auckland Transport start charging for parking at Long Bay during busy summer times. Charging for parking would encourage a few more people to car-pool, catch the bus (yes there are buses to Long Bay), or postpone their visit – and thereby reduce delays.
My instinct is that most people would be prepared to pay $5 to enter the park during very busy summer periods – not all week or all year. Not only would charging for parking help save people time when they visit (1-2 hours is a long time to spend sitting in a car on a hot day with screaming kids), but it would also generate revenue that could be used to improve facilities at the park.
That is indeed the silver lining from charging for parking: Not only does it help to manage the demand for parking within the limits of the available supply, but it also provides AC with additional revenue to spend on park facilities and/or access, such as more/better toilets, more car-parks, and more frequent bus services. These improvements would otherwise have to be funded from general rates, or not be funded at all.
What are the obvious pitfalls from charging for parking at Long Bay?
The most obvious pitfall is “spillover parking”, where drivers park before they get to the park, although this seems a relatively minor issue for Long Bay because of the limited road access, such that you’d have to walk a relatively long way from the park entrance (located at the southern end) to avoid the charge – as shown in the figure below.
The other potential pitfall is collection costs, although it seems pretty cheap to put a university economics student at the gate with a bucket collecting coins.
Neither of these pitfalls seems particularly fatal (let me know if you think of others). From this I have to conclude that there’s at least one crafty old farmer sitting on an isolated beach in Northland that could teach Auckland Council and Auckland Transport a thing or two about how to manage parking ;).