The parking discussion document released yesterday one of the suggested outcomes related to the pricing of park and ride. The document notes:
Park and ride sites in Auckland are free to users which do not reflect the true costs and benefits of using park and ride, and can provide a disincentive to walk, cycle or users of the feeder bus services. Most park and ride facilities are at capacity early in the morning and consequently some customers cannot find parking. Pricing park and ride will allow the demand for parking to be managed, ensuring that customers can always find a park if they are willing to pay.
The RPTP includes an action to introduce charges for park and ride facilities where appropriate, to manage demand and ensure that facilities complement the wider public transport system. park and ride charges must be integrated with public transport fares, using the AT HOP card where practical.
Notwithstanding the above, park and ride provision is an important driver for public transport patronage and the demand for park and ride facilities generally exceeds the capacity provided. Introducing pricing for park and ride too early could have a negative impact on public transport patronage. Pricing park and ride would depend on the price and the availability of alternative car parking spaces, and linked to the roll-out of integrated fares.
The last paragraph along with the “What do you think of this approach” box seems like they’re basically AT’s get out of jail card on actually having to implement pricing however it is interesting to think about just how they might do it. Lots of other cities do charge for P&R already so that gives us some examples to look at.
On an admittedly brief look around the net it seems there are generally three primary pricing schemes for P&R although some cities combine multiple ones..
- Free – like we have now
- A set daily charge
- A monthly reserved carpark
One thing in common with free systems is they seem to have the same problem we do in that they are often completely full quite early and people are constantly complaining about it and calling for more. When it comes to the charged options both have pro’s and con’s and it can be hard to work out which one is best however thankfully one city has not only tried them all (including free) and has reports showing the outcome. It’s Calgary which is a city I’ve talked about before as being an extremely useful comparison for us to use for a whole bunch of reasons.
Looking at many of the city’s attributes Calgary shouldn’t be a big PT city yet it does quite well with about double the number of trips per capita that Auckland has and the key reason behind that has been the development of its increasingly extensive Rapid Transit Network over the last few decades. Park and ride featured strongly in the development of many of Calgary’s initial RTN lines to the South, North East and North West with facilities developed at many stations. These varied in size from less than 100 spaces to the largest over 1700 – that’s about 60% larger than what exists at Albany. The P&R spaces also weren’t just on the RTN network but on a few bus routes too.
Two reports provide details on the charging schemes that Calgary has tried. Costs mentioned are all Canadian dollars and not adjusted for inflation.
The first report is from early 2011 and provides some of the key background information. Calgary had been developing Park and Ride facilities since the 1980′s and had over 14,500 spaced around the city. That’s about 3 times what Auckland Transport say they have however the spaces only accounted for less than 10% of the systems patronage. In addition the facilities took up over 150 acres of valuable land. Despite the huge number of carparks they were constantly full and it was almost impossible to get a carpark after 7:30am. The public were constantly demanding more spaces be built, each of which would cost at least $11,000 to construct and $100-$200 per year to maintain (more if a multi-storey building). Many people who wanted to use the P&R and the PT system simply gave up and drove all the way to the city. That’s probably a situation we have happening in Auckland already.
In 2002 Calgary introduced a system whereby people could reserve one of a few hundred spaces at one of the larger P&R spots for a fee of $50, it was immensely popular even after the fee was doubled to $90 a month. In 2009 the city changed all P&R facilities to a $3 daily charge across the P&R network. The fee was not just about managing demand but the city also promised to increase security, cleaning and maintenance of both the P&R facilities and the stations they served. The impact of the changes on P&R usage, revenues and costs are below and shows that from a financial perspective the first year was worse than before the change however it seems that things quickly started to turn around in 2010 as more people accepted the charges.
|Year||Parking usage||Operating Costs||Revenue|
In terms of outcomes, they found that patronage dropped by 1% in 2009 however it was also at the same time as massive economic upheaval caused by the GFC. In 2010 patronage recovered as did the economy and so it appears the decrease has little or nothing to do with the implementation of charging for P&R. That in itself is important as one of the common arguments against charging is that it will put people of using PT.
Public reaction to the charging scheme was mixed with many locals expressing the view that free parking was essentially a right they had. This sounds like the same type of feedback that happens the world over when parking is changed. More interesting are the changes in behaviour that were identified in a survey in early 2011, in particular these ones seem key:
- Most customers who stopped using P&R continued to access the station by bus, walking, cycling or being dropped off.
- There was an increase in parking in local streets near stations however some people previously using those locations switched to paying for a closer space.
- The majority said it made their convenience and ability to use PT hadn’t changed and in some cases had improved.
Despite this in 2011 the council decided to scrap the daily fee and it was replaced with a monthly reserved space system, the impact of which are contained in this report which shows the results of a self-selecting survey. The monthly reserved system works by setting aside up to 50% of spaces at stations that people can reserve for a fee of $70 per month on a first in first served basis. As the carparks can be quite large, the benefit to reserving means you can get one of the spots closer to the platform, an example of which is shown below (the platform goes north/south to the east of the highlighted areas). If a reserved space is not used by 10am it becomes free to use by anybody as with the rest of the parking.
There lots of interesting outcomes from the survey however perhaps the most important one was that 67% of the people trying to get a free park arrived before 7am while only 31% of those reserving a space did. 51% of those reserving spaces arrived between 7am and 8am. This shows that allowing people to reserve a space let them be more flexible in what time they got to work, leaving home when they wanted to rather than when they had to if they wanted a space. The users reserving a space found they were less stressed and had higher satisfaction ratings to the P&R service.
In contrast those trying for the free spaces were unhappier and often resented the fact they could see spaces that had been reserved but that someone hadn’t turned up to use yet. They felt they should be able to park in the reserved spaces. Many also were paying the $3 daily fee but felt they didn’t use PT enough to benefit from reserving a space permanently.
There are a number of other findings from this survey however my reading of it seems to suggest that that from a customer satisfaction point of view the daily charge was best option for most people.
All up despite the changes to introduce pricing for the carparks patronage has continued to increase and even appears to have accelerated in recent years. One of the most interesting outcomes to charging was that people who previously used P&R to access the PT network continued to use PT but accessed it differently while the presence of a charge actually helped to attract new users who previously couldn’t find a space.
From this it appears that the best option for charging is simply to introduce a daily fee on carparks perhaps with a hybrid system of letting people reserve a space close to the platform too. The discussion document talks about how pricing should be able to be made with HOP which is what AT should be doing and would make things super easy. It will be a while before we see charging for P&R however as AT say other prerequisites are that there are frequent feeder services to stations and that we have integrated fares. Both of those things are while away from implementation yet.