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Should we charge for parking at Long Bay?

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).

P1020388

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.

Long Bay

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 ;).

61 comments to Should we charge for parking at Long Bay?

  • Karl

    Yes we should. And why not use a hop card to do it?

    More to the point I don’t see anywhere including on street parking that the council should be providing subsidised parking services.

  • It will be interesting to see how the bay is impacted by the addition of the development going on there, looking at the masterplan it appears they may be planning for eventually another entry to the bay. I don’t think this is the final plan but it seems pretty close to it.

    Development website here:
    http://longbay.co.nz/explore/#

    • Stu Donovan

      One possible outcome of requiring the development to set-back from the existing regional park is that more of the people who live in these new houses will drive to the beach, rather than walk.

      That’s not to say that requiring the open-space set-back was a bad outcome (because it really does enhance the existing park), only that one of the unintended consequences is that it may dramatically increase the degree to which people who live relatively close choose to drive to the beach.

  • Sacha

    Pitfalls? As pointed out recently (http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/12/21/an-ode-to-demand-based-transport-pricing/#comment-55336) equating “need” with “ability to pay” can create problems for poorer people.

    Investing in better public transport options would go some way to mitigating that, but it’s not some minor afterthought or ‘operational’ matter.

    • Stu Donovan

      Personally, equality of opportunity is always quite close to the forefront of my mind.

      On the other hand, I don’t want extremely inefficient situations to persist – even if some low income households may be adversely affected by the change. The better way forward, I think, is to address the problem and then implement more targeted policies to address equality of opportunity. No win ones from spending 1-2 hours waiting for a park.

      In this case I think issues of affordability are not a major consideration given that 1) there’s so many free “alternatives” (i.e. other parks) people could visit and 2) access to Long Bay would remain free for most of the year. I don’t want to sound mean-spirited but I also think it’s worth pointing our that almost everyone that visits Long Bay at the moment spends at least $20-$30 on food and petrol in getting there – which in turn suggests to me that charging $5 for parking at peak times would not be a major impost.

      In reality they’re already paying, just through their time spent waiting.

      • Sacha

        Thanks, Stu. Your personal valuing of efficiency is noted. But you’ve said again here just as you did on the other thread that affordability isn’t a ‘major consideration’ for you. I do prefer such honesty from anyone who advocates using public assets for differential private benefit.

        • Bbc

          It’s a public asset that we all pay for and at present is used purely for the benefit of those who drive there, the land could quite easily be used more profitably in a different manner ie not as a carpark and the outcome would be lower costs for those who don’t actually use that beach or that carpark. At the end of the day parking is a very low value use of land and has a large cost associated with it for the council, at present everyone has to pay for that. I agree with your principle of social equity, but I don’t agree with the idea that parking is a human right that we should always get for free.

          • Sacha

            Certainly don’t see parking as a right, I assure you. Would love to see more public transport as an option – and as others note, making cars less convenient might help that shift.

            However, I can’t agree with ill-considered rationing purely on the basis of price. Reckon equity has to be given more than lip-service in public ventures, though there are many ways to achieve it. We’re a creative bunch, after all.

          • Bryce P

            Equity is being taken care of to a large extent. Many low income people have Housing NZ residences or accommodation supplements which means their share of the local rates (and thus contributions to local parks and services) are pretty much taken care of by the government.

          • Sacha

            Quite right Bryce that rates-based services can be offset by accomodation-related funding that is sensitive to wealth.

            That’s fair until someone then adds a user charge that stops poorer citizens accessing the service or accessing the place in this case. Further targetted mitigation of that effect seems pretty inefficient.

          • Bryce P

            Oh come on Sacha, a $5 parking charge is not going to be that big a deal for an occasional visit to the beach for a family. You would be happy for everyone without a community services card to pay for parking even though those same people have paid handsomely for the visit to the park through their rates?

          • Bryce P

            As it is, I’m a volunteer lifeguard and have to pay full price to try and keep my fitness up at the local pool during winter while those on low incomes get reduced admission. So I give my time to help people and get charged full whack for it. Where is the equity in that?

          • Sacha

            Free pool access for lifesavers is something I’d support as a social investment.

            Great to be able to discuss social impacts of potential transport decisions. Auckland Council’s social policy arm would be well-placed to assess costs/benefits and population numbers affected by user charges, just as they did when free access to swimming pools for young people was extended across the region.

            I hope Auckland Transport draws on that type of knowledge when preparing their policy options and business cases. People have different ideas about what’s fair and reasonable but at least if those are out in the open, we get to understand one another better and more enduring arrangements can be negotiated. No one has all the answers. I’m partial to what free enterprise can contribute, along with sound civic governance and stewardship.

          • Bryce P

            Here are couple to clarify: I cannot support subsidised parking as this goes against what we are trying to achieve in Auckland but I do support cheaper (further subsidised) PT for low income users. I do not like the Auckland wide free access to pools scheme for children as 99% do not use this as an opportunity to learn to swim, more a water playground so in my mind the funding is a wasted opportunity, whereas council providing funding to reduce the price of, or even make free, organised swimming lessons for low income earners I would support. I’m a socialist but not in the form of just providing cheap or free services just because someone is in the low income bracket. I should also add that some of the lifesaving clubs do get lanes but it is at a very set time and my work schedule means I am usually at work when these are held so I have no option but to pay.

        • Stu Donovan

          Sacha, just wanted to say that even though we often end up on different sides of pricing discussions I really appreciate your thought-provoking and considerate comments.

          I feel the following comments may help you understand my position a little more:
          1. Rationing is occurring already, simply through the time people are prepared to spend waiting for a car-park. In this case prices are far more efficient (and possible equitable given that many low-income households are relatively time poor and tend to drive from further away).
          2. Demand for parking at Long Bay is likely to increase. So in the future we will either have to price, or face calls to expand the parking supply and chew up valuable waterfront space. Given that I see pricing as inevitable, then it’s probably better to implement pricing early (and gently, i.e. low fee applied only at peak 4 weeks of year) so that fewer households are initially disadvantaged by the charge and can adapt more slowly/gradually.
          3. The revenue collected at peak times of the year (from high-income households) could be reinvested in facilities that benefit all households across the whole year. So the issue of whether a charge is “regressive” or not really depends on how the revenue is subsequently used, or more specifically who benefits from that investment. We could invest the revenue in a way that was highly progressive (e.g. more/better free BBQs).

          • Bryce P

            Yes, more free bbq’s. Without thinking about specifics of how it would work, if the park can provide some of the larger things people take to the beach then it makes the option of alternative transport options more inviting.

          • Bryce P

            Or, as someone suggested earlier, shuttles from the Albany park n ride. The shuttles can have storage for bags and boards etc.

          • Sacha

            Thanks, Stu. History has shown if mitigation is expressed as a matter of “we could” or is something to be dealt with later, it doesn’t happen.

            I remain wary about using ability to pay as the basis of rationing access to shared public resources. Why should poorer citizens be expected to accept not being able to use all of our shared assets? There are already enough private venues and services where that prevails.

            It probably seems a deceptively simple answer for a profession that relies on ‘rational’ economic approaches, but it’s socially inadequate and morally dubious despite the best of intentions. We can do better.

  • Bryce P

    In my opinion, all of our regional parks should have a minimal charge for using them. It is user pays at it’s best and can help with keeping the parks maintained, lifeguards paid, improving facilities, providing PT etc. Really, on weekends and public holidays from Labour Weekend to Easter, there should be, in conjunction with the Northern Express, a bus service running from the Albany interchange to Long Bay at a 1/2 hourly (or more often) schedule. Of course family pass PT tickets and free transfers will be required to make this affordable and convenient. Services like this could have a big impact on how PT is seen and used in Auckland.

    • Bryce P

      We paid $8 for the privilege of parking at Takapuna beach yesterday and judging by the packed car park no one really cared. Unfortunately the main winners out of it was not AC but Tournament who do not really contribute to improving Auckland. Maybe Tournament could donate some money to AC for their program of supporting the paid lifeguards at city beaches?

      • Sacha

        “judging by the packed car park no one really cared”

        Bit of a logical problem there, surely. You weren’t seeing anyone who couldn’t afford it and had fewer options for addressing that. A packed paying carpark in a wealthy suburb doesn’t really say much.

        • Bryce P

          We’re not wealthy and drove from Te Atatu but the price of going to the beach was $8 for 4 people. Had lunch before we left home and dinner once we got home so just fuel and parking. Cheaper than the pools. I looked at the MAXX timetable and gave up. 2 hours to get to Takapuna from Te Atatu. Just because there were people using the car park does not necessarily mean they cannot afford it. Much the same way as many who go boating cannot afford that either but still they do it. Or gambling or drinking etc etc. Pick what you can afford to do and do it. If you cannot afford it don’t do it or choose something else you can do without. There are a multitude of things I don’t do or don’t have because I choose not to. Sky? Don’t have it. I bought a cheap TiVo unit on Trade Me and record free to air. I live in an unfinished house because it’s ok. Would I like to finish it? Yes, but not at the cost of not doing anything else on a day today basis.

        • Bryce P

          And in my experience, many who I think probably come from the low income side of town, turn up in groups on buses so it probably only affects us rich pricks :-) on $50k.

  • Adam W

    Long term, what about a train via Takapuna that ends at Long Bay?

    • Bryce P

      Hugely expensive due to terrain I suspect and the other problem is that most of the ‘bays’ have been developed in a very PT unfriendly series of unlinked cul-de-sac’s. The new development at Long Bay appears to have been designed in a friendly grip so maybe the developers could be rewarded with a tram line (could start with a bus service) along Lonely Track / Glenvar Roads? An on / off ramp at the motorway bridge just for PT would be significant.

    • Bbc

      That would be ideal, I can imagine such trains being packed on sunny days as the entire downtown boarded them for a quick trip to the north shore beaches.

  • Sacha

    Auckland Transport have said there are buses 3 times each hour from MidCity to Long Bay this afternoon.

    • Bbc

      Indeed and by charging people to park out at Long Bay I can imagine would have the effect of making a lot of people catch these buses instead.

  • Jamie Walton

    We already pay for regional (and local) parks through our rates (or rents, for renters), don’t we?

  • George D

    As an interim solution, surely it would be easier to count the vehicles entering and leaving, and put an automated sign on roads at the top of the hill informing that the park is full (or has XX free carparks etc.)? The sign could also suggest other regional and city parks within a 30 minute drive.

    That way, you would give people full information, and allow them to make a rational choice.

  • Gian

    what about a ferry? isn’t it possible to have a pier there that could also serve the future commuters from that development?

  • Picking up on Sacha’s point, Long Bay is a bus terminus – there are heaps of buses going there. Problem is family pass is $26 – too expensive compared to marginal cost of station wagon. How about a shuttle feom Albany park and ride to Long Bay. Albany P and R can’t be utilised much at the moment or on weekends?

  • If people are prepared to queue for two hours in the blazing sun, $5 isn’t going to control demand in any meaningful way. They’ve already wasted much more than that in petrol sitting in the queue. $5 would be either a revenue collection exercise, or a token gesture to demand management. By the time the price was actually managing demand, low-income families would be priced out of going to Long Bay, particularly given the extortionate costs of public transport in this city.

    When you have a family it’s almost never cheaper to take public transport than drive; hell, it’s rarely even cheaper to take public transport when there are only two adults going somewhere. If AT are serious about public transport becoming a viable alternative, prices must come down.

    • Karl

      If AT are serious about public transport becoming a viable alternative, prices must come down.
      I always find this to be a bit of a mental dilemma – in that I intrinsically agree with the sentiment that it is ridiculous how expensive PT is for multiple people travelling together, but also question whether PT is as efficient as we think it is given that is the case. The farebox recovery at 50% while high from international standards is still a fairly high subsidy level from an efficiency comparison standpoint.

      • All this “efficiency” stuff just pisses me off. If we priced roads properly I’d be prepared to accept the comparisons, but we don’t. There’s no higher cost to the marginal peak-hour driver who contributes to congestion, so why the hell do we insist that transit users should contribute some arbitrary percentage of the cost of their journey (other than National being anti-transit wankers)? Christchurch manages to run very affordable transit services, completely with realistic caps, courtesy of the Council being the operator and thus not needing to make a financial return. I’d be all in favour of AT taking over the full operation of transport services in Auckland (complete with compulsory acquisition of routes) if that’s what’s needed to get prices down to realistic levels, but that’s obviously not going to happen for as long as there’s continued adherence to the infallibility of “the market”. If it’s good enough for cities in the US, that bastion of the market, to operate transit services, it should be more than acceptable for all councils in NZ to own and operate their transit services.

        • Karl

          Any one who calls the US a bastion of the market / free market either doesn’t understand the principle of the market, or doesn’t understand the U.S. The U.S. is massively interventionist (hence their issues with corn syrup, steel industry, etc) and continued pork barrel politics.

          I agree we can do better at pricing road usage better (particularly with the use of congestion based pricing) – however there is still a closer price through both petrol taxes and time to the marginal peak-hour driver than that applied to the marginal PT user (peak or off peak)

          • I realise that the US is a terrible advertisement for a truly free market (I’ve studied international trade law and economics, trust me, I know), but it’s also frequently held up within NZ as the kind of “market” state that we should seek to emulate because it’s massively deregulated with heavy involvement of the private sector in most types of service delivery.

            The sooner Auckland gets gross contracting the better, because it’ll only be then that we might have a hope of checking the fare increases and start to rein in prices that are wildly in excess of what’s reasonable relative to incomes or close to making PT an attractive alternative to the private car.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi Matt,

          Yes I agree that some people’s narrow obsession with “efficiency” is very frustrating, because they seem prepared to ignore a whole load of things in their pursuit of some form of pricing nirvana, which often is simply is not practicable.

          On the other hand, I do believe that there’s numerous situations where NZ as a society could make changes to how we price goods/services to achieve outcomes that were obviously more efficient, mainly through what economists call “dynamic efficiencies”. This is where you provide an incentive that improves the decisions people make over time. Whether the end outcome is perfectly “efficient” is less important than the relative signals that the prices send. In this case, for example, we’d be suggesting to people that maybe they should try to car-pool when visiting Long Bay etc,

          So I’m not really suggesting that the end result of charging for parking at Long Bay will be perfectly efficient, and nor should we expect it to be, even if it is more efficient than the status quo. Just that we need to be prepared to consider changes to how we price things where we see problems emerging, especially where the problems are likely to persist or become worst in the future, i.e. I believe that visitor numbers to regional parks have grown much faster than the general population (which is something the former ARC should be congratulated for).

          The downside, as Sacha notes, is that there are currently some low-income households that may be adversely affected by the imposition of prices, especially if they do not moderate their behaviour. But my knowledge of low-income households is that they’re very crafty with how they use their income (i.e. completely at odds with common perceptions) and they will do all they can to minimise the impact of the charge on their quality of life. More wealthy households, on the other hand, will pay the charge and thereby help fund more park facilities that are available for everyone else to use at other times of the year.

    • Bryce P

      I think it’s less about being prepared to queue and more likely “we’re here now, we may as well wait”.

      That being said, yes, family passes especially need to be cheaper as they are not going to be used at peak times and could have a big bearing on PT usage off peak. How about having discounted off-peak / weekend / holiday fares like Translink use. They are all zones for the same price as the standard single zone fare. A good replacement for family pass perhaps?

      http://www.translink.ca/en/Fares-and-Passes/Fare-Changes.aspx

      • There’s no shortage of alternatives, though, including all the other eastern bays. Sure they’re not quite as idyllic, but they’re perfectly nice beaches and they’re not going to have two-hour queues for entry. People who’re determined to go to Long Bay will pay considerably more than $5 if they have to, otherwise they’ll go elsewhere, so $5 is completely token in terms of managing demand for the parking spaces. It might’ve cut the queue time down by half, but that’s still an hour waiting for the poor bastards who come late.

        • Bryce P

          Unfortunately the article has used a sunny, hot holiday to point out the issue. After 12am, all beaches were packed. People were driving around Takapuna looking for any parking spaces – pretty much all of which are metered. The queue at Muriwai on the same day was back to the fire station and I would hate to have tried driving to Piha. The point is – go early and as with motorways and congestion, we will not be able to afford to sufficiently please all people or remove queuing on such days.

  • Peter M

    The other problem is that buses would get stuck in the queue from Torbay to Long Bay just as much as the cars.

  • SteveC

    interesting piece in the Herald this morning on the Long Bay development http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10857058 the late 70s structure plan cut back on the developer’s initial proposals substantially due to environmental constraints including minimising earthworks to protect natural features, protecting the Okura River catchment by keeping development south of the ridge, recognising that Glenvar Road is highly constrained due to the slope it’s built on etc.

    the apparent reason for the developers wanting to build high cost housing is to recoup a considerable investment over a long period, to date, it’s probably the legal profession that has made the most out of the proposals!

  • Jamie Walton

    Guys, I’m the biggest PT fan ever, but people go to Long Bay with a whole lotta gear (tents, BBQs, games equipment, etc, etc, etc). For these once-or-twice-a-year occasions a car or van is surely the best way to go – getting all those kids and all that gear to a bus stop would be even more of a nightmare than getting them and it all into a car or van.

    Of course more busses should be put into service for those who can possibly use them, and they should be very cheap – or even free, if we want to get serious – but for many people it’s just not going to work for their special outing of the year.

    • SPT

      This was exactly the point I was going to make. Long Bay, as has been pointed out, is very well serviced by buses but bus seats (pretty cramped even if you have decent sized handbag) hardly have the capacity to deal with boogie boards, chilly bins and umbrellas. Not to mention that I doubt the operators (and commuters) would be that keen for large numbers of damp, sandy people to be messing up their vehicles on the way home.

      • Gian

        You should have a look at the tram 96 going down to St Kilda in Melbourne in summer. But I admit that for kiwis is not very normal to stand in a bus or tram, everyone must be seated.

    • Stu Donovan

      Sure, but would not charging for parking also encourage people to car-pool? Whenever I’ve been to Long Bay I’ve seen quite a few cars with spare seats in them. Simply getting people to use cars efficiently, even if they don’t switch to public transport, will still have the effect of reducing demand.

      It always amazes me how much people ignore the fact that prices for parking will encourage people to car-pool, which can’t be a bad thing.

      • SPT

        Well we struggle to fit extras in our car (2x adults, 2xkids). Yes there is technically a seat in the middle of the back seat but I hate using it because it has one of those horrible, unsafe, lap belts. I would guess that many people heading to the beach that day (being a public holiday) were families without many spare seats. I stand to be corrected. On other days you are probably right – but then there isn’t a traffic problem then.

        @gian I don”t mind standing on a bus but when you are toting kids and gear. – well I am sorry but a car wins.

        • Stu Donovan

          SPT, just because your car is full when you visit Long Bay does not mean that all cars are full. You seem to be placing yourself slightly too close to the centre of the transport universe on this issue …

          Afterall, we only need to price parking at the level where it reduces demand by 20% to eliminate the problem. Or put another way, 80% of people (such as yourself) don’t need to change what they do at all, apart from pay ~$5 for parking.

          • SPT

            Actually, while I used myself as an example, my observations of people at the beach on New Year’s Day (admittedly at Browns Bay not Long bay) was that they were overwhelmingly families or groups. I may be wrong on this, but that was certainly my impression. I did not conduct an audit on their transportation but assume that probably many of them travelled as a group. If you have any evidence that contradicts that then, as I said, I am happy to be corrected. Perhaps a parking charge would work to reduce congestion. I don’t know. Given the weather on New Years Day this year, I would say there was always going to be a supply/ demand problem at Long Bay even if a charge had been in place.

            And for the record, I do not regard myself as the centre of the universe, transport or otherwise, but thanks for pointing it out Stu, just in case. However, I do think it is useful remind some that not all of us are single and childless and this does affect the mode of transport we choose.

          • Stu Donovan

            Vehicle occupancies tend to be lower than people think (1.1 is the Auckland average), and most groups tend to travel in more than one vehicle. So I think there are opportunities to squeeze a few more bums on seats. Accept that many people already travel in groups to the beach, but many don’t as well.

            What a parking charge would do is encourage those people to swing by their mates’ places on the way rather than driving separately. Win-win.

  • Rob Mayo

    Good god, from that photo, Stu’s looking more and more like Don McGlashan these days. Where’s your guitar Mr D??!!

    • Stu Donovan

      That’s rather funny – you’re not the first person to identify Don McGlashan as my doppelganger. Wish I could play the guitar and sing like him though, would be a vast improvement on the current state of affairs!

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