A week or so ago Peter M posted about his hopes for 2013, which included the smooth implementation of some pretty big public transport projects like delivery of electric trains and the completion of integrated ticketing. He also mentioned the Council’s Unitary Plan as being a critical document which will be a big focus for this year. While I’m certainly interested in the completion of these public transport projects, curious about where the City Rail Link project goes next and so forth, I think my main hope for 2013 rests with the Unitary Plan – and whether we can rid it of the stupidest planning rule ever: minimum parking requirements.
I had an interesting discussion on Twitter today with a couple of well informed Local Board Members on minimum parking requirements and the need to get rid of them. While both members are certainly well informed and have pretty much the same big picture vision for transport and planning in Auckland as myself, some elements of the conversation (and a few of the other tweets which came in) suggest that there’s still something of a misunderstanding around what removing minimum parking requirements actually seeks out to achieve. Or perhaps more fundamentally, what the problems caused by minimums actually are.
Let’s use a couple of graphs to hopefully clear up some of this confusion. Firstly, let’s think about what might occur if there was no control of parking whatsoever (no minimums, maximums or anything). Clearly in some locations and for some uses you’d end up with more parking and in some locations or uses you’d end up with less parking. It might even be more fine-grained than that: perhaps if you’re building 10 apartments you think you need to provide 5 of them with two spaces each, three with one space each and a couple without any parking – to cater for different types of people who might be interested. In short, you’re going to have a market for a variety of different levels of parking – something like this:Something that’s often misunderstood about parking minimums is the assumption that removing them will restrict the amount of parking able to be provided in locations where the market wants to provide a lot of parking (say a Bunnings Warehouse out the back of Flat Bush). That’s simply not true at all, because in those situations if the market wants to provide a lot of parking, removing minimums will not stop that.
In short, all that minimums actually achieve is force more parking than people actually want to provide, in the situations where the market level for providing parking is lower than that minimums. This is shown in the graph below:It is for this reason that whether or not to remove minimum parking requirements has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of public transport available. If public transport is poor and people feel that they “need” to use their car, then the market will presumably provide the necessary level of parking. Otherwise shoppers won’t come, dwellings won’t sell, office space won’t lease. Removing minimums doesn’t, in any way, restrict the ability for developers to provide as much parking as they want. It just stops forcing them to provide more than they want.
A lot of this confusion comes from the assumption that if you don’t have a parking minimum, then you need a maximum. I’ll look at parking maximums in a future post but for now just want to ponder the question of why we need to regulate parking at all? Perhaps it truly is something best left to the market to sort out?