In yesterday’s post about minimum parking requirements I noted that the only situation when these regulations have any effect is when the market wants to provide a lower level of parking than the minimum. In that case either the landowner relents and provides more parking than they’d otherwise want to; or they apply for a consent (usually at the cost of quite a few thousand dollars) and ‘try their luck’ at getting a dispensation. The justification for minimum parking requirements is usually something alone the lines of forcing a higher level of on-site parking to avoid ‘spillover parking’ – typically in the form of on-street parking. Spillover parking is parking generated from activities on a particular site needing to be accommodated somewhere else (i.e. it “spills over” elsewhere). Given that minimum parking requirements have a huge impact on the development potential of a site (often requiring that more land is set aside for parking than for the actual activity) then one would expect the impacts of “spillover parking” to be utterly horrific. After all, we take some massively drastic steps to avoid this problem.
This conundrum is actually something we can test quite well, because much of Auckland was developed before minimum parking requirements existed. Pretty much all the inner suburbs were built in a way that didn’t require off-street parking and the entire city centre (a bit of a special case) has never had minimum parking requirements. How do these places work? How much of a problem is it that most of the shops along Ponsonby Road do not provide ‘sufficient’ off-street parking to cater for their demand? How terrible is it that some (super expensive) villas in Ponsonby, St Mary’s Bay, Grey Lynn and elsewhere don’t provide any off-street parking? How does a small local shopping area like West Lynn survive without any off-street parking?
It seems to me that these places generally do just fine. Sure, the lack of off-street parking might put some people off buying or renting a particular house – but it’s hardly like we have a plague of abandoned properties in our inner suburbs. Plus not having half the kerb as driveways means a lot more on-street parking is available. And it doesn’t seem as though the lack of off-street parking create a huge amount of congestion along Richmond Road or Ponsonby Road. It also doesn’t seem like these shopping areas struggle due to a lack of parking spaces. I certainly know that I’m usually able to find a parking spot fairly easily – the same for Parnell, Mt Eden Village and other places. Occasionally there will be a shared parking area (though not for most of Ponsonby Road or any of West Lynn shops as far as I know), which seem fairly well used and efficient. Other shared parking areas, like behind the Pt Chev shops on the motorway side, seem completely empty and excessive (a good land-bank for future apartments?)
I suppose the point of this post is fairly simple – to really question what the problem actually is that minimum parking requirements are trying to solve? Does it really matter if there’s on-street parking? Does a lack of off-street parking really seem to undermine the economic viability of shopping areas (more a maximums question than a minimums one by the way)? Going by the evidence of Auckland’s inner suburbs it seems that we get by just fine when spillover parking happens. And this is the problem with minimums, there’s just no real reason for them, there’s no problem for them to fix, there’s just no point in forcing people to provide more off-street parking than they want to. There’s no need to fear Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, they’re perfectly nice places.